February 22, 2013 Mid Year ACB Board of Directors Meeting

The 2013 Mid Year Board of Directors meeting, held at the Holiday Inn National Airport Hotel in Arlington, VA, was called to order on February 22, 2013 at 9:10 a.m.  All board members, with the exception of Chris Gray, who was delayed due to weather, were present at the call of the roll; these included:  Mitch Pomerantz, Kim Charlson, Brenda Dillon, Marlaina Lieberg, Carla Ruschival, Ray Campbell, Berl Colley, Sarah Conrad, Janet Dickelman, Michael Garrett, George Holliday, John McCann, Allan Peterson, Dan Spoone, Jeff Thom and Paul Edwards.  Staff present were Melanie Brunson, Lane Waters, Eric Bridges and Francine Patterson. 
 
After a review of the agenda by Pomerantz, Brunson added an item to charter the ACB Teachers affiliate under their new name of American Association of Blind Teachers.  Lieberg moved adoption of the agenda, Campbell seconded  and that motion carried.
 
Edwards moved approval of the December 5, 2012 and January 3, 2013 teleconference Board meeting minutes; Colley seconded and that motion carried.

President's Report, Mitch Pomerantz.

  1. Tom Tobin is working under contract with ACB to assist us with fundraising efforts.. 
  2. Pomerantz announced that we have our second appointed member to the ACB Advisory Board, Dr. Lloyd T. Bowser.  Pomerantz reminded those present that we are seeking persons to serve on this board who will make a major commitment to ACB by sharing their expertise, contacts and possibly providing financial support to ACB.
  3. The FDA's Prescription Drug Labeling Advisory Committee has met twice; Pomerantz represents ACB on that Committee.
  4. Pomerantz attended the 2013 Sage Brush RSVA conference.  There are serious concerns regarding alleged bias toward the NFB on the part of the Rehabilitation Services Administration.  ACB sent a strongly worded letter to the Acting Commissioner of RSA.  Pomerantz reported that he encouraged vendors who feel they are experiencing this bias to complain strongly.
  5. Rebecca Bond has been newly appointed as the Director of the Disability Rights Division of the US Department of Justice.  Bridges reported that his understanding is that she is a very gifted attorney who is very interested in disability issues.  She has had dealings with housing issues in the past, but it is unclear as to the exact nature of her experience with disability issues.  Lieberg moved acceptance of this report, McCann seconded and that motion carried.

Staff Reports, Melanie Brunson

  • Brunson reported on the ongoing copyright meetings in Geneva, from which she recently returned.  She expressed that talks continue to move forward.
  • Google donated $10,000 to ACB to support ACB's  day-to-day accessible technology work, and to sponsor the Mid Year Board meeting and related meetings.  Other sponsors included Vanda Pharmaceuticals.  Google intends to sponsor the ACB Convention for 2013 at the Emerald level.
  • Bridges reported that the House held a meeting last week regarding charitable deductions as they relate to the vehicle donation program; ACB will be submitting comments.   ridges also reported on recent meetings he and Brian Charlson had with Microsoft staff at the Microsoft campus.

Lane Waters next gave the Brooklyn Center, MN staff report. 

Nancy Becker is the MN office expert on Donor Perfect.  The affiliate member management system is underway, and Waters thanked Campbell, McCann and Jerry Barrier of MA for their assistance. 

  • The 2013 audit will begin during the first week in April. 
  • There was much discussion and many good words about the implementation of the new ACB Membership Database.  Waters thanked Donna Pomerantz, Carla Ruschival and Kim Charlson among others for their hard work.  Pomerantz thanked Waters and the committee for their outstanding work.  Lieberg moved acceptance of this report; Holliday seconded and that motion carried.

Treasurer's Report, Carla Ruschival.

Total support and revenue as of  January 31, 2013 total revenue $56,380
Total expenses $89,355 with a deficit from operations of $32,975.
Edwards moved acceptance, Colley seconded and that motion carried.

Investment Committee Report, Carla Ruschival

As of January 31, 2013:  $1,003,315.74, ACB Endowed Account
$1,324,886.78 ACB Reserves
$2,477.67, Short Term cash Account.
Edwards moved and Dickelman seconded acceptance of this report, and that motion carried.

ACB Strategic Plan,

  • Goal Group 1, Carla Ruschival.  Ruschival reported  that work on the website continues.  ACB Radio has a new look and new website.  The group is working with the BOP to improve ACB's social media presence. 
  • Goal 2, Dan Spoone.  Donor Perfect has been installed and is up and running.  ACB's website has been updated, and it is now easier to donate online.  Spoone asked for Board members to recommend names for the ACB Advisory Council.  The group is working to map email addresses and individuals, as well as to develop a strategic plan for fundraising. 
  • Goal 3, Kim Charlson.  In September, a new Board member orientation dinner was held.  The group requests of committee chairs to be cognizant of the time committee meetings are scheduled to enable staff to do the work they need to do and depart, since many of these calls are held in the evening.  Charlson requests that this topic be discussed in July when all committee chairs meet.  A new phone system has been implemented which costs half as much as the previous system.  Accrual of comp time, and the process of performance reviews are being examined.  The toll free number is now answered throughout the business day. 
  • Goal 4, Paul Edwards.  The "about us" section of the ACB website has been updated; this group will work closely with group 1 vis-a-vis a marketing plan for ACB.  Edwards scheduled a meeting of Goal 4 for March 5, 2013.

Gray moved and Campbell seconded acceptance of this item, and that motion carried.

Resource Development Committee, Dan Dillon and Berl Colley

  • The committee is working closely with Tom Tobin.  Tobin participated on the last RDC conference call.
  • Trivia night events are slowly growing. 
  • Donation boxes have been distributed in Orlando, and will soon be distributed in Nashville. 
  • The committee will be researching an organization allowing donations via cell phone. 
  • Research is beginning regarding conducting a national fundraising attempt using a national chain such as Regal Theaters.
  • Work continues on the MMS campaign.  
  • Gray moved and Lieberg seconded that the board authorize the RDc to develop a proposal whose purpose would be to provide assistance to those affiliates who may need seed money to carry out RDC sponsored projects.  After much discussion, this motion was withdrawn and RDC will revisit this issue at the Pre Convention board meeting.  The Board encouraged the RDC to provide more guidance to individual affiliates.  Gray move and Campbell seconded acceptance of this report and that motion carried.

Board of Publications Report, Paul Edwards.

The BOP continues to meet monthly.  They are looking at the ACB Braille Forum, to ensure that it is readable by people with low vision and follows the best practices for developing materials in large print as proposed by CCLVI. 

  • A letter has been developed which will be sent to Facebook, requesting that the current Facebook page be removed, enabling ACB to establish its actual Facebook page.  Additionally, the number and quality of twitter posts is being reviewed, and the BOP will make presentation at the pre convention board meeting.  Lieberg moved and McCann seconded acceptance of this report and that motion carried.

Possible convention sites for 2015, Janet Dickelman.

Colley moved and McCann seconded that the 2015 ACB Conference and Convention be held at the Sheraton Dallas and in 2016, at the Jacksonville Hyatt.   Ruschival moved and Gray seconded this motion be divided to consider the Dallas bid then the Jacksonville question, that motion carried.  The maker and seconder of the original motion accepted an amendment to their motion stating that Dallas would be the first choice for 2015, with Jacksonville second and Birmingham third.  This motion carried.  Ruschival moved that discussion of the 2016 site be referred back to the Convention Committee for further details.  Tom Seconded and that motion carried.

Holliday moved and Lieberg seconded acceptance of this report and the motion carried.

ACB 2013 Fall Board Meeting, Janet Dickelman. 

The dates September 20 and 27th, 2013, are the most workable for Board members.  Dickelman will get back with the Board with a confirmed date.

NABT name change, Melanie Brunson.

NABT, our teachers' affiliate, wishes to change its name to the American Association of Blind Teachers, and requests a charter under that name.  Edwards moved and Gray seconded, that this charter be granted and that motion carried.

ACB Store Committee, Carla Ruschival.

The Committee prepared a report with recommendations regarding Store matters.  A copy of that report is attached to these minutes.  Edwards moved approval of these recommendations, Colley seconded and that motion carried.

Officer Liaison Reports, all officers. 

All committees are hard at work and are developing their summer conference and convention programs.
 
Ruschival moved and Spoone seconded approval of a recommendation from the MMS Committee be to provide the information of the names of individuals contributing to their affiliates through the MMS program to the affiliate president or designee, for the purpose of providing thank you acknowledgments.  Since the voice vote was not clear, a roll call vote was conducted.  Voting in favor of this motion were:  Charlson, Ruschival, McCann, and Spoone.  Voting in opposition were:  Dillon, Lieberg, Gray, Colley, Conrad, Dickelman, Garrett, Holliday, Peterson and Thom.
 
Gray moved that the board ratify the concept that individuals who have or will sign up for the MMS program have the right to opt in to being identified to their state affiliate president or designee, Ruschival seconded and that motion carried. 
 
A motion to adjourn was made and seconded by many at 5:30 PM.
 
Marlaina Lieberg
Secretary
 
Attachment:  ACB Store Committee Report
 
Submitted:  June 20, 2013
 
Approved:  July 5, 2013


 

Future of the ACB Store

Recommendations from the ACB Store Committee
 
February 22, 2013
 
The ACB Store has now been in existence for about ten years.  During that time, most sales and interest have come during ACB national conventions.  On-line sales have, for the most part, been few, and maintenance of a fresh and exciting store site as part of the ACB web presence has been troublesome at best.  Currently, the ACB Store web pages are nonfunctional.  Customers can see products and review descriptions, but inventory counts, shipping calculation, and credit card processing do not work properly.
 
Inventory has also been a problem for ACB.  When ACB purchases products for resale, it is usually necessary to buy more of an item than can be sold quickly and in a short period of time.  Products end up needing to be stored, shipped to future convention sites etc.  - all of which result in more cost to ACB.  Packaging and shipping of items from ACB offices take staff time and add yet more overhead to store items.  It has in some cases taken years to get rid of old inventory - a huge loss to ACB.
 
The ACB Store Committee makes the following recommendations which not only build on some past experiences, but also will hopefully breathe new life into the store.
 
1.  The ACB Treasures Cafépress Shop is stocked with merchandise and is ready to link to the ACB website.
 
The ACB Treasures line of products was introduced at the 2012 ACB Conference and Convention in Louisville.  It consisted of new ACB logo merchandise and new convention-related designs.  Examples of the new products include beer steins, coffee mugs, magnets, shot glasses, Thermos bottles and sippy cups, baseball jerseys, iPhone cases, and doggie T-shirts.  The products were well-received, and excitement was high at the ACB store booth.
 
Work on the Caféress shop has continued.  We have learned much about best practices for image creation and shop organization.
 
The positives of continuing and expanding the Caféress site include:
 
a.  Caféress offers over 250 different products, all of which can be modified countless times to create an endless array of products.  Examples include baby and kids' clothing, pet products, license plates and car magnets, wall clocks, serving platters, candleholders and coasters, plush toys, jewelry, keepsake boxes, bags and totes, and much much more.  There is a seemingly-endless variety of T-shirts, sweats and hoodies, golf shirts and polos - even PJ's - for men and women.  ACB could never, without an incredibly large investment of cash, offer even a fraction of the products available through Caféress.
 
b.  The back office software is incredibly accessible, both with screen-enlargement and screen-reader software.  All store maintenance can be handled by a totally blind person with the exception of image creation and placement of images on products.
 
c.  Product lines can be created in advance and stored for later use.  A line of Christmas products currently exists on the site, hidden from the customer.  These products can be quickly moved into view at the beginning of the holiday season.
 
d.  Products can be customized with the customer's name, saying, or other special request.  ACB has total control over this process, thus preventing the appearance of inappropriate wording on an ACB product.
 
e.  No inventory need be purchased up front, nor do we need to handle the products at all.  Items are created and shipped directly to the customer by Caféress on an as-needed basis.
 
f.  Caféress customer service is very good.  They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on all products.
 
g.  We can choose to allow our designs to be sold through the Caféress Marketplace; this may not generate many sales, but it will give ACB exposure to a much wider audience.  We can also allow our shop to be crawled by search engines - a huge positive for ACB.
 
h.  Caféress customers may select a variety of shipping options, and discounted shipping is available for purchases of multiple items.  Shipping is shown at time of purchase.
 
i.  ACB can order products from our shop for the store booth at convention.  Samples can be obtained and returned for credit if they do not sell.  Orders from customers can be placed directly from the store booth for delivery to the individual's home; all credit-card processing goes through the shop rather than through ACB.
 
j.  Annual cost to maintain the ACB Treasures shop site, as charged by Caféress, is under $60 annually.
 
Less-than-positive considerations include:
 
a.  Colors and fonts can be customized for the entire shop, but they cannot be modified by the customer.
 
b.  The shopping cart cannot be integrated into a cart from another site; all purchases must be processed through the Caféress cart.
 
c.  Customers who do not wish to pay by credit card cannot purchase directly from the Caféress store.  Customers wishing to pay by check will need to order from ACB via phone.  These orders will be processed when payment clears the bank.
 
d.  Vision is needed for image creation and proper placement of images on products.  This can slow the development of new product lines, and could create a bottleneck in the creation of customized items.
 
e.  Items are more expensive because they are created at time of purchase.  However, if ACB actually charged our true cost for products we have acquired in the past, given our low sales volume, long-range storage costs, and repeated shipping charges, our prices would be far higher than those in the Caféress shop.
 
You are encouraged to visit the ACB Treasures shop at www.cafepress.com/acbtreasures.  Please remember that color and font modifications are yet to be completed.
 
In consideration of all of the above points, the ACB Store Committee recommends moving ahead with the Caféress shop and placing a link to it on the ACB Store web page.
 
2.  The ACB Amazon Web Store is stocked with our current inventory, including items we have on hand in Minnesota and those we have fulfilled by our partners (such as Audible Darts, Talking Thermostats etc.).
 
Over the years, ACB has had a range of issues with its on-line store pages.  Inaccurate inventory counts across variations of a product, problems with shipping calculation, issues with adding/modifying/deleting products in a timely manner, inability to automate store sales or specials - these and many other problems have plagued the website.
 
The Caféress shop discussed above cannot accommodate products other than those sold by Caféress.  If ACB is going to continue to offer specialized products such as Talking Thermostats, Sudoku Touch, canes, and Audible Darts, or other items such as People of Vision or commemorative conference and convention pins, another solution must be found, and that solution is the Amazon webstore.  It can handle products currently in ACB's inventory, as well as products we may wish to purchase for sale in the future.
 
Our evaluation and testing of the functionality of the Amazon webstore has revealed the following positive findings:
a.  All Amazon functionality, such as shopping cart, shipping calculation, and inventory control are provided by Amazon and already incorporated into the website.
 
b.  Products can be added, modified, and deleted with relative ease.
 
c.  ACB can choose to handle its own inventory or ship inventory to Amazon for fulfillment through their FBA program.  Because of Amazon's huge volume, they can offer deeply-discounted shipping rates, fast turn-around, and excellent customer service to their FBA partners.  Use of FBA could eventually get ACB completely out of the fulfillment business, relieving our staff and/or volunteers of this responsibility.
 
d.  A host of widgets can be added or deleted from the site by ACB, as desired.  This gives incredible flexibility to the site, and allows for future growth.
 
e.  Products that have UPC codes or ISBN numbers may be sold through the Amazon Marketplace via the ACB webstore, thus greatly increasing the potential customer base.  Products that are fulfilled by Amazon receive preferential treatment in searches by potential buyers, thus increasing our visibility even more.
 
f.  We can allow our store to be crawled by search engines - a huge positive for ACB.
 
g.  Cost of maintaining a presence on Amazon is approximately $600 per year, plus FBA charges for products stored and shipped by Amazon.  These charges are already included in the store budget for this year, as they replace staff and contractor time, supplies, and other anticipated in-house overhead costs.
 
Less-than-positive issues related to the Amazon webstore include:
 
a.  Colors and fonts can be customized for the entire store, but they cannot be modified by the customer.
 
b.  Customers who do not wish to pay by credit card cannot purchase directly from the Amazon store.  Customers wishing to pay by check will need to order via phone.  Orders will be processed when payment clears the bank.
 
c.  The back office of the Amazon store is not as accessible as the Caféress site.  Many of the controls are accessible to screen readers, but some functions are not.  Vision is needed to complete some store tasks.
 
Despite the drawbacks cited above, the ACB Store Committee recommends that the ACB AMAZON Webstore be linked to the ACB Store page on our website.
 
3.  An ACB Store Catalog containing both our current inventory and ACB Treasures merchandise has been created and is attached for your review.  People who do not have access to a computer or who do not have the skills to use the on-line shops may receive this catalog in braille, audio CD, large print, or by data file.  Catalogs will be produced on an as-needed basis by the Store Committee; no additional money is needed to cover production. Audio, braille, and electronic versions are now available; the large print edition is currently being formatted.
 
As stated in the catalog, products may be added or discontinued, and prices may change, without notice.  Items may be added to the on-line sites in advance of appearing in a catalog update.  Because catalogs will not be produced in quantity, revisions and updates can be made frequently without great cost to ACB.
 
4.  The ACB Store Committee recommends that the ACB Store page on our website become the ACB Mini Mall.  Just as the customer in a physical mall has choices of several shops and stores, maintained by different entities, so the shopper who visits the ACB Mini Mall will have choices.  This concept, if successful, could allow us to "rent" space to affiliates, companies, and/or individuals who may wish to promote their products through the ACB Mini Mall pages.  It could, in essence, be a virtual year-round exhibit hall, open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
 
5.  Links to Maxi-Aids and Independent Living Aids are currently being evaluated by the Committee.  These links have been virtually nonproductive over the past two years.  Affiliate relationships with these companies will be updated to reflect the new mall concept.  The committee is also seeking to build affiliate relationships with other companies, so as to offer quick access to blindness and low vision products through our pages.  Such affiliate arrangements will be restricted to links that provide tracking of customer activity so that ACB will receive a percentage of sales resulting from the use of the links.  Affiliate arrangements producing no revenue for ACB after a predetermined period of time will be dropped UNLESS the affiliate partner wishes to treat the link as paid advertising.
 
6.  Amazon Associates links, similar to those found on the Audio Description website, should be placed on selected pages throughout the ACB and ACB Radio websites to generate additional income for ACB.  In addition, links promoting specific products in the ACB Treasures Shop and ACB Amazon Webstore should appear on appropriate pages.  Such links should be kept to a minimum and should be carefully chosen to tastefully reflect and enhance the content of each page on which they appear.
 
Examples of such links might include:
 
*   Amazon Associate links on ACB Radio pages offering deals on earbuds, MP: players, computer storage cards, or batteries, and a link to the ACB Treasures Shop promoting a cool ACB Radio T-shirt.
 
*   A page with content about the international copyright treaty might include a link to ACB Treasures offering a mug promoting braille literacy.
 
*   A conference and convention page with information about air and ground transportation in the upcoming conference city could have a link to the ACB Amazon webstore showing our ACB backpack and an Amazon Associates link to a suitcase on wheels.
 
Such links should not appear on all pages, but only on those where they can be tastefully added and where they relate to the content.  They must be unobtrusive and not interfere with the page content.
 
The ACB Store Committee asks the ACB Board for permission to test this concept.  Up to ten specific products, to be linked through the Amazon Associates program, and up to ten ACB Treasures or ACB Amazon Webstore products will be identified for placement on specific content pages on the ACB website.  These recommendations will then be forwarded to the BOP for its review, and then to the Website Task Force for implementation.  It should be noted that the code for Amazon Associate links, including accompanying images, is supplied by Amazon; links to the ACB Treasures Shop and the Amazon Webstore would be generated by our web administrator, and would be basic code similar to that needed for linking to any other page. 
 
Thank you for considering these proposals.  While these ideas may not generate great sums of cash for ACB, we believe they will greatly enhance our visibility, both among our own members and the public.  Because of their relative low cost, and since they more than offset dollars already in the budget, we will be obtaining a great deal of exposure for a small outlay of funds.  This then becomes free advertising for ACB - a win-win for all concerned.