Summary of the Fall 2014 ACB Board Meeting

by Denise Colley

The Sheraton Hotel in Dallas, Tex. was the location of the fall 2014 ACB board meeting, which took place Oct. 17-18, 2014.  President Kim Charlson called the Friday portion of the meeting to order at 2:10 p.m.  All board members were present except George Holliday, who was excused.  Staff present were Melanie Brunson, ACB executive director, and Lane Waters, controller.
The board began the afternoon by discussing several items including ACB's mission statement, vision statement, membership benefits, and organizational culture.
ACB's mission statement currently reads: “The American Council of the Blind strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity and quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people.”  We discussed the fact that ACB has many “client” groups, from members to fund-raisers, to politicians and the media and others we're impacting in some way. Does this mission statement need to be broadened?  ACB currently does not have a vision statement; this is needed.
ACB provides a number of programs and services to its members, the blindness community and the general public.  Do we provide all of them as well as we'd like? Will we need to offer a different service mix in the future to recruit and retain members?  We need to better publicize what we're doing to reach people who need and want information.  How do we promote what we do to younger people?
The top three strengths of ACB were identified as advocacy, conference and convention, and democratic principles.  The top three weaknesses were fundraising, lack of communication at all levels, and growing lack of commitment.
The board then went into executive session at 3:51 p.m. and returned to open session at 5:51 p.m.  Charlson reported that the board discussed financial and operational issues, and that no actions were taken.  The meeting recessed at 5:56 p.m.
The board reconvened on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 9:08 a.m. The minutes of the pre- and post-convention board meetings were presented and adopted.
The president’s report began with three motions.  The first motion was to ratify the vote adopting the affiliate liaison policy, the second was to ratify the vote to use matching funds for IRI donor acquisition, and the third was to ratify the vote to engage Netflix in structured negotiations.
Charlson indicated that ACB has been approached by the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) for a contribution to a tribute fund which will be used to honor retiring Sen. Tom Harkin with a contribution to the Tom Harkin Institute for Government at Drake University.  ACB will contribute $250 to this effort.
Melanie Brunson began the D.C. area office report by mentioning that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released its report on how the government is progressing on implementing the court order to make currency accessible.  Among other things, it indicated that the Federal Reserve is not in favor of the tactile marking scheme which the Bureau of Engraving and Printing proposed using, and has told them they need to start over.  This was not reflected in the most recent status report filed with the court, and ACB is seeking an order for a supplemental status report.  Other work is taking place behind the scenes to put pressure on the Obama administration to take a stand in favor of accessible currency.  Melanie will post the GAO report to the board list.
Progress is being made on the 2015 draft ACB budget, and Melanie hopes to have it to the budget committee soon. Preparations are under way for the 2015 ACB midyear meetings.  Registration should be out soon, and staffers are making contact with entities that have sponsored these meetings in the past.
Melanie reported that Tom Tobin is working on the next direct mail appeal.  The year-end membership appeal is ready to go out and will appear in “The ACB Braille Forum.” Tom is also working on the next issue of “Inside ACB.”
Melanie and Eric met with Eve Hill from the Department of Justice.  They discussed accessible currency, ACB’s Section 504 case against the General Services Administration, and the D.C. taxi issues ACB has been working on, among other things.
Melanie will represent ACB at the International Association of Audio Information Services board meeting Nov. 7-8 in Lexington, Ky. She will also be working to acquire the proceeds due to ACB for several cruises which have been put together by David Kronk.
Lane Waters gave the Minneapolis area office report.  He indicated that the convention accounting, 2013 Form 990, and much of the expense side of the draft budget are done.  This office is also working on a number of ACBES issues.
Lane and Carla gave an update on the Affiliate Member Management System (AMMS).  We’re going to simplify AMMS, making its main role to allow for membership tracking and certification for ACB affiliates.  Some new fields will be added on the membership side to allow affiliates to better track who is and is not certified.  Also, “how-to” documents will be created that will help users get more out of AMMS.  There was much discussion on eventually getting all affiliates to use the AMMS.
Carla Ruschival presented the treasurer’s report.  As of Aug. 31, 2014, total support and revenue was $953,200, with total expenses of $774,423. She also reviewed the details of the convention report, which provided an in-depth view of where revenue comes from for the convention, and where we spend money to put it on.  This report compared our convention revenue and expenses for 2014 and 2013.
The board went into executive session at 12:04 p.m. and returned to open session at 1:51 p.m.  Charlson reported that one motion was adopted during executive session.  This motion was that a committee be appointed to research the issues presented by the executive director pertaining to the Virginia Association of the Blind as requested by members of said affiliate, and that this committee report its findings and recommendations to the entire ACB board within 30 days of the adoption of this motion.
Carla Ruschival presented a report on the ACB Mini Mall.  The new mini mall site, which includes a shopping cart, is very close to going live.  She indicated that our mini mall is going to be, virtually, like any mall, with various shops visitors can purchase items from.
The Resource Development Committee report was given by Dan Spoone and Carla Ruschival.  The RDC brought forward a proposal to establish a legacy giving society for ACB, to honor those who have chosen to include ACB in their wills or through another long-term planned gift.  These individuals would be acknowledged and included in the Donor Perfect database.  The board approved the legacy giving society.
The RDC also continues discussing ways to improve other fundraising programs.  As part of this discussion, Charlson indicated she wants to identify professionals in the fields of web design or development who would donate their time to advise ACB on how to improve its web presence.  A committee consisting of Kim Charlson, Ray Campbell, Katie Frederick and Dan Spoone was appointed and will put together a job description to help ACB recruit such professionals.
Melanie brought up the issue of ACB taking a fresh look at the issues and policies for accessible, independent voting.  Since ACB last put together a position statement on these issues, many things in the election world have changed.  A task force will be established to re-examine voting issues, policies and procedures, and develop position statements on them.
Katie Frederick was elected board representative to the public relations committee; John McCann will represent the board on the credentials committee.  The executive committee consists of Charlson, Jeff Thom, Marlaina Lieberg, Katie Frederick and Pat Sheehan.
Janet Dickelman presented the conference and convention report.  She indicated that while she has bids on the table for 2017, she hasn’t engaged in any contract negotiations yet since there could be changes in convention format.  She stated that we need to decide what we’re going to do by the 2015 midyear meetings so she can negotiate a contract and announce the 2017 conference and convention location during the 2015 convention.
Jeff Thom then discussed convention voting procedures.  Individuals who have questions about their voting status will have until close of registration the day before ACB elections to resolve them.  This will be announced several times during convention week.
Janet led the board in a discussion of ways to shorten the convention.  A working group of individuals representing affiliates, committees and others involved with the convention has put forth several ideas. The board provided a number of suggestions and ideas.  Plans will be worked out and presented at the 2015 affiliate presidents’ meeting.
The strategic plan goal groups reported on their progress.  Carla Ruschival indicated that the goal group 1 has not met for a couple of months and will be working to get back on schedule.  She did report that we have 845 Twitter followers, and 641 “likes” on Facebook.  Also, we have over 4,000 ACB Radio listeners a month since the telephone option was added.
Jeff Thom reported for goal group 3.  He indicated that the board handbook has been completed, and that they are looking into some staff training issues.  John McCann reported that goal group 4 is going to be working on changes to the convention standing rules, and some constitution and bylaws amendments, in light of the D.C. non-profit code requirements.
Dan Spoone reported for goal group 2, which is getting close to publishing the next generation fundraising brochure for ACB.  They are also continuing to evaluate each of ACB’s 12 fundraising programs on a quarterly basis. Committees need to track their volunteer hours so we can show how much time people are putting into our organization’s work.
Denise Colley presented the board of publications report.  The BOP has put together guidelines for candidate postings on ACB’s leadership and discussion lists, and has also put together guidelines for general leadership list posting.  These will be sent out and made available along with other list posting guidelines.  The BOP has gotten the Forum surveys back, and they are being analyzed.  BOP members were disappointed by the limited response they got from younger members.
Finally, the BOP is proposing that the candidates’ forum be part of a convention general session, and that it be held the day after the nominating committee report.  The BOP is strongly opposed to eliminating the candidates’ forum altogether.
The board discussed several program ideas for the 2015 ACB presidents’ meeting.  They included:

  • AMMS demonstration;
  • Discussion of the importance of state affiliates not only maintaining 501(c)(3) status, but also state status as a non-profit or charity;
  • An RDC discussion that could include how to use ACB’s annual giving societies in addition to MMS;
  • Conversation on the role of affiliate liaisons;
  • Discussion of sustaining ACB affiliates into the future;
  • Discussion and ideas for shortening the conference and convention;
  • Discussion of D.C. non-profit code issues and their impact on special-interest affiliates; and
  • Discussion about collaboration with other organizations.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 5:40 p.m.