The American Council of the Blind (ACB) Board of Directors met on Friday, October 18 and Saturday, 19, 2019 for its fall meeting at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois.
Friday, October 18, 2019
Call to Order and Roll Call
President Dan Spoone called the Friday portion of the meeting to order at 2:00 p.m. At the call of the roll, the following board members were present: Dan Spoone, Ray Campbell, Denise Colley, David Trott, Kim Charlson, Jeff Bishop, Donna Brown, Sara Conrad, Dan Dillon, Katie Frederick, Jim Kracht, Doug Powell, Pat Sheehan, Michael Talley and Jeff Thom. Board of Publications Member Deb Cook Lewis was present representing that body.
Members absent: Mark Richert.
Staff present: Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, Kelly Gasque, ACB Executive Assistant and Media Design Specialist, Clark Rachfal, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, Claire Stanley, ACB Advocacy and Outreach specialist, Tom Tobin, ACB Director of Development, Nancy Marks-Becker, ACB Chief Financial Officer and Cindy Van Winkle, ACB Membership Services Coordinator. Following roll call, several guests introduced themselves.
Approval of Agenda: Dan Spoone, President
President Spoone reviewed the agenda. Trott moved and Kracht seconded adoption of the agenda as presented. The motion carried. Charlson moved and Campbell seconded approval of the August 22, 2019 conference call ACB Board meeting minutes as corrected. the motion carried.
Mission Moment: Dan Spoone and Eric Bridges
This meeting President Spoone highlighted the great work of the Alexandria staff in doing a much better job of communicating with the membership. Eric reported that we are coming upon the one year anniversary of Dots and Dashes, which is a biweekly compilation of our ACB-specific news and information, as well as other interesting messages and content from other sources. We are also coming upon the one year anniversary of the ACB podcast which comes out weekly. These are important arenas for getting our news out in a way that our members can come to expect. We’ve been doing Facebook Live for almost a year and a half. Here is where we deal with timely issues and special events. Our social media presence allows us to cross-post a couple times a day determined strategically at those times where we will get the largest number of viewers. Earlier this year we started a Linked In page where we cross post more of the business type work we are doing with tech companies and other business-related services. There is also the website which is our face to the world, and from where all the content that we are posting on social media that is ACB-centered is also on the website. Eric said he just wanted to recognize all the hard work Clark, Claire, Kelly and Sharon put in to make all these communication channels available.
It was moved by Trott and seconded by Shehan to approve the six staff reports sent out earlier that were included in the consent agenda. The motion carried.
President’s Report: Dan Spoone
WBU Fall Meeting: Kim reported that the meeting of the World Blind Union was held on September 27, in Chicago, hosted by Hadley. One of the objectives of the World Blind Union North American/Caribbean region over the last couple of years has been to get more engagement from the countries in the Caribbean. At this most recent meeting they actually had representation from Haiti, from Trinidad and Tobago, and from Jamaica. A member representative was elected to the executive board from Trinidad and Tobago. Kim was elected president of the North American/Caribbean region. She officially takes on that role after the General Assembly, which is being held in Madrid, Spain next June. Kim and Mitch will be attending as delegates, along with President Spoone who will probably become one of our delegates after the General Assembly when Mitch steps down from his role as vice chair of the region currently. A proposal has once again been submitted for ACB to be able to provide the internet radio service to broadcast the event.
National Press Club Panel on Digitalization
Kim reported on her opportunity to present on a panel on Digital Accessibility at the National Press Club. It was an event that was coordinated on behalf of the National Press Club by John Williams who is a long-time disability advocate and writer for the disability community. Other members of the panel included retired Senator Tom Harkin, Greg Vanderheiden, director of the Trace Research Center, Chet Cooper, editor of Abilities Magazine, Dr. Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet, and an entrepreneur who runs a company out of Australia that makes wearable and eye gaze technology for people with disabilities. The panel was charged to talk about employment of people with disabilities and the digital economy, and how those things might intersect and the power and influence of the disability community in those areas. Kim focused her remarks primarily on digital accessibility for people who are blind, the barriers we face from hiring managers and the advocacy that needs to be done around our environment. Kim and Clark were able to do a Facebook live interview following the event, and the audio from the event was captured and used for one of the ACB advocacy podcasts.
About six months ago ACB invested in a Constant Contact license which allows us to professionalize an email with a nice layout, graphics with the alt tags on them, social media contacts and donors, etc., and it comes out from the American Council of the Blind. It allows us with one quick blast to send out an email message to all of our members and stakeholders. President Spoone used it to send out an email blast to all ACB members asking about their interest in serving on any of our ACB committees and he got back over 100 emails from members wanting to serve. Through that we have found some talented key members with expertise in specific areas. Eric shared that, initially, we had only received a handful of applicants for this year’s JP Morgan Leadership Fellows program with just a couple weeks left. Sending out an email blast to our membership resulted in going from 10 applicants to 50 within a few days. It not only brought volume but also quality of applicants.
A formal ACB diversity statement was developed for review by the board at the request of Claire and Clark, and reviewed to ensure this diversity language is consistent with the language that this board approved four years ago that goes into all of our convention contracts. The proposed diversity policy was read by Kelly Gasque. Claire then gave us some further background on the need for a diversity statement and the process that brought us to this point.
Kim suggested a couple of language changes. In the first sentence change the word “strive to develop” to “supports”, and later in the same sentence change the word “supports” to “affirms”. She also suggested adding gender identity, religion and political affiliation to the sentence that begins “ACB welcomes members of all...”. Change the end of the last sentence to read “”to fully respect and represent the blind and visually impaired population in all the work we do”. Doug proposed that in the first sentence we remove the word “strive” and just say “supports”. Michael proposed the word “community” instead of “population” at the end of the last sentence. Paul Edwards proposed changing the word “strives” to actively promotes” in the first sentence.
Campbell moved and Brown seconded that this diversity statement be approved as amended. The motion carried.
The revised language now reads as follows:
“The American Council of the Blind (ACB), actively promotes an inclusive culture that encourages, affirms, and celebrates the diverse make-up of the blind and visually impaired community. Blindness touches all cultures and ethnicities; ACB embraces this diversity. ACB welcomes members of all nationalities, ethnicities, sexual orientations, religions, political affiliations, disabilities, ages, genders, gender identities and other minority groups to fully respect and represent the blind and visually impaired community in all the work we do.”
Changing Women’s Concerns to ACB Women
Dan reported that he has received a request from the Womens Concerns committee to change their name to ACB Women. Brown moved and Frederick seconded a motion to approve the request of the Womens Concerns Committee to change their name to ACB Women. The motion carried.
Status of Code of Conduct Policy
President Spoone began this discussion by outlining where we’ve come with this process, what happened at convention, and his thoughts on next steps. What was approved at the convention was a change to our constitution through a constitutional amendment giving the power of setting the code of conduct policy to the board of directors. Two temporary policy statements were read to the convention and we now need to finalize the code of conduct. We need to have the policy finalized and in print by the February 2020 board meeting. He plans to form an ad hoc committee consisting of many of the members who initially worked on the policy to be reconvened to finalize the policy language and bring that back to the board at a telephonic board meeting the third or fourth week in January. At that time the finalized version of the policy will be presented to this board for approval. Some discussion ensued about the need to work any further on policy language that was already approved by the board. Dan reminded everyone that what we currently have is temporary language, and that he believes that there are a few other areas we need to make sure we have thought through and included. These include having the enforcement mechanism in place when having to ask members who are misbehaving at any of our events to either separate themselves or leave the event. How does that language get put into such documents as convention registration, vendor, volunteer documents, and does it belong in the standing rules of the convention. There is also the question of who should have the responsibility of determining violations to the code of conduct which currently is that of the executive director. It would make more sense to create language that says that responsibility would become that of the president, executive director and the coordinator of the particular event. Kim requested that before we submit a final draft to this board that we ensure there is an opportunity for a conference call for members to have an opportunity to weigh in since that was asked for at convention.
Eric Bridges, Executive Director
Eric reported that the newly formed ACB Advisory Board had their first face-to-face advisory board meeting the previous week. A couple of take aways Eric had from the daylong meeting were 1) the members are engaged and ready to go to work and 2) there was a lot of discussion about the organizational structure of ACB and what we would like to do with the organizational structure moving forward, and about our IT infrastructure. They seized real quickly on our overall vision statement and what ACB is all about.
Eric then talked about our work with Apple on their series called See which is a series that is going to be a part of their new streaming platform, Apple TV Plus, which launches on November 1. The series takes place in a blind world about six hundred years in the future, and while there are a lot of actors in the show, only five are actually blind. We have been advising them on some of the technical aspects of this project since last August. Trying to ensure that the blindness component and the authenticity of representation of blind actors has been at the forefront of our work with Apple. Eric, Kirk Adams and a couple of members from NFB have been invited to Los Angeles for the premiere screening of the first of eight episodes.
In looking at the Advisory Committee, an area of subject matter expertise we don’t yet have is a development professional. He was put in contact with the dean of the performing arts department at George Mason University because he literally built that program as well as other music and other programs, and raised the money to do it. They’ve met for lunch and will be having another conversation before the end of the year to talk about what his level of engagement can be and how he can be helpful to us. Other areas of subject expertise Eric is still looking for on the advisory board are marketing and communications and someone with investment background.
Advocacy Update: Clark Rachfal
Clark said the low vision bill introduced in the House is still bipartisan and six members have signed on. In the coming weeks they expect Senator Gillibrand
From New York to introduce the senate companion bill, and her staff is reaching out to republican members and their staffs to try to keep the bill bipartisan in the Senate as well. There is no action at all from Congress on the Start Act – Autonomous vehicle legislation. The diabetes durable medical equipment imperative has had very slow uptake in locating a congressional leader to move it forward. The Cogswell-macy Act has been reintroduced in the House by Rep. Cartwright (D-PA, and Senate introduction of the bill is pending. Outreach and coalition building of organizations is taking place to support this legislation. Clark ended his report by congratulating Claire Stanley on being named to the Air Carrier Access Advisory Committee.
Website and Social Media Updates: Kelly Gasque
When we post ACB-related information we post it across all of our social media communication channels to include, Facebook, twitter, linked in, the website and our YouTube channel. Kelly takes our Facebook live videos and posts them to YouTube. Announcements posted over social media are always tied back to our website in an effort to increase traffic to it. Articles of interest are posted out over Facebook, twitter, and the Leadership and Announce email lists. Only ACB-related information is put on linked-in. Dots and Dashes goes out to our email lists and then it is posted to the website and out over social media. Jeff Bishop then talked about the steps being taken to stabilize our website.
Resource Development: Tom Tobin
Over the past month we have received five more gifts from our spring appeal that added $605 more dollars to the bottom line. The average gift amount is a little over $40.77 with a percent return of %5.16. After expenses our net revenue is $3,194 which is higher than what was reported in the development report. There has been little change in the Acquisition Appeal but we have acquired 57 new donors. No change on the Planned Giving Appeal. The grants stand at $55,000 for the 2019 year as of this meeting.
Board Affiliate Liaisons: Cindy Van winkle
Cindy has been looking at how her work and the work of our board liaisons cross paths, and the importance of her getting together with the liaisons and making sure we are all working to ensure the message that is being communicated to the affiliates is the same. We all need to be supporting one another in our membership efforts. She would like to help create some guidelines and training for affiliate liaisons. Affiliates do feel disconnected and we need to find ways to bring ACB to the affiliates and to the members. The board liaisons are one strong way to help affiliates make that connection. She presented us with an acronym; ACB Cares which stands for connecting affiliates through relationships by engagement and support. That is the role of the board liaison. Relationships aren’t just an email or a phone call. They are continuous and ongoing, learning about your affiliate presidents. Cindy said she took notes on every phone call or email she received from affiliate presidents and she plans to make those available to the board liaisons. She asked all affiliate liaisons to jot down thoughts, concerns and/or ideas about where they think this liaison program should be or what should be included in training and send them to her. Jeff Thom suggested that before the guidelines and training are crafted that she hold a round table conference call with all the affiliate liaisons to hear their successes and frustrations, what has worked and what hasn’t. She will also share the survey responses from those affiliates who responded to her affiliate survey. Bishop moved and Frederick seconded approval of the staff reports. The motion carried.
Treasurer’s Report through August, 2019: David Trott
The treasurer’s report through August, 2019 was presented to the board. Total revenue: $821,521. Total expenses: $961,356. While our revenue is 7.2% below budget our expenses are actually 8.8% below budget.
- ACB’s investments have increased $1,795,900 over last year.
- The Legacy investment account has $1,253,100; our year to date return is 14.4% and the overall return since we started this account is 8.63%
- The Endowed investment account has $1,324,300; our year to date is 12.2% and the overall return since we started this account is 4.61%.
- The Reserve investment account has $1,653,100; our year to date is 11.4% and the overall return since we started this account is 4.81%.
Nancy reported that we just received another $100,000 distribution from the Wagner estate. This will be allocated between the legacy and the reserve fund.
Bishop moved and Sheehan seconded to approve the treasurer’s report. The motion carried.
Board of Publications Report: Deb Cook Lewis
The BOP is having a growing interest in their work by the membership shown by huge attendance at their monthly meeting calls. One of the things on their plate this year is the continuing thought process around what is the BOP’s evolving role as they go through this new process that ACB is going through with the workgroups. At this summer’s convention the writers workshop focused on the topic of how to access ACB’s various materials in all the ways you could. This branched out into how other affiliates get their publications out there for other peoples’ use and exchanged resources. There was such a positive response that the BOP has established a working group that is looking at how, during the year, they can offer training workshops or opportunities so members who can’t come to convention or be present at the convention presentation can come together and share. They also want to make it more known to affiliates that they are available to help with issues around their publications or newsletters.
Powell moved and Thom seconded to approve the Board of Publications report. The motion carried.
Election of Public Relations Committee Chair
Trott moved and Campbell seconded to re-elect Katie Frederick as Public Relations Committee chair. The motion carried.
Election of Board Representative to the Credentials Committee
Campbell moved and Frederick seconded to re-elect Pat Sheehan as ACB board representative to the Credentials Committee. The motion carried.
ACB Radio Management Director’s Report: Jeff Bishop
Jeff began his report by sharing that we have a very vibrant and active ACB Radio management team. A lot of the programming has changed on Mainstream over the past few months and Rick Morin has been instrumental in putting together the schedule. They continue working toward a plan for the merger of Interactive and Café. There is a lot of work going on right now in the production space as well as the programming space. They are reaching out to a lot of state and special interest affiliates and members to talk about ideas for future programming. They are talking with Cindy Van Winkle about the idea of rebranding the Affiliates in Action program to ACB In Action. They have been working hard in bringing ACB Radio to where it should be which is the voice of ACB. It’s underutilized for that purpose. To accomplish this will take a leadership commitment. We as an organization need to be using ACB Radio as our communication vehicle to get the word out about who we are.
Kracht moved and Campbell seconded to approve the ACB Radio report. The motion carried.
Approve Draw Down From Legacy Endowment Fund: Nancy Becker
Nancy went through the current status of our ACB Legacy Endowment Fund and the growth that has taken place in the first four quarters of its existence. The total value of the fund right now is $1,262,000, and based on the policy we developed, a percentage needs to be allocated for next year’s budget. The recommendation of the budget committee is to allocate 4% of the funds which would equal $34,900. When reviewing the budget in November Nancy reminded us that we cannot show this amount in either the revenue or expense side because it is money that has already been earned. It will go in as a line item under the net profit or net loss. It is simply a distribution from one asset class to another to cover expenses.
Kracht moved and Thom seconded to approve the 4% ($34,900) transfer of funds from the Legacy Endowment Fund to the cash account as a draw down for next year’s 2020 budget planning. The motion carried.
ACB Enterprises Services Membership Meeting
Campbell moved and Charlson seconded that the board move into recess and that we move into an ACBES membership meeting. The motion carried.
As vice chair of the ACBES board Jeff Thom gave a brief report on activities. At the last meeting it was reported that we had new managers in both stores. The manager in the Amarillo store did resign, and through the efforts of Nancy and Nicole they received some great candidates and have hired a new manager by the name of Tina Watley. The September sales were not as high as the previous two months, but still well above average in comparison to what we were receiving before. October sales are trending even better. Lubbock is still doing well and it is believed they will probably come close to the $60,000 mark.
Jeff then turned the meeting over to Kim Charlson to conduct the election for positions on the ACBES Board, on behalf of secretary/treasurer David Trott who is taking notes. The current members of the ACBES Board are Michael Garrett, chair, Jeff Thom, vice chair, David Trott, secretary/treasurer, and members-at-large Dan Spoone, George Holliday and Kim Charlson, with one vacant position. The two positions up for election are those currently held by Jeff Thom and Dan Spoone. Trott moved to re-elect the two individuals currently in these positions. The motion carried.
Thom moved and Powell seconded the motion that the board return to open session. The motion carried.
Campbell moved and Sheehan seconded that the board recess into Executive Session for purposes of discussion of the items as outlined by the president. The motion carried, and the board recessed into Executive Session.
Campbell moved and Powell seconded the motion that the board return to open session. The motion carried. The board returned to open session at 7:05 p.m. At the beginning of the session on Saturday morning President Spoone will need to announce the board received updates on legal, personnel and advocacy issues and there were no motions made.
Campbell moved and Colley seconded that the board recess until 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning. The motion carried.
The meeting went into recess at 7:10pm.
Saturday, October 19, 2019
The meeting of the ACB Board of Directors moved out of recess and was reconvened at 9am on Saturday morning. All guests were introduced. One order of business coming back out of our executive session Friday afternoon was to report out what occurred. President Spoone reported that legal and personnel issues were discussed but no motions were taken.
President Spoone began the morning by acknowledging that there has been a lot of discussion around the need for some formal training on this new program workgroup structure, and he asked if the members of the board and a couple of our key program leads could come in early on Friday, February 21 for a day of training before our February leadership conference board meeting. We will have a professional facilitator there to assist us and more details will be forthcoming. Also, there will be a telephonic board meeting call in January and the board selected January 23 at 8pm EST for the date and time of that call.
Proposed dates for the revenue and convention portion of the budget are November 10 11 or 12. November 11 at 8pm EST was selected. The proposed dates for the expense portion of the budget are November 17, 18 and 19. November 18 at EST was selected.
The focus of this day is a working session to share ideas and taking the opportunity to look at our organization a little bit differently than we have in the past. We will be looking at ACB not from the perspective of having staff, then a separate board, and 40 committees, but with a staff and a board and 9 steering committees or key programs with the chairs of our 40 committees all having a seat at each of those steering committees. Dan explained more about the new structure and then the key staff person or board member explained more in depth how their particular program/steering committee will operate. The specific notes for this discussion appear elsewhere.
Upon completion of the day’s exercise and final words from President Spoone and Eric Bridges it was moved by Campbell and seconded by Powell to adjourn, motion carried. The meeting was adjourned at 4:25pm.
Denise Colley, Secretary
Date submitted: January 21, 2020
Date approved: February 22, 2020