by Penny Reeder
The ACB Board of Directors held its pre-convention meeting as a hybrid event on July 1, 2022. The board meeting was streamed by ACB Media. To hear the recording, visit www.acbmedia.org/2022/07/01/20220701-02-acb-board-meeting/. To read the meeting minutes, visit https://acb.org/2022-acb-board-directors-minutes and choose the July 1 meeting.
The Mission Moment
ACB president Dan Spoone and executive director Eric Bridges recognized the ACB Media team for their hard work planning and producing this hybrid convention.
ACB convention coordinator Janet Dickelman explained that the hybrid nature of this convention had necessitated moving events and activities around and increasing the number of daytime and evening hours when members would need to be available. Janet and Dan assured members that, if anyone attending should become ill with COVID, ACB would send an email alert to registered attendees.
ACB Media Engagement Policy Regarding Providing Services for Affiliate Conventions
The board considered recommendations from the ACB Media team under which affiliates can secure the team’s streaming and podcasting services for conventions and other special events. Parameters outlined in the proposed policy include defining shared and separate ACB affiliate and Media team responsibilities and funding obligations, requiring timely notice of affiliate conventions, collaborating on proposed dates for scheduling conventions and the scope of ACB Media Team services, and designating a period of 45 black-out days on either side of the ACB national convention to permit the media team to concentrate exclusively on convention coverage. The board expects to approve the policy during its fall meeting.
Mental Health and Wellness
In response to Resolution 2021-34, the Advocacy Steering Committee recommended creating a permanent Mental Health and Wellness Committee. The board approved forming the committee; Pam Shaw will be the chairperson.
Dan and auction committee chair Leslie Spoone thanked the board for their contributions to, and support of, the summer auction.
The ACB Leadership List
Dan and Deb Lewis told the board that they have developed guidelines for monitoring the ACB Leadership list. The goal of revising those rules is to return the list to the purposes its creators had in mind when they set up the list in the late 1990s. They envisioned a discussion list that would focus on blindness and organizational issues. Revised list guidelines are expected to become effective in August.
Nancy Marks-Becker outlined the stipend which the board had approved in February 2021, which board members can request to assist with expenses associated with attending in-person board meetings. She said that the board stipend of $1,000 per board meeting can be used for air and ground transportation and lodging based on double occupancy.
Noting the skyrocketing costs for airfare, Jim Kracht offered a motion to increase the stipend to cover any proportion of air fare that exceeds $500, assuming that economy-class air transportation is booked at least 30 days in advance of the date of travel. In a close roll-call vote, the board adopted the motion with seven yeas, six nays, and two abstentions.
Improving Communications Between ACB Leaders and Affiliates
A recurring theme throughout the day-long meeting involved improving ongoing communications between the ACB board and officers, and affiliate members and leaders.
Referring to recent written exchanges between the Florida Council of the Blind, ACB Next Generation and the ACB board, Chris Bell asked Dan to briefly outline actions he had taken to respond to the concerns which leaders in both affiliates had expressed.
Dan stated that he had met with members of the Florida Council of the Blind’s executive committee and spoken to their board of directors at their recent meeting, and he had spoken with Next Gen president Amanda Selm and vice president Matt Selm. Both affiliates had conveyed their frustration concerning decisions that appeared to have been made by ACB leadership in an apparent absence of input from affected affiliates or members. He planned to give a more detailed report at the August meeting.
Dan noted that the ways we have responded to and coped with the pandemic have generated consequences for our organization that we may be only beginning to understand and address. He explained that ACB’s creation of a vibrant community, and introduction and adoption of improved communications technologies like Zoom have meant that we find ourselves in a far different place than we were three years ago. Public meetings of the board of directors and board of publications are made vastly more public by live streaming and podcasts, and, as participation on community calls has become a part of their daily routines, members of ACB and the blindness community at large have grown accustomed to hearing what’s on people’s minds and participating in the discussions which result.
To address members’ mounting expectations for increased involvement, the board adopted several motions introduced by Chris Bell. Chris explained, “Communication is one thing, and input is another, and they are not the same. We need to go one step further to allow for a formal process for input. I am making a motion, the effect of which will be for us to have an experiment where the board adopts some policies on an interim basis. We will send out some proposed policy changes to the presidents of our affiliates (at the very least) and seek their formal or informal comment over a reasonable period of time. Then the issue will come back to the board, who can then consider those comments and reach an informed final policy decision that will take those comments into consideration.”
Executive Director’s Report
Eric shared details regarding ACB foundation and corporation grant funding applications and current and projected revenue status. He and the staff are developing a toolkit of briefings, talking points, and meeting guidelines to maximize our communication with donors and foundations.
The group that manages the building where ACB’s national office is currently located has informed ACB that a major building renovation is scheduled for the summer of 2023. Eric and the staff will begin searching for alternative locations for the office.
In consultation with Bill Reeder, members of the Advisory Board and ACB officers, Eric told the board that a decision has been made to decouple communications and development responsibilities within a single managerial position. He will concentrate on recruiting a manager of communications and a separate director of development.
Clark Rachfal stated that ACB’s ongoing advocacy for accessible COVID home tests has met with preliminary success with the development of a more accessible iOS-app-based home test. He noted that the Department of Health and Human Services would be shipping a number of accessible test kits to the convention.
Along with other disability advocacy organizations, ACB has increased and strengthened our advocacy for web accessibility, which will be one of our legislative imperatives in 2023. ACB is urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to use their existing authority to finalize web access regulations, and working with Sen. Duckworth (D-IL) on legislation that would require DOJ and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to create enforceable online accessibility regulations.
Clark congratulated advocates in Rhode Island and Massachusetts on securing their governors’ signatures on legislation that allows people with disabilities to receive, mark, and return absentee ballots accessibly and electronically.
Resource Development Report
Dan explained that, when Tony Stephens left in June, he and Eric were pleased to find that ACB Advisory Board member Bill Reeder was available and willing to assume interim responsibility for revenue development and fund-raising. He will be available for 10 hours each month to do the work associated with development and fund-raising, to help with recruiting and training a new director of development, and to assure continuity during the transition period. The board unanimously approved Bill’s short-term contract.
Bill gave a detailed report to the board. His goals include building a comprehensive gift chart from current donors, comparing donations from current donors to income budget projections, articulating the gap between fundraising actuals and budget expectations, building staff support for the development function, hiring and assisting a new director of development, and coordinating development with other ACB functions.
Community and Membership Development
Cindy Hollis’ report highlighted the support that the ACB Community continues to generate. The community has averaged more than 400 calls each month this year. As of June 30, the community had held a total of 8,957 events since March 2020.
Chief Financial Officer Nancy Marks-Becker told the board that Julie Fischer has been especially busy since starting her job as human resources specialist in March, not only with the HR aspects of her job, but learning about and helping with the convention registration process as well. In March, ACB also hired Chris Sawyer to serve as our thrift store general manager. She encouraged ACB members to introduce themselves to Julie and Chris at convention.
Nancy reported that ACB’s audit had gone more quickly than ever before, and that ACB received a clean audit.
After accepting the staff reports, the board addressed additional agenda items, including the following.
Ad hoc Code of Conduct procedures committee: The recommended revisions will permit complaints to be addressed and resolved quickly; encourage all parties to rely upon principles of conflict resolution as a first remedy for resolving complaints; and call on a presidentially appointed grievance committee to handle appeals. The board approved the proposed procedural changes on an interim basis, with final approval expected at the fall meeting.
The board adopted a documents retention policy. During their discussion, the board adopted a motion made by David Trott that charges the archives committee with the goal of determining criteria for protecting ACB’s archives. The board will consider their recommendations at the fall board meeting.
In closing, the board expressed appreciation for the contributions of Pat Sheehan, Michael Talley and Jim Kracht.