By Penny Reeder
Final meetings of the ACB Board of Directors in 2023 dealt primarily with budgetary concerns and culminated in the board’s approval of an ACB budget for 2024. The first of the three meetings, which took place on November 28, included an executive session, during which a representative from ACB’s investment firm provided an overview of market trends and the status of ACB’s investments, and CFO Nancy Becker outlined the process which the board uses to approve the annual budget for each coming fiscal year. The public portion of the November 28 meeting was streamed live on ACB Media 6, and the podcast of that meeting is available here: https://acb-business.pinecast.co/episode/fff86256/20231128-acb-board-of-directors-meeting-november-28-2023.
Both December meetings were held in executive session, and the resulting action taken by the board was approval of the 2024 budget for the American Council of the Blind.
November 28, 2023
President Deb Lewis called the meeting to order at 8 p.m. Eastern. All board members were present. The proposed agenda was adopted. Approval of minutes from the fall board meeting was postponed until a later meeting.
During her president’s report, Deb addressed a resolution which the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International (CCLVI) had written in response to a discussion at the Sept. 30 board meeting concerning how ACB collects demographic data related to the various categories that are used to define low vision, legal blindness, and blindness. CCLVI’s resolution suggests that ACB should use four separate categories, i.e., sighted, visually impaired, legally blind, and low vision. Deb said that what ACB is asking is how members self-identify their level of visual acuity – not how the medical profession or governmental entities define their visual status. ACB asks members to check one of three categories related to impaired vision, i.e., I identify as blind, I identify as low vision, or I identify as sighted.
Deb had discussed the approach that ACB is using with Zelda Gebhard, who had shared the CCLVI resolution with ACB leaders. Zelda said CCLVI approves the approach ACB is taking.
Jeff Thom commented, “I think the way we are doing this is totally appropriate. We are using the least confusing method for gathering this data. Any other way would cause difficulties for some people, and that’s not what we want to happen.”
Deb reminded state and special-interest affiliate presidents, as well as directors, that opportunities remained for them to opt into the ACB CARES board/affiliate liaison program.
During his executive director’s report, Dan announced that ACB had hired a new human resources specialist. In addition to coordinating all aspects of the search to recruit and hire a person to serve in Clark Rachfal’s recently vacated position as director of advocacy and governmental affairs, Dan said, HR specialist Sayuree Naik is also assisting with some of the graphic design and social media responsibilities that Kelly Gasque was handling before she left. ACB hopes to have a new director of advocacy and governmental affairs onboard by the first or second week of January.
The office staff is also hoping to move into their permanent suite at the new Alexandria office location early in the new year.
Dan thanked Rick Morin, Larry Gassman, Jeff Bishop, Deb and others who manage information technology aspects of our online presence for their hard work to transition several of ACB’s web sites from the Azure to the Pantheon platform. The transition improves ACB’s ability to administer our server and troubleshoot when problems arise.
“In the middle of the gala and the auction, in between everything,” he said, “the IT team migrated ACB.org, ACBMedia.org, and the ACB Mini Mall all to the Pantheon platform. Everything is up and running. There are no glitches. And we’ve also moved the ADP website to a different platform as well. It will actually cost us less to maintain this environment, and we have the added security of knowing we are in a well maintained and a well protected host environment for our web sites.”
Dan thanked everyone for their enthusiastic participation in the ACB Media Holiday Auction. “There were more than 175 items,” he said. “We raised over $30,000, and it was great to have everyone out there having fun. Thanks to everyone for all of your truly hard work.”
After some discussion, the board approved the proposed calendar for the 2024 D.C. Leadership Conference. Deb said that, in order to respond to preferences which board members and affiliate leaders had expressed, the conference will be shorter this year. A no-cost tour – possibly at one of the Smithsonian museums – will be scheduled for Friday afternoon, and the board meeting will be scheduled for Saturday, March 2. The presidents’ meeting will occur on Sunday, March 3, and the legislative seminar will be scheduled on Monday, March 4. Tuesday will be the day when affiliate representatives travel to Capitol Hill.
Dan said he wanted to especially thank administrative assistant Kaitlyn Herrera for the great job she had done working with the hotel and pulling all of the details and events together. He said that ACB is tentatively planning to host all attendees at their new Alexandria offices on Friday evening, March 1. Then, after the board meeting ends on Saturday, March 2, there will be a reception at the hotel for everyone attending the Leadership Conference. The presidents’ meeting will be hybrid, and available on Zoom, and break-out sessions will be included. On Sunday night, ACB plans to sponsor another dine-around event, like the one that was so popular at the 2023 Leadership Conference. The legislative seminar panels will also be hybrid and available on Zoom.
The nightly hotel rate, which will be applicable through Tuesday night, March 5, is $149. Hotel amenities include a full-service restaurant, and a free shuttle to and from Reagan National Airport. The fee for in-person registration entitles attendees to the hotel reception on Saturday evening, and lunch on both Sunday and Monday.
During the weeks prior to the legislative seminar, ACB will hold a community call related to each of the legislative imperatives, and everyone who travels to the Hill will have access to printed materials related to ACB’s advocacy goals which they can distribute to the legislators with whom they schedule meetings.
Convention coordinator Janet Dickelman provided a brief update on plans for the 2024 ACB convention. To accommodate the needs of exhibitors who will likely be attending the NFB convention in Orlando immediately prior to coming to the ACB convention in Jacksonville, ACB will open the exhibit hall on Sunday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. After that, exhibits will be open between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday. This year’s opening general session will be scheduled for Sunday evening. Two concurrent break-out sessions, like those which were very popular at the 2023 convention, will be scheduled on Monday morning. ACB’s convention committee is working closely with planners from the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) to assure efficient collaboration as both organizations share the hotel space and take advantage of expanded opportunities in the shared exhibit hall.
The final topic on the agenda for the Nov. 28 board meeting focused on the search for an executive director. Deb reminded the board that the executive search committee, which she had appointed at the end of September, included Deb, Kim Charlson, Jeff Thom, Michael Garrett, Dan Spoone, and Nancy Becker. Deb said that human resources specialist Sayuree Naik was preparing the draft job description based on input from the search committee, and they expected to present the job description to the board for their approval at the Dec. 11 board meeting. The search committee expects to post the vacancy immediately following that board meeting, to keep it open for about a month, and to present candidates for the board to interview thereafter. Deb said that the committee aims to present a final candidate for the board’s approval and to introduce them as the permanent executive director of ACB by the opening of the Leadership Conference in March. Ideally, she said, they will be onboard shortly after the Leadership Conference and fully functional by the beginning of convention in July.
The last item discussed at the meeting involved the “Join ACB” page on ACB’s web site. Terry Pacheco reminded the board that she had raised the issue at several prior meetings, and nothing had been done to address the situation. The web page continues to encourage people to join ACB as at-large members or even “friends of ACB,” without providing equivalent information or emphasis regarding opportunities available to people who also need to know about our affiliates and how to join them. After some discussion, Ray Campbell stated that he would bring the topic to the attention of the membership steering committee for their deliberation and recommendations, and he invited Terry to participate in their next scheduled meeting.
The public meeting adjourned around 11 p.m.
December 4 and 11 Executive Sessions
At the December 4 meeting, the board considered the revenue side of the proposed budget as well as the budget for convention. At the December 11 meeting, in addition to considering the expense side of the budget, the board approved minutes from the fall board meeting, approved the job description for the executive director position, and were updated about progress toward hiring a new director of advocacy and governmental affairs, which, Dan told the board, he expected to do before the end of the year. The proposed budget was approved unanimously, and the meeting adjourned at 9:24 p.m. The next board meeting is scheduled for January 30, 2024.