The American Council of the Blind (ACB) Board of Directors met for its pre-convention meeting on Friday, June 30, 2017 at the Nugget Hotel and Casino, Sparks, NV. President Kim Charlson called the meeting to order at 9:05 a.m. At the call of the roll, the following board members were present: Kim Charlson, Jeff Thom, John McCann, Ray Campbell, Carla Ruschival (by phone), Mitch Pomerantz, Jeff Bishop, Denise Colley, Sara Conrad, Dan Dillon, Katie Frederick, George Holliday, Allan Peterson, Pat Sheehan, Dan Spoone, and David Trott. Doug Powell was present representing the Board of Publications in Ron Brooks’ absence. Staff present: Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, Nancy Marks Becker, ACB Chief Accountant, Tom Tobin, ACB Director of Development, Jo Lynn Bailey-Page, ACB Grant Writer, Tony Stephens, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, Kelly Gasque, ACB Administrative Assistant and Sharon Lovering, ACB Braille Forum editor. Following roll call, several guests introduced themselves.
President Charlson reviewed the agenda. Bishop moved and McCann seconded adoption of the agenda as circulated, the motion carried.
Ratification of email vote to approve the February 25, 2017 meeting minutes. Campbell moved and Pomerantz seconded that this email vote be ratified, the motion carried.
The President’s report consisted of three items:
- Eric Bridges gave an update on the March 10 meeting of the North American-Caribbean region of the World Blind Union held at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s headquarters in Toronto, Canada. He indicated that since CNIB has three Orbit readers, many in attendance took the opportunity to take a look at them. There was general frustration with the lack of Caribbean nation participation in the WBU regional meetings. Campbell moved and Trott seconded that ACB contribute up to $250 to assist the Caribbean delegates so they can participate in WBU regional meetings, the motion carried. President Charlson also announced that Dr. Penny Hartin, WBU Chief Executive Officer, will be retiring at the end of the summer and a search for a new CEO is underway.
- Kim introduced Cameron Roles, a member of the Board of Directors of Vision Australia, the leading service delivery organization for people who are blind or visually impaired in Australia. Mr. Roles offered suggestions on how ACB and Vision Australia could work together, from making travel more accessible to lobbying trans-national corporations for greater accessibility of such things as online learning platforms.
- Kim introduced Marie Brinas, President of the Old Dominion Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired, who provided the board background on their request for a new charter from ACB reflecting a change in affiliate name. She indicated all necessary activities had been completed to change their name to ACB of Virginia with the Government of the Commonwealth of Virginia. McCann moved and Powell seconded re-chartering of the Old Dominion Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired as the American Council of the Blind of Virginia, the motion carried.
The President’s report was accepted by consensus. Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director began presentation of the staff reports. Highlights of his presentation included:
- Eric continues to travel and meet with various organizations and companies representing ACB. He discussed how he had put representatives at Uber in touch with people from Google, Facebook and Microsoft concerning building an accessibility organization within the company, which Uber is now doing and looking to hire individuals for several positions. Also, Eric spoke at Microsoft’s Ability Summit during the month of May.
- Through the action plan teams, ACB continues making progress implementing the Strategic Plan. Eric feels that the teams are doing good work and working on things that will be paradigm shifting for ACB.
- ACB Website, www.acb.org – We now have a site that is responsive when viewed on mobile devices. We have been working with Louisville Web Group on responsiveness and other maintenance activities on the site. Eric introduced Kelly Gasque who went over what is being done to re-design the site, with the goal of making it more visually appealing and intuitive so it’s easier for those seeking information on the site to find what they need. She indicated that the new site should be unveiled in November of 2017. The team working on the site re-design has gone through and categorized where each page on the site should go. The new home page will have a ‘Become a Member’ button so individuals who choose can easily become a member at large of ACB. The main categories will be About Us, Events, Programs and Services, Resources, Publications and Media, Support ACB and Contact. Kelly discussed some of these categories, giving the board a flavor of the content that will be in each of them. She indicated that once the website has been coded, it will be thoroughly tested to be sure it is accessible to all users including people with low vision, people using screen reading software and people using refreshable Braille. Kelly also reported on our social media statistics. We’ve seen a 66% increase in likes on Facebook from 2,010 to 3,028, Our twitter followers have increased year over year from 1,420 to 1,923, or 35.4%.
- Under IT Infrastructure, Eric discussed the new equipment and platforms that we are now using. For the most part, staff are using Surface Pro 4 devices, we’re using Office 365 and all of our Alexandria office documents are in SharePoint.
- Finally Eric discussed collaboration work ACB is doing with Google and the University of Hawaii to provide audio description at various national park sites in California. ACB will be testing the app and website to be used as part of this project, and recruiting people who are blind to visit the parks to test out the description.
Director of Development Tom Tobin presented his report. After taking questions on his written report previously distributed to the board, he discussed:
- Direct mail, Tom needs testimonials from people who have a compelling story to tell. Our direct mail donations are down some year over year, which Tom attributes to donor fatigue which happens if you’re using a small donor database which ACB is. Tom also told the board that for the fall appeal which has been our back to school piece, he’s moving away from the strategy of featuring a student and structuring it more like our other appeals.
- ACB Angels program, we have nine new angels in 2017, generating $6,210 in revenue.
- ACB’s annual giving society program continues to grow. We have 50 RSVPs for the annual giving society reception on Saturday, July 1.
- Efforts are moving ahead with bolstering aCB’s planned giving. Tom reported we should soon be hosting our first get-acquainted meeting with professionals involved in estate planning.
ACB Grant Writer Jo Lynn Bailey-Page presented her report. After taking questions on her previously distributed written report, she discussed:
- Total grant requests for 2017 are $242,000. Thus far, just over $40,000 has been received. One foundation denied our request for funding, and Jo Lynn feels submitting to this foundation earlier will help by getting ACB in front of the decision makers as they’re deciding what to fund. We also have a request into another foundation that Eric had recently visited, and will not hear anything until November.
- There are challenges locating smaller foundations that give nationally, many give regionally. Jo Lynn feels the personal touch, a phone call or a visit can help.
- We are working to translate ACB’s programs and services into measurable results that we can use to seek out larger foundation funding.
- Foundations are shifting from awarding funds for programs to capacity building, a realization that non-profit organizations who need funding can’t deliver programs and services if they can’t keep their lights on and doors open. Foundations also want to see collaboration and partnering with like-minded organizations.
Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs Tony Stephens presented his report. He continues to work with relevant stakeholders on advocacy issues, both with other advocacy organizations and feeding off of the work Eric is doing developing partnerships with corporations to focus attention on advocacy issues. Tony also indicated we have many champions in the Government space who are receptive to our message.
Tony reported that H.R.2050, the Medicare Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act, fits nicely with an initiative in the Senate around how to get people to age in place. Thanks to some pro bono assistance ACB has received, we will be able to more affectively drive our message home about this legislation on the hill. He also indicated that while there’s strong support for the Marakesh treaty, both the Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees have been dealing with other issues.
Things are moving slowly on the regulatory front, largely because we don’t have all the necessary people in place in key positions at agencies such as the Departments of Education and Transportation. There is an acting director in place for the Office of Special education and Rehabilitative Services that advocates have recently been able to begin reaching out to and discussubg issues such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Turning to 2016 resolutions, under audio description there will be a vote by the FCC on July 13 to expand the amount of audio description that must be provided by the major broadcast networks from four to seven hours per week. Not much action on our 2016 education resolutions. The Cogswell-Macy Act has been reintroduced but is not expected to get much traction in Congress. While not much is happening from a regulatory standpoint on internet, kiosk and web accessibility, ACB has been able to engage with organizations one on one to begin to address some of these issues. Regarding inaccessible materials provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) a bill is going to be introduced very soon to have a Government Accountability Office study done regarding this. With regard to greater access to Braille through the National Library Service, this has been approved by Congress, now, we need to make sure funding is appropriated for it. Finally, Tony indicated progress is being made on training for individuals to get jobs in technology, working with our partners and we continue working with the Department of Transportation on service animal issues.
ACB Braille Forum Editor Sharon Lovering presented her report. Along with her duties as Editor, Sharon reported she has been working with the ACB History Committee, especially on the audio, photograph and video inventory. The oldest cassette she has found so far is dated November, 1970. The oldest photograph found so far is dated October 7, 1965, the signing of the White Cane Safety Day proclamation by President Lyndon B. Johnson. We’ve lost 59 subscribers to the forum this past year.
ACB Radio Managing Director Larry Turnbull presented his report. There have been a couple of new shows added on ACB Radio Interactive since February. Main Menu continues to be ACB Radio’s number 1 technology show. We are reaching around 20,000 listeners a month through all of the ACB Radio channels. Treasure Trove continues to be our most listened to channel, followed by ACB Radio Mainstream. Our ACB Radio podcasts are in Tune-in Radio, and Larry is working with Google to get them into their podcast section. Larry will be working on implementing a new requirement for playing music, display of the album title. Jeff Bishop reported that ACB is very close to putting an Android version of ACB Link into Beta testing.
ACB Chief Accountant Nancy Marks Becker gave the Minneapolis Area Office report. Highlights included:
- Transition to Dynamic GP continues. Nancy indicated there are a lot of new features and functions this software can offer to us that they are still learning.
- Affiliate Member Management System, the certification process went smoothly in 2017. The certification button was not made available to affiliates until the offices processed all updates. After certification, each affiliate was notified of the number of members certified and the amount of dues to be remitted. Nancy would like just to have the ability to certify yes or no for each member on the certification screen to eliminate redundancy.
- ACB received an unqualified opinion on our financial audit. The only material weakness we had is lack of segregation of accounting duties, but Nancy indicated this is typical when an organization has a small staff.
Campbell moved and Trott seconded acceptance of the staff reports, the motion carried. Campbell moved and McCann seconded that the board go into Executive Session for discussion of advocacy, legal and personnel issues. The motion carried, and the board went into Executive Session at 12:30 p.m.
The board returned to open session at 2:13 p.m. President Charlson announced that the board heard updates on the issues shown on the agenda, and that no motions were adopted.
ACB treasurer Carla Ruschival and Chief Accountant Nancy Marks Becker presented the Treasurer’s report for the 4 months ended April 30, 2017. Total revenue for the period was $384,670, with total expenses of $393,871. As this was her last board meeting as Treasurer, Carla received a round of applause and thanks for her years of service to ACB. Campbell moved and McCann seconded acceptance of the Treasurer’s report, the motion carried.
Director of Development Tom Tobin and the Development Action Planning team began the Strategic Plan reports. The team had put together and distributed documents which take a look at ACB’s financial numbers in a different way, asking key questions such as where does our money come from, how can we grow it, and how do we need to think about spending it to carry out ACB’s important work. This can help us identify growth opportunities and make informed projections of revenue and expense needs across the organization. The key take-away is that the biggest piece of ACB’s revenue, 40%, comes through corporate relationships. Second, at 16% is revenue from members, and 15% comes from development programs. The team has identified significant growth opportunities in these top three areas. The team also believes ACB needs to establish an endowment fund which you see in well-established not-for-profits. Under expenses, the team proposed that the board take a similar approach to revenue, categorizing each expense and seeing how they are allocated across ACB’s programs and services.
ACB Convention Coordinator Janet Dickelman presented the Convention and Meetings report. The team has identified three incentive areas to get more people to participate in convention:
- Virtual Convention Attendance, where people can register and participate in convention as a virtual attendee;
- Offering continuing education credits for convention attendance; and
- Offering additional assistance to groups of convention attendees helping them stay on track and in the loop.
This team is also looking at ways to provide PCA and other kinds of assistance such as pushing a wheelchair for those who attend conventions needing this kind of help.
ACB Public Relations Committee chair Katie Frederick presented the Marketing and Communications team report. The team’s purpose is to take the institutional knowledge we have in ACB and turn that into procedural knowledge to provide guidance on developing and deploying affective, repetitive communication to get ACB’s message out. The team wants to not only provide guidance at the national level, but also at the affiliate level to get everyone working under the same brand. The team is developing key messaging about ACB and they have developed a marketing acronym for what ACB is, “IACB” which stands for Integrity, Advocacy, Collaboration and Belief in Democratic principles. The team is beginning to look at our existing communications channels, working with the Board of Publications.
George Holliday presented the report of the Affiliates and Membership action planning team. They are holding focus groups during and after convention on ways to get more people involved with ACB. They are also looking at ways to reach out to the Hispanic population.
ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs presented the last action plan team report on advocacy, legislation and policy. The team is meeting monthly, keeping its collective eye on the issues that need to be dealt with and tracking progress on the three major goal areas it is charged with. President Charlson announced that FMP, the consultants who worked with the board on the strategic plan is helping develop the plan Executive Summary.
Doug Powell, Acting Board of Publications representative presented the BOP report. The BOP has a number of activities taking place during convention. They have also been working with CCLVI on a large print readers survey which will be administered during the convention.
A concern was raised that the board not forget that there is still work to be done in the area of Governance, getting documents such as our Constitution and Bylaws up to date and streamlined.
There being no further business, Bishop moved and Frederick seconded that the meeting be adjourned. The motion carried, and the meeting was adjourned at approximately 4:15 p.m.
Date submitted: 7/22/2017
Date approved: 8/22/2017