by Ron Brooks
Each fall, the ACB board of directors meets to assess the year’s performance, to plan for the future, and to adopt the upcoming calendar year budget. This article includes summaries of three pivotal and productive meetings held during October and November.
Getting Down to Business in the Gateway City
In late October, the board and members of several key committees and staff conducted the fall board meeting at the Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, Mo. In addition to giving the hotel and surrounding restaurants a test drive, the board received reports from a number of ACB committees and from the national office staff, and took several actions that will contribute to the future growth and success of the organization.
The board heard updates from the five committees tasked with leading the implementation of ACB’s Strategic Plan.
· The communications and marketing team presented three sample logos and a new tagline for ACB. After discussion, the board adopted a logo which features large print and braille representations of the letters A, C and B along with the words “American Council of the Blind.” The logo also features the new tagline “Together for a Bright Future.” The new logo and tagline will be utilized on ACB brochures, on ACB’s letterhead and on other ACB promotional materials.
· The meetings and convention team updated the board on three initiatives: 1) the development of a plan to offer continuing education units (CEUs) for appropriate conference workshops and other meetings and webinars; 2) the establishment of virtual convention attendance and participation; and 3) a plan to improve the convention experience for scholarship recipients and other first-time conference attendees.
· The advocacy team summarized its efforts to develop a strategy for tracking and prioritizing efforts on ACB’s advocacy agenda which is focused on three areas: traditional civil rights issues, the accessibility of technology, and the development of accessible currency. Tony also updated the board on several current legislative concerns.
· The development team described its ongoing efforts, including the creation of program committees for each fundraising effort (ACB Walk, ACB Auction, MMS program, etc.), and the alignment of revenue and expense budget categories with ACB programs.
· Membership and affiliates team members informed the board about their committee initiatives: focus groups to gather information from ACB members on ideas for improving member engagement; a survey of affiliate leaders to determine where affiliates may need support from the larger organization; and the development of members-only discounts and perks which could be used to attract and retain more members.
The second day of the fall meeting included reports from officers, national office staff and committee chairs.
· American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services – ACBES board chairman Michael Garrett provided an update on several ACB thrift stores.
· The 2017 ACB convention financials were summarized and the board updated on plans for the 2018 and 2019 conferences. The board approved locations for the 2020 and 2021 ACB conventions, which are subject to final contract negotiations with the selected sites.
· Kim Charlson updated the board on efforts to get the Senate to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty and on the World Blind Union. The WBU is seeking to increase participation by organizations within the Caribbean nations. The WBU will meet in the spring and fall of 2018; ACB will host the fall meeting in the Washington, D.C. area.
ACB executive director Eric Bridges and staff member Kelly Gasque then provided updates on a number of projects.
· ACB Website Redesign – The goal is to launch the newly improved ACB website in early 2018. ACB’s web design firm, Louisville Web Group, and a number of people representing key committees, the board of publications and staff are finalizing the website design, content and graphics. The website will meet all Website Consortium Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), will have new content on most pages, updated resources, more pictures and graphics, and incorporate a much more contemporary and attractive look and feel.
· ACB Annual Report – ACB’s annual report was revamped to be more visually attractive and compelling. It includes more pictures, more graphics and more information designed to highlight ACB efforts and accomplishments.
· Ongoing Advocacy Efforts – Eric Bridges also provided updates on several ongoing advocacy efforts, including the fight for accessible currency. He also discussed a new initiative which ACB is developing to improve employment opportunities for blind and visually impaired people within the private sector.
Task Force and Committee Reports
The board also heard a number of reports from task forces and committees.
Jeff Thom updated the board on the voting task force’s test of a vote-by-phone technology. The voting task force will provide information through the Forum, the affiliate presidents’ meeting and other ACB modes of communication, on how remote voting can be implemented as part of the convention process, as well as questions that the membership must address in designing remote voting procedures.
Larry Turnbull updated the board on ACB Radio’s activities, which included a recommendation to the board of publications to change the format of the Candidates’ Forum to a virtual forum using ACB Radio and an online meeting service such as Zoom. The board supported this recommendation.
David Trott updated attendees on the 2017 budget and on year-to-date expenses and revenues. The organization is in sound fiscal health, but needs to manage expenses and grow revenues in order to support ACB’s expanding outreach and advocacy efforts.
Ron Brooks provided an update on BOP activities, which include developing new guidelines for large-print versions of ACB publications, and the development of key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring the reach of ACB print, braille, audio, electronic and online communications.
After the meeting, board members attended a reception hosted by the Missouri Council of the Blind. It featured several St. Louis delicacies, including fried raviolis.
A Financial Framework for Success in 2018
The board held two conference calls dealing with the ACB budget in November. The first meeting looked at the projected revenues for 2018 and the proposed budget for the 2018 ACB convention. A few days later, the board considered projected expenses for 2018. The board adopted the 2018 convention budget before moving on to the ACB budget.
Ray Campbell made the motion to approve the revenue side of ACB’s 2018 budget; John McCann seconded it. The motion was adopted.
Campbell made a motion to approve the expense side of the budget; Frederick seconded it. The motion was adopted.
Pomerantz made the motion to adopt the 2018 ACB budget in aggregate (as amended); Doug Powell seconded it. The motion was adopted.
After finalizing the ACB budget, Bridges provided a brief update on the ACB office expansion. Following those updates, president Kim Charlson thanked the staff, the treasurer, the budget and finance committee, and the entire board for its work on the 2018 budget. She expressed optimism about the continuing financial health and success of ACB.