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ACO Board Presents Functional, Constructive Approach in Accountability Meeting
Agency to enhance advocacy and refine fundraising as fiscal surplus announced and audit approval expected

(Regional Headquarters) -  The Board of Directors of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa conducted its monthly meeting in public Tuesday night in a new accountability schedule to replace the former member oriented quarterly meetings.

Previous News
ACO Recovering, Finances Secure
The dynamic of the agency's decision-making group was unrecognizable from that displayed in years previous.  Addressing issues with passion, not emotion, and responding to tough questioning with concern, not defense, board members carried out the organization's business with the constructive and critical interaction characteristic of a healthy, functional and cohesive group.

With the implementation of a brand new accounting system we are confident about the accuracy of our information and expect to receive a supportive audit statement this year.
- Lise Ladouceur
 
 
New board member Russell Armstrong, former Executive Director of the Canadian AIDS Society, was particularly demanding of his past position's counterpart at the agency Lise Ladouceur, who responded by detailing the likely impact of implementing his various requests.  The reality based input from ACO's executive director was given due consideration in the board's decision-making process prior to directives being issued to her.

Significant accomplishments reported at the meeting included an $83,000 surplus at year-end March 31st, the accounting system clean-up nearing completion, an absence of any staff or human resource issues, and an expectation of a positive audit outcome.

"With the implementation of a brand new accounting system we are confident about the accuracy of our information and expect to receive a supportive audit statement this year," said Ms. Ladouceur in a statement.

The agency in the spring of 1999 had been described as on the verge of financial collapse.  The failure of the past two years' financial statements to 'pass' an audit was also a threat due to a third failure likely resulting in the federal government revoking the ACO's not-for-profit status.  In addition, the organization had been plagued with high staff turnover and had suffered from the loss of accounting records.

The agency's surplus remains unappropriated as does a one-time grant from the Ontario Ministry of Health this year to all provincial AIDS service organizations of 15% of its core funding to them - representing $59,000 for the ACO.  Ms. Ladouceur announced that the problem of the relatively expensive office space was being addressed with more aggressive outside-assisted efforts to gain leverage in possible lease renegotiations.  And board member Susan Molinski, a human resources manager with the federal government, reported the completion of contemporary and comprehensive policies and procedures for the agency's staff.

To the future, now

With finance, accounting and staff issues cleaned up, the board has begun to plan new advocacy priorities under the leadership of Mr. Armstrong, newly elected chair of the Community Issues Committee.  Director Kevin Hatt, existing chair of that committee, officially stepped down in absence last night due to a conflict between illness and the position's obligations.

We want to develop an advocacy agenda.
- Russell Armstrong
 
 
Program revision was rejected for the time being, however, as Ms. Ladouceur stated such changes would interfere with development of this year's budget - and which did the board want?- as well as indicating that a proper review of services offered would require a longer strategic planning process.

"We want to develop an advocacy agenda," explained Mr. Armstrong, and said that the agency's advocacy arm seeks to liaise with the community on issues of concern and be a contact point for it.

"The Committee would like to be more visible," he continued.  "[People] are welcome to contact members of the Board ... and ask how to get involved."

Mr. Armstrong added that the Committee is trying to develop ways of soliciting community input with the goal being to tell people "here are the specific action steps" the ACO is taking with issues of advocacy.

The issue of the staff and financial cost of ongoing fundraising efforts, however, remains unresolved.  Board member Bill Riley was adamant in demanding an end to ACO's program staff spending hours each month coordinating small-change events in community locales.

A deal has been struck with Bridgehead Ltd., a coffee shop to open within Ottawa's new Mountain Equipment Co-op megastore, where an ACO blend will be offered to coffee drinkers and $1 per pound consumed will be donated to the agency.
 
 
Ms. Ladouceur responded by agreeing completely but reminding the Board that the alternative of charging volunteers with the responsibility of handling cash would require significant staff time for screening them beforehand.  Notwithstanding, she said simply "OK, OK" to the demand.   The effect of an immediate reduction in future small funds raised was implicitly accepted by the Board.

The Executive Director continued by acknowledging that an outright resource development strategy is needed.

"This raises the issue of the necessity of a resource development position for the ACO," Ms. Ladouceur stated in her written monthly report.  She announced the striking of a deal with Bridgehead Ltd., a coffee shop to open within Ottawa's new Mountain Equipment Co-op megastore, where an ACO blend will be offered to coffee drinkers and $1 per pound consumed will be donated to the agency.

Ms. Ladouceur told the Board that this type of partnership initiative, combining a good profit potential with little ongoing work, is the direction regular fundraising efforts should take.

And, in observation, an excellent opportunity for the greater community to contribute to the ACO, no doubt, should those interested in such also have the ability to prospect out and close similar benevolent deals.

Anyone interested in contributing to the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, in either the area of developing an advocacy agenda or improving fundraising strategies, can call (613) 238-5014.  The next open Board meeting is scheduled for June 6th at the Centretown Community Health Centre.