Platinum Level Sponsors $20,000
Gold Level Sponsors $15,000
Silver Level Sponsors $10,000
Bank of America
Bronze Level Sponsors $5,000
Welcome to the North Carolina Business Leadership Network (NCBLN). We believe you will both enjoy and benefit from your association with our organization, as we work to expand a business-to-business network that recognizes the opportunities created when comprehensively engaging people with disabilities; Talent, Market Share and Supplier Diversity. Our job is to help you, and we need your help in order to help others.
Let us introduce you to the NCBLN and explain what we are doing, how we do it, and most importantly, where we are headed in the future.
This is truly a business organization, made up of businesses networking and helping each other navigate this world of working with, and marketing to, people with disabilities. Our Mission Statement says it all:
“As a business to business network, the North Carolina Business Leadership Network (NCBLN) will support the business community with information and resources to: source, hire and promote people with disabilities; to do business with organizations owned and operated by people with disabilities; and to market their products and services in an accessible manner to people with disabilities, across the State of North Carolina.”
We are pleased you have decided to join us in this effort, or are at least considering it. We are embracing these goals because they are sound business objectives, and will not only help our citizens across the State, but also our businesses to prosper and grow because of the great talent and business opportunities that are available.
In 2010, a group of Charlotte-based businesses “resurrected” work that had been started in 2002 to launch a NCBLN.
This organizing group we call the “Working Group” has accomplished a lot in a short period of time. This group is literally a “Who’s Who” of regional companies and corporations, all of which take their social responsibilities, and search for talent very seriously. The group includes: Bank of America, Belk’s, Carolinas Health Care, City of Charlotte, CRVA, Deloitte, Duke Energy, Fifth Third Bank, Goodwill, Harris Teeter, IKEA, ITT Technical Institute, Lowe’s Corporation, Man Power, Marriott Center City, Marriott Executive Park, Mecklenburg County, Pitney Bowes, PriceWaterhouse, Sun Trust Bank, The Reserves Network, The Westin, Walgreen’s, Wells Fargo and many others.
By 2011, a stronger, more complete “Restatement of Articles of Incorporation” was filled and accepted by the State of North Carolina, with the principle office located in Charlotte. A solid set of By-Laws were drafted, officers and directors elected, an Executive Director hired, an EIN number obtained, and an application for federal IRS tax exemption filed. And we have solidified our affiliation with the USBLN.
As stipulated in the By-Laws, the number of Directors making up the Board will be at least seven (7), but no more than thirteen (13) people. The Initial Board of Directors will serve for a period of up to two (2) years or until their successors have been duly elected and a permanent Board of Directors is formed and elected by the members of the organization. Directors may serve successive terms, and members of the Initial Board of Directors may be elected to terms on the permanent Board of Directors. The term for permanent Board members will be for three (3) years, with eligibility to serve another consecutive term of three (3) years, if so elected.
The officers of the Board are also stipulated in the By-Laws and consist of a Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and other officers as the Board of Directors may from time to time elect. The current Officers and Board members are:
Beth Butler (Chair), Lowes Corporation
Florence Lively (Director), Eaton Corporation
Tim Newman (Director & Treasurer), Euclid Innovations
Christopher Peek (Vice Chair), Mecklenburg County Government
Ron Reeve (Director Emeritus), Mecklenburg Disability Action Collaborative
Robin Sargent (Director), Human Ability and Accessibility Center
Bruce Shearer (Director Emeritus), Advocate
Robbie Taylor (Director), Lenovo
Eric Wesolek (Director), Bank of America
Sid Smith (Executive Director), NCBLN
The Board is governed by and operates under a strong set of adopted “Policies and Procedures,” including “Conflict of Interest and Whistleblower” policies, as well as the “Articles of Incorporation” and the “By-Laws.”
The “Working Group” used to meet monthly, but with the major “organizational” work behind them, and a Board of Directors in place to carry that work forward, these meetings have changed dramatically in format and timing. Going into 2012, these meetings are now being called “Membership Working Group” meetings and will be held quarterly. The objective for each meeting is to create a true networking and sharing opportunity for “best practices,” and what individual companies are doing; what has worked; what has not worked; and to exchange ideas, help and encouragement. Our typical meeting agenda includes an opportunity for one of our member companies to present a “best practice” during the meeting, plus we bring in guest speakers on applicable subjects.
We also plan an event each year for “Disability Employment Awareness Month,” which is usually designated as October. To stay away from all of the many activities around this month nationally, we have been focusing on the first week of November for our NCBLN event. Events were held in both 2010 and 2011. The objective of this statewide event is to attract businesses to come, listen and learn about the benefits of hiring and promoting people with disabilities; expanding their business by designing and marketing their products in an accessible manner to people with disabilities; and how to do business with companies owned and operated by people with disabilities. Attendees see and hear success stories from people that have done it.
The next major organizational focus of the organization is going to be financial viability and stability. The NCBLN’s work has been supported by the generous contributions of several of the founding companies. But moving forward, we are going to need a reliable financial stream in order to grow.
That means “Membership” and “Dues,” and other financial support opportunities above and beyond dues, meaning “Sponsorships.” The challenge is to make such a commitment attractive and affordable for all sizes of companies across the State, all of which have a wide range of differing needs.
Membership has already been defined in the adopted By-Laws. There are two (2) categories of membership:
Employers: Employers shall mean all employers (except non-profit service providers whose primary mission is to provide services to individuals with disabilities) and shall be further defined from time to time by resolution by the Board.
Honorary Members: The Board of Directors may designate individuals or organizations that do not qualify under the foregoing categories as honorary members, using such criteria as the Board may develop from time to time.
Only the “Employer” members will be expected to pay dues, which have already been set by the Board:
“Multiply the number of your company’s full-time and part-time, exempt and non-exempt, employees stationed and/or working in the State of North Carolina by two-dollars ($2) with a minimum dues of two-hundred dollars ($200) and a maximum dues of three-thousand dollars ($3,000), due and payable in full on an annual basis, as of January 1st of each year, or prorated on a monthly basis for a partial first-year of membership, with the exception of the last calendar quarter of the year when, if paid in full during that quarter, membership shall begin immediately and extend through the next full calendar year…Dues paid are non-refundable for any reason.”
What does this mean for non-profit community organizations? Keeping in mind that this is a true business-to-business organization, created for businesses to help businesses, we also recognize and appreciate the valuable services and resources that all types of agencies provide. We look forward to working with the agencies in a positive, constructive manner. But under the definition of “Membership,” if an entity’s “…primary mission is to provide services to individuals with disabilities…” they are not currently eligible for dues-paying membership. We continue to study the many opportunities to “tie-in” the agencies with the NCBLN’s objectives.
Sponsorships, above and beyond dues, will be another important financial need for the NCBLN. Bracketed into categories larger in financial amounts than dues, sponsorships will carry varying benefits. For those companies eligible for dues-paying membership, each sponsorship category will cover the annual dues for the company. But many organizations that are not eligible for membership may also want to support the mission and work of the NCBLN, so we have made that opportunity available. Sponsorships will be established under the following guidelines that have already been adopted:
“Sponsorships are open to members and non-members of the NCBLN as defined by the By-Laws. Sponsorship does not constitute membership, except as provided for under “benefits,” nor does it constitute endorsement by the NCBLN. Sponsorships are good for one (1) year following payment of the sponsorship fee, whenever that occurs during the calendar year. Also, in each category, membership dues (as applicable) already paid for the year will be credited on a pro-rated basis towards the sponsorship fee…Sponsorships paid are non-refundable for any reason.”
This is the next area for significant discussion and development: what are we going to provide in “information and services” to our members in each of the three areas of focus identified in our Mission Statement:
• To source, hire and promote people with disabilities;
• To do business with organizations owned and operated by people with disabilities;
• And to market their products and services in an accessible manner to people with disabilities
This is going to be a critically important development for the NCBLN and why we need you “at the table” helping us. The challenge is the wide variety, diversity and depth of “needs” and assistance by businesses of all different sizes; large corporations with operations all across the State; to small regional or even single location companies that want to avail themselves of these opportunities. And each of the three areas of focus in which we will need to deliver products and services are complicated in their own right. This is going to take some real work, but the good news is, it’s already started. The plan is to “roll-out” these deliverables as “tool kits” in 2012. But the work on them will never end. The plan is to always be updating and expanding on this work.
Simultaneously, we need to plan how we’re going to deliver these “products and services” to our members. It is pretty clear that with a statewide organization, the bulk of the information will need to be delivered by email and on a website, which we are developing. An early version is already available at www.ncbln.org and is being used as a “posting board” to make available information we already have. A far more robust version is being developed right now. Other items such as newsletters, webinars and blogs have been mentioned, but the website will come first.
But face-to-face meetings are also important, and this takes on greater complexity when you consider being statewide. It has been suggested that we might initially have one major statewide event per year, but then have other meetings in each geographic area where we may have a cluster of members. These meetings could be topically driven, and also serve as a networking or support group to share and solve mutual problems and challenges. As you can see, these discussions are also already underway.
The Charlotte region is certainly becoming organized and operational quickly. But we still have a long way to go.
At the same time, we are already getting inquiries and feelers about getting groups going in other areas, which is the long-term objective. But for the next several months, we feel strongly that we need to “finish” building the Charlotte-area programs and services, which will give us a good template that can be replicated across the State.
What will that look like? We do not know yet. We might consider geographic regions or zones for local chapters along the lines of the mountains, the foothills, the piedmont and the coast, or other similar designations. Major metropolitan hubs make the most business sense, with outlying areas participating with that central location. By completing the Charlotte region first, we will also be in a better position to have the larger statewide organizations in Charlotte instruct and encourage their operational units in other areas to participate, and even organize in their area. But we do want to quickly develop a plan as to “how” we want to organize and operate across the state, and a number of options are being studied, and one location is already being actively organized. More on that later.
Hopefully this has helped you understand the North Carolina Business Leadership Network (NCBLN) a little better. As you can see, we are not shy about big plans, nor are we not cognizant of the work that is required to get there. We need you, and all of your peers and neighbors to help. If you are focused on attracting the best talent available in the workforce to your company; in expanding the marketing of your products and services into this 54 million-person nationwide demographic; and expanding your diversity vendor programs, then come join us. We need each other.