MN-CCD eyes reorganization, staff changes

The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD) is weighing changes designed to make the group more sustainable and effective. Following a Nov. 17 membership meeting in St. Paul, MN-CCD member organizations are discussing a proposed reorganization. Groups will weigh in Dec. 14 when they meet again. If the changes are approved, they would be implemented during 2012 and take effect in early 2013.

MN-CCD is a broad-based coalition of more than 100 organizations for providers and advocates for people with disabilities. The group is dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities. Its main activity is to address public policy issues that affect people with disabilities by collaborating with others, advocating, educating, influencing change and creating awareness for understanding.

If the proposed restructuring is adopted in December, the 17-year-old organization will be reorganized under a plan developed over the past year. MN-CCD would become a stand-along nonprofit organization, with an executive director and a half-time staff member of administrative support purposes.

Regular MN-CCD meetings are currently convened by co-chairs who are elected to serve alternating, two-year terms. The changes would mean that Steve Larson, public policy director of The Arc Minnesota and Chris Bell, vice president of the American Council of the Blind—Minnesota Chapter, would be MNCCD’s last two co-chairs. Larson was re-elected to a one-year term Nov. 17.

Joel Ulland of UCare explained the proposed leadership changes. Ideas have been debated since 2010 when a restructuring task force was created. “We’ve looked at a lot of different ways to do this, including different organizational and financial models.”

For years MN-CCD has been led by two volunteer cochairs. That worked in the early years but as the two co-chairs have taken on more responsibilities, Ulland and others said that model has become unsustainable.

“Ten years ago I was a co-chair for MN-CCD and the organization has changed dramatically since then,” Ulland said.

One challenge to volunteer leadership is the amount of work MN-CCD has taken on. Over the past decade MN-CCD members have seen an increasing volume in issues that must be dealt with, especially at the state level. Issues have also become much more complex. Another impetus for change is that of solving the unsustainable nature of the current leadership model of co-chairpersons. Not only do co-chairs and MN-CCD board members take on a lot as volunteers, it has become difficult to find new volunteers to take on leadership roles, said Ulland

“We’re kind of at a crossroads for MN-CCD. Not making structural changes could mean lost opportunities for the organization,” he added.

Having an executive director would give MN-CCD a consistent spokesperson and point person at the state capitol and in other leadership situations, according to the task force report. The director would be the lead contact for legislators and other policymakers.

The restructuring would allow MN-CCD to meet several goals including broadly enhancing the political power of Minnesota’s disability community, strengthening the group’s effectiveness and providing opportunities to build a stronger identity for MNCCD. Other benefits of the reorganization cited include enabling MN-CCD to become financially independent.

For years organizations have served as fiscal hosts for MN-CCD. The restructured organization would become a 501 c 4 nonprofit if the reorganization wins approval. That specific status is important because it would allow MN-CCD to continue to do legislative lobbying on behalf of people with disabilities Groups designated at 501 c 3 nonprofits cannot do any lobbying as MN-CCD currently does. One possibility for MN-CCD would be to set up as a 501 c 4 and then have an affiliated 501 c 3 that could provide assistance with fundraising.

Bell said, one advantage of becoming a stand-alone nonprofit is that MN-CCD could apply for its own grant support. The task force looking at reorganization has also been working on financial models for the reorganized group. Those will be set up if the reorganization is approved.