ACDS, Inc.

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Michael M. Smith headshot
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Location: Plainview, NY
Founded: 1966
Industry: Nonprofit

2-Time Winner

ACDS, Inc.

Michael M. Smith
Executive Director


ACDS, Inc. was founded by parents of children with Down syndrome who wanted an education for their kids. The parents would meet in church basements to provide the education themselves. During a time when these children were often overlooked, ACDS’s founders worked to normalize their experience as they grew up. Today, the company serves more than 1,000 individuals with Down syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities each year. Achieving growth in the face of government retrenchment, funding cuts and recession hasn’t been easy, but the company has had operating surpluses for a number of years.

Quick Tip: Failing is not failure unless you let it drag the whole organization down.”

“So how have we grown? The first and most important factor is the vision that we must grow. The worst thing a nonprofit business can do is become stagnant,” says executive director Michael M. Smith. ACDS has added programs and services, expanded to serve new populations, added sites and grown from 155 employees to 350, all while being asked to do more with less. “When others cut back, we grew. When others froze, we expanded. Growth is in our DNA,” Smith says. In addition to building up its programs, ACDS has also honed the business side of the equation. “Nonprofits rarely go out of business because their program offerings are weak; … they collapse because they are inefficient businesses,” adds Smith. That’s why ACDS strengthened its billing, built relationships with vendors and trained financial personnel.