By Roxann Mayros, President & CEO, VisionServe Alliance

Roxann Mayros headshot

In 2018, VisionServe Alliance saw 8 of its members retire, and there are already 5 who have announced their intent to retire in 2019. Over the years, I combined the following information from various sources and have given it to specific members.  With the number of members who recently retired or have announced their intent, I thought this would be good information for all members to read and keep handy … just in case you are the next to announce your retirement. 

Please Note: This document was created from several sources over several years. I thank those authors from whom I pulled information, and apologize for not being able to give credit. 

  1. How do we define success?  It’s hard to overstate the importance of defining success.  To define success, you don’t need an exhaustive up-to-the-minute strategic plan, but you do need a collective expression of the board’s aspirations for the organization.  At a minimum, as the surrogate for the full board, the search committee should be able to coalesce around preliminary answers to the big questions affecting the organization’s future. 
  2. What worries us the most?  A clear understanding of shared concerns at the board level can prove enormously useful in discussions with potential CEOs. The concerns usually reflect issues of culture and competence, and the pendulum is always swinging between the two. Clarity around the board’s biggest worries will help CEO candidates understand the board’s priorities. 
  3. How much change can we stand?  In nonprofits with more than a few minutes of operating history, there will be some vocal board members and staff who want everything to stay the same and some who want to change everything.  Every new CEO faces the challenge of honoring the organization’s past while securing its future.  Within this balance of heritage and hope lie enormous challenge, risk, and reward for the board and the next leader.  Which aspects of the organization (and its culture) do we want to preserve, and which aspects do we know should be amended?  How big, really,is our appetite for change?
  4. How can our new CEO add the most value?  An organization with any momentum at all can project future results from current operations, perform a basic gap analysis to understand what is needed to get from here to there, and then recruit to fill the predicted gap.  By asking, “How can our new CEO add the most value,” however, the committee substitutes what’s likely with what’s possible.  Given the assets and issues you know about and the results to be expected under normally competent leadership, ask what are the possibilities under abnormally competent leadership?  The real added value may have little to do with vision and everything to do with execution.  The trick is to determine the best combination consistent with your mission and values.
  5. How can we ensure the CEO’s success?  In most cases,the search committee’s members will become the new CEO’s most logical champions.  More than most other board members, they will be the new CEO’s natural allies, sounding boards, and mentors.  At the outset of the process, every committee member should examine ways in which she or he could be most supportive of the future CEO.  CEOs new to a community or to blindness and vision loss will profit from help negotiating the twists and turns of the new environment.  Managers new to the CEO role itself will profit from a link to peers outside the organization.  This is why I always recommend new CEOs become active in VisionServe Alliance where they will network with, and learn from, their peers … other CEOs. 

Meeting documents:

12/12/2018 Agenda  (46 KB)

Minutes from 10/28/18 Meeting (48 KB)


NOV 2018 BS (42 KB)

NOV 2018 PL (50 KB)

2019 Budget (76 KB)




VisionServe’s 30th Annual Executive Leadership Conference took place October 28 – 31, 2018, in the heart of downtown Portland, Oregon. 124 conference attendees took part in three days of executive training, networking and discussions with peers in the blindness and visual impairment field.

Conference activities included the welcome reception, great speakers, a Dine Around, and especially having flex time for networking and collaborative brainstorming sessions. Willa Adams, attending from Nu-Visions Center in Lewistown, PA remarked, “I liked the amount of time to meet with other attendees and get out of the building and look around. The lunches were relaxed and conducive to talking to new people.”

Lori Jacobwith and Roxann Mayros
Lori L. Jacobwith shares secrets to her fundraising success

Anna Liotta and Mark Ackermann
Generational expert, Anna Liotta

The conference’s two keynote speakers presented informative sessions on fundraising and generational codes. Lori L. Jacobwith, a fundraiser rated in the top 25 nationally, inspired all attendees with successful techniques from her own experience she used to develop better ways to reach out to donors. Anna Liotta of The Generational Institute, enlightened attendees with fresh ways to understand and work effectively with employees of all ages. “I especially enjoyed and learned from Anna Liotta’s generational presentation as this affects everyone from clients to the board members,” said Denny Moyer, President of Ensight Skills Center in CO.  “Following the conference, I had a conference call which included many of the same people who were in Portland and by the comments and responses to the call I could actually identify (for the most part) the baby boomers and gen Xers.  It was eye opening.”

Other well-received topics included crisis management, board management, Older Individuals who are Blind programs, impact investing, grants management and AFB’s new strategic plans.

dine around group
Getting ready for the Dine Around

The location of Portland did not disappoint, providing ample delicious Dine Around locations within walking distance enjoyed by over 100 attendees. “It’s always such a fun sight to watch folks meeting their Dine Around groups in the hotel lobby, introducing themselves, and becoming fast friends over the course of a meal together,” remarked Roxann Mayros, the outgoing President & CEO of VisionServe Alliance. “The next day we see lots of new friendships were formed just from spending this time together.  We’ve thought about dropping this session because it’s a lot of work to put together, but it’s too popular. If we did, we’d never hear the end of it!”

outgoing board members
Roxann with outgoing board members Steve Pouliot and Mark Ackermann

Speaking of Roxann, after attending and planning upwards of 40 conferences, this was her last conference as the executive in charge of VisionServe Alliance. “Beginning in 1995, I have attended conferences as a member and as an employee of VisionServe Alliance.  In both roles, I have learned from national experts, experienced local customs and cultures in the cities we visited, and most importantly, found life-long friends.  Over the years, we’ve watched each other’s children grow, seen marriages come and go, provided support through sicknesses, and now, the blessing of grandchildren.  This conference had many young strong leaders in attendance.  So even though I was able to lift and affirm my long-time professional and personal friendships, I was most especially, encouraged and pleased to see this next generation of leaders actively participating and learning from one another.”


Loretta Harper-Brown with Kimberly Galban-Countryman
1st-time attendee Loretta Harper-Brown with Kimberly Galban-Countryman

Cultivating and supporting this next generation of leaders is one of the main goals of the conference. First-time attending CEO’s are matched up with a “mentor,” another member CEO whose agency might share similar issues/goals. The pair touches base before, during and after the conference. Many members note how helpful that these relationships are to their success at their respective agencies.



Enjoying past successes and struggles was a sentiment shared by many other attendees, including outgoing board members Mark Ackermann and Steve Pouliot. “In my forty-year not-for-profit career, I have belonged to many professional associations, but I have never been part of an association like VisionServe,” noted Ackermann, outgoing Board Chair.  “The professionalism, comradery, mentorship, richness of learning, are all second to none.”

Other soon-to-be-retired attendees in Portland included Pam Brandin(Vista Center in Palo Alto, CA),

Pam and Roxann
Pam Brandin with Roxann

Lou Tutt (AER in Alexandria, VA), Bob Scheffel (Metrolina Association for the Blind in Charlotte, NC) and Robert Kelly (Conklin Center for the Blind in Daytona Beach, FL). “I felt so nostalgic having it be my last one,” remarked Pam Brandin, who also served as Board Chair of VisionServe Alliance from 2005 – 2008. “It did make me feel proud to have been a part of our growth, looking at all the new leaders and knowing that the membership has expanded greatly in the last decade. It certainly was a lot of fun along with the hard work.”

Laura Park-Leach
Laura Park-Leach



The weather—which in previous years’ conferences has often presented challenges—included enough sun to give attendees the opportunity to explore the beautiful surroundings nearby including the Chinese Gardens, and the Oregon coastline and the Columbia River Gorge. The final Awards Night took place aboard the Portland Spirit boat, a picturesque setting where one could admire the downtown nightscapes as well as celebrate the award winners: Robert Kelly (Excellence in Leadership Award), Laura Park-Leach (Cathy Holden Excellence in Managerial Leadership Award), and Cathy Holden (Lifetime Achievement Award).


We thank everyone who joined us in Portland to network, learn and wish Roxann well in her retirement. Work hard, and we’ll look forward to seeing you at our next conference, our CEO Summit in Nashville, TN, May 5 – 8, 2019.

April 29-May 2, 2019
Hilton Mark Center Hotel, Alexandria, VA

The NIB/NAEPB National Symposium will bring together associated agency employees of the year from across the nation and will include training and Capitol Hill visits for the Advocates for Leadership and Employment.


October 15-18, 2019
Hyatt Regenc, Crystal City, Arlington, VA

This event focuses on business development, comprehensive training on the AbilityOne® Program, and other topics relevant to growing sales and employment. It will include the Expo and NIB Marketplace, breakout sessions, customer/partner speakers, and an awards ceremony recognizing outstanding customers and partners.

St. Louis, Missouri—November 13, 2018 – VisionServe Alliance’s Board of Directors has announced the appointment of Lee Nasehi as its new President and CEO.  VisionServe Alliance, headquartered in St. Louis, MO, is a national coalition of nonprofit organizations providing the full diversity of rehabilitative services to people of all ages who are blind or visually impaired.

Lee Nasehi headshotLee has been with Lighthouse Central Florida, Inc. in Orlando, FL since 1998; serving as its chief executive since 2000 and founding its subsidiary social enterprise organization, Lighthouse Works! Inc. in 2010. During her tenure at Lighthouse she created and expanded innovative service delivery models and employment opportunities for people with vision loss and expanded effective business operations. Her appointment as VisionServe Alliance President/CEO will be effective March 1, 2019.

“I am honored to have been selected as the second President and CEO of VisionServe Alliance by the Board of Directors, many of whom have been my mentors and colleagues,” noted Lee.  “I have had the privilege of working with and learning from many VisionServe Alliance members over the last two decades as the chief executive of a member organization, a community-based rehabilitation and employment program.  I look forward to listening, considering the possibilities and then rolling up my sleeves in alliance with this exceptional field to pursue the kind of change that will afford the very best opportunities for living, learning and earning by people with blindness and low vision.”

The search committee received more than 200 resumes from highly qualified vision related and association executives, speaking with more than 100 of the applicants, holding three rounds of interviews, and narrowing the applicant pool to five finalists.

“The members of the search committee were fortunate to have such a large pool of highly qualified candidates,” said Chairman Mark Ackermann.  “While it made our process much more difficult, we were confident that we had some of the best and brightest talent in the vision and association spaces vying for this position.  The quality of the individuals who applied was extraordinary.  In the end, the Search Committee was certain that Lee Nasehi was absolutely the best person to replace VisionServe Alliance’s long-time CEO, Roxann Mayros.  Her knowledge of the field, and her multiple successes as President/CEO of Lighthouse Central Florida and Lighthouse Works convinced the Committee that she was the ideal individual to bring the Alliance to new heights.”

Originally founded in 1987 as the National Council of Private Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCPABVI) and renamed in 2008, VisionServe Alliance is a consortium of 115 nonprofits located throughout the United States and Canada that provide unique and specialized services to people who are blind or with severe vision loss.  Members include organizations focusing on national advocacy and/or service issues, employment and manufacturing, adult vision rehabilitation, K-12 residential and on-line schools, early intervention and pre-school, dog guides, low vision clinics, and braille production.  Members engage regional and national leaders in building a better world through services to people with vision loss by promoting leadership development, ethical management, quality services, and professional growth.


Today’s #MemberSpotlightMonday honors Robert Kelly, President/CEO of FL Lions Conklin Center for the Blind. Robert is retiring 10/1/18 and is being honored for his 30 years of commitment to Florida Agencies Serving the Blind, the State Rehab Council on Blindness, and serving as Chair of Florida ASB for several years. Thanks Robert – we wish you well! [photo of Robert and many of our current and future Florida members at a recent visit to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind]

Current and future Florida members meeting at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind 2018

person writing on a chart

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Roxann Mayros headshot

By Roxann Mayros, President of VisionServe Alliance

For nonprofit agencies serving people with vision loss, there is a need to know the size of the population, characteristics, and needs of people with vision loss at the population level in the nation, state, and community. That knowledge would allow agencies to define “gaps” in the community, so that agencies can compete effectively to respond to consumer needs and compete for scarce resources to provide services.

The model for many rehabilitation agencies is one in which provision of services does not lead to income.  Rather the agency raises funds (in a variety of ways) and provides services to the extent these funds allow.  Invariably, the problem begging for a solution is that an influx of clients does not lead to an influx of income.

The solution lies in gathering better data. With better data, there is the possibility that our field could advocate to increase federal funding for older individuals who are blind, Congress could approve Medicare reimbursement for vision rehabilitation professionals, or large foundations could fund a national service delivery system.

So, how do we find out how many people need vision rehabilitation services?

In the past, there have been multiple paper-based surveys that have asked questions in a variety of inconsistent ways about vision, eye diseases, and function; therefore, estimates differ greatly.  For example, one survey asked, “Can you read the newspaper?”, without defining whether they could read with glasses or without, whether the person is literate, or speaks a different language than the paper is written in.  Because every survey asks questions about vision loss in different ways, there are a variety of numbers to use.  So, when people ask me how many “blind” people there are, I say, “How many do you want there to be, and I’ll find a study to support it.”

Now though, with advanced data base management, researchers can gather data from a variety of sources such as electronic health records and the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Iris Registry, to present data about vision and eye health that is state and county level specific.  The CDC’s Vision Health Initiative (VHI) and NORC at the University of Chicago have taken the lead in developing a new tool called the National Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System (VEHSS)The VEHSS leverages new and existing data sources to help health professionals, researchers, policy makers, and patients understand the scope of vision loss, eye disorders, and eye care services in the United States. VEHSS is intended to grow and improve over time based on input and needs of the vision health community.

I encourage you to visit the Vision & Eye Health data portal at  to create your own filtered dataset, customize visualizations, download data, and more.  Here are just some of the things you can do:

  • Identify and collect existing sources of information on vision and eye health.
  • Create case definitions to analyze data consistently.
  • Analyze data to estimate:
  • The prevalence of eye disorders and disabilities.
  • The use of eye-health services.
  • Health disparities in visual health treatment and outcomes.
  • Investigate methods to leverage multiple existing data sources to create new estimates of the prevalence of vision loss and eye disease.
  • Disseminate the information developed by the system to key stakeholders and respond to feedback to continually improve the quality and usefulness of the system.

Here are the documents for the meeting:


Board Meeting 9.19.18 AGENDA (53 KB)

Alignment Discussion:

VSA PB Alignment Memo (402 KB)


Minutes 7-11-18 (62 KB)

8/30/18 Minutes (55 KB)


AUG 2018 BS (47 KB)

Aug 2018 PL (57 KB)

Excellence in Leadership Award:

FASB Nomination Robert Kelly (709 KB)

Cathy Holden Excellence in Managerial Leadership Award:

Rod Haneline (302 KB)

Laura Park Leach (172 KB)

Brenda Wendling (49 KB)

Lifetime Achievement:

Cathy Holden (20 KB)

CEO Report

Executive Session

We’re starting a new tradition called #MemberSpotlightMonday to showcase some of the great things our members do. Today we share a useful document put together by our member in the far north, the Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which includes advice on interacting with people who are blind and visually impaired and why it’s GREAT to employ them!
Image may contain: shoes and text
#MembershipSpotlightMonday is a chance for us to say “Thank you” to our local members, St Louis Society for The Blind and Visually Impaired and Lighthouse for the Blind – St. Louis who co-sponsored our Happy Hour reception for our corporate partners, members and their staff attending the American Council of the Blind Convention this week in St. Louis. We ❤️your support!

slsbvi logoLHB Industries logo

George Bush welcomes service dog "Sully" to the family
George Bush welcomes service dog “Sully” to the family

In today’s #MembershipSpotlightMonday we salute Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and America’s VetDogs who trained the new service dog for former President George HW Bush. Well done!

Envision's BVI Workforce Innovation CenterToday’s #MembershipSpotlightMonday we bring news of an innovative project from Envision, their BVI Workforce Innovation Center, housed at Envision’s headquarters in Wichita, Kansas. The center will create the workforce of tomorrow and address the lack of accommodation in job settings that has created a gap between the demand for professional jobs and the availability of those positions to people with vision loss. That goal will be met through youth programs, job training programs, collaboration with employers around the country to create accessible workplaces, consumer contact services and testing/evaluation of assistive technology. Read more at

Center for Sight and Hearing logoToday’s #MembershipSpotlightMonday features Center for Sight & Hearing‘s beautiful video feature on one of their clients:

Outlook Nebraska logoToday’s #MembershipSpotlightMonday salutes Outlook Nebraska for offering Camp Abilities, a summer sports camp for blind and visually impaired kids. Here’s a news feature about the great work they’re doing for these kids:…/summer-sports-camp-for-blind-and…

Nu-Visions Center Flag Day Picnic
Nu-Visions Center Flag Day Picnic July 2018

In today’s #MembershipSpotlightMonday we’d like to showcase NuVisions Center in Lewistown, PA. Like many of our members, they provide a variety of services designed to meet various needs of the visually impaired in their community including:

*Transportation and escorts for essential appointments.
*Opportunities to connect and network with others.
*Confidential help with bill paying, reading and correspondence.
*Transitional help and counseling for lifestyle changes and promoting healthy sight.
*Eye glasses, adaptive aids, magnifiers and exams.
*Contact for large print books and Talking Book Program.
*Information and referral service for other agencies.
*Pre‐school to adult vision screenings.
*School‐based vision safety awareness.
*Education programs for business and industry.

The attached photo is from their recent Flag Day picnic where their customers enjoyed a fun picnic, celebrated the flag and made flag-inspired crafts. A good time was had by all!

Ken Fernald with guide dog Winnie
Ken Fernald with guide dog Winnie

Today’s #MembershipSpotlightMonday we say 3 cheers to Ken Fernald, President/CEO of the Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment – AVRE shown below prepping to throw the first pitch at the Binghamton Rumble Ponies game last Wednesday! Guiding Eyes for the Blind dog Winnie is ready.

puppy raiser Nina Scribner surrounded by her "smiling" guide dogs
Nina Scribner, puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes

In recognition of National Dog Day August 26, 2018, today’s #MembershipSpotlightMonday salutes our members who raise service dogs for people who are blind and visually impaired, such as Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Read about what it’s like to raise these lovely animals from puppy hood to adult –

Roxann Mayros headshotBy Roxann Mayros, President of VisionServe Alliance

Ashlie Benson and Kyle Hagge, Trinity Fellows at Marquette University in Milwaukee recently surveyed 78 nonprofits about lobbying activities.  Here’s what they found.  Only 60% did any kind of lobbying.  The survey authors said, “We were anticipating nonprofits facing a lot of barriers to lobbying.  … We hope nonprofits see that they can be political, it’s just that they cannot be partisan.”  Many nonprofit leaders and boards believe the tax-exempt status will be jeopardized if they engage in advocacy, lobbying, or voter registration.

To help nonprofits improve their lobbying/advocacy efforts, BoardSource, in partnership with five other organizations/foundations, created the web-site:  It provides resources and tools to create positive change through advocacy.  Stand for Your Mission challenges nonprofit decision-makers to stand up for their organizations by actively representing their mission and values, i.e., the people they serve, by creating public will for positive social change.  Stand for Your Mission provides a guidebook, training videos, templates, how-to’s, and more.  It is easy-to-use and resources are free.

Frank Martinelli of Shepherd Express listed some do’s and don’ts based on the resources from Stand for Your Mission:

These activities are allowed:

  • Educating the public and decision-makers about your work in a nonpartisan way.
  • Sharing information about how public dollars positively impact your work and your community.
  • Communicating how broader issues impact your mission and the people that you serve.

These activities are allowed as long as nonprofits carry them out in compliance within certain reasonable guidelines:

  • Voter education, registration and candidate forums.
  • Naming legislators who support (or oppose) a specific piece of legislation.
  • Limited lobbying on behalf of the organization.
  • Lobbying and campaigning as private citizens.

These activities are not allowed:

  • Organizational support for (or opposition to) a candidate or set of candidates.
  • Spending federal grant funds on lobbying.

With 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States, your mission and your message could easily get lost or not heard, effectively impacting current and potential partnerships, stronger policies, and deeper funding. This is why it is important that even the smallest organization create a formal approach to lobbying and advocacy at their local, state and federal levels.  How do you do this with limited staff and limited budgets? Think broadly – think about your board members, constituents, the people you serve, all staff (not just the Executive Director), and volunteers. Use the free resources at Stand for Your Mission, and remember … “It takes a Village.”

Does your nonprofit “lobby?” What activities do you do? Comment below.



Dear Friends,
In honor of Roxann’s retirement at the end of this year, we are offering members and friends of VisionServe Alliance the opportunity to place an ad in this fall’s 30th Executive Leadership Conference program booklet as a tribute to Roxann’s 13 years of leading VisionServe Alliance.

We know you will think of your favorite “Roxann” moment to remember and share. We look forward to celebrating these moments with Roxann and you in Portland this October.

Options are:
Full Page 7 ¾ x 9 ¾”- $500
Half page ad horizontal 7 ¾ x 4 ¾” – $250
Quarter page ad 3 ¾ x 4 ¾” – $100
1 or 2 Sentence message – $50

Ad Specifications:
Full, half and quarter-page ads may be color, two-color, or black and white. Please submit ads in electronic format (preferably Hi-res PDF files) to Wendy Hymes at 1 or 2 sentence messages may be emailed directly to Wendy. Please also send a text version of the ad for our readers who are blind and visually impaired.

Ad Deadline:
We must receive your tribute ad order form and payment by:
5:00 pm Friday September 28

Click HERE to download the tribute ad ORDER FORM
Click HERE to view sizes of full, half and quarter-page ads

Diane Nelson headshot





Diane Nelson
Power of R Campaign Chair