VisionServe Alliance LINKS Newsletter (Text Only) SPRING 2020 – Issue 1   Links – Learning, Innovation, Networking, Knowledge, Sharing

Editor’s Note: We realize many changes have occurred in the last month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jane was originally scheduled to present one of our keynote sessions at the cancelled CEO Summit this April, so this cover article was to help us prepare for her session. But we felt there is still useful information here, so we decided to go ahead and share it with you. Watch for additional sharing of content from our featured CEO Summit presenters in the coming months.   Keynote Speaker Spotlight with Jane Wei-Skillern Q: Why is collaboration an important business strategy for nonprofits today? A: Collaboration has always been important for organizations of all types.  Virtually every significant advance that has ever been achieved by humankind has required trust-based collaboration among individuals and organizations. Today, collaborations have become even more important as the social and environmental challenges that humanity faces continue to increase in scale and complexity. No matter how well established or how well resourced, all organizations are dwarfed by the scale of the mission they seek to serve. At the same time, the proliferation of social impact organizations and shifts in traditional funding sources for nonprofits has dramatically increased competition in the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits need to do more with less and must more clearly demonstrate their ability to deliver on mission impact. From what I have learned in my research, collaborative approaches are the most effective way to build community, increase productivity/problem solving capacity, and develop leveraged and scalable programs and services to serve community needs. I have become so convinced of the power of collaborative networks that I have made it my own life’s work to focus on promoting and supporting this approach in the social sector. Q: In your opinion what are the biggest impediments for creating successful collaborations in the nonprofit sector? A: By far, the biggest challenges lie in the culture and the mindset of the philanthropic sector. While there are countless well intended, dedicated, and talented leaders working tirelessly to make a difference in the world, it is a fallacy to think that any single organization, institution, or even sector, can successfully go it alone. Yet, to collaborate effectively requires a different mindset and set of norms that in turn influence behavior. Currently, there is a tendency in the field to focus on organization success as the primary means for achieving mission impact above all else. Consequently, building collaborations and networks are not always integral to organizational strategy. Furthermore, top down controls and narrowly defined performance metrics are often linear, when the nature of the work and the mission is complex and requires flexible and collaborative solutions. There are countless passionate leaders who are not given the opportunity and support for learning and collaborating. This requires deep trust and investment in relationships not only among grantees, but also between funders and their grantees. Finally, the highly competitive environment that nonprofits operate in pushes leaders to focus more on self-promotion rather than the humility required to listen, learn, and build community with others. As long as the norms that dominate in the social sector continue to emphasize organization level success, top down controls, and competition and self-promotion above mission impact, trust, and humility, respectively, transformational collaborative approaches will likely still be the exception rather than the norm in the social sector.  My hope is that we can change the world by raising awareness of the tremendous opportunity for impact through networks and supporting all leaders, whether funders, board members, or nonprofit leaders directly in the field to work through networks. Q: How can our attendees best prepare to absorb your session on Network Leadership at the CEO Summit? A: I would say that attendees should come with an open mind and be ready to engage openly and authentically with colleagues. Consider not only what you might ask for help and collaboration on, but also what you might offer to support others to advance a shared mission. My session will introduce concrete tools for building networks successfully and include interactive exercises to practice applying these tools to current challenges.   Because collaborative approaches require a shift in culture and a different mindset, I would strongly recommend that attendees bring a colleague to join them. It is helpful to learn and practice this approach with a trusted colleague and then bring these ideas back to the organization as a team.

Chairman’s Message John Mitchell, President/CEO of Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Things are changing daily as we were going to press with this issue, so forgive me if this is out of date by the time you read it. I can only imagine the kinds of challenges you and your agency are currently facing. I know my own are quite daunting, but I want you to know we haven’t forgotten about you. Although our 5th Annual CEO Summit has been cancelled for this year, the themes that were on the agenda are more important than ever. Our Summit’s overall theme was to be Collaboration with our keynote speaker, Jane Wei-Skillern author and co-author of dozens of Harvard Business School and Haas UC Berkeley case studies and journal articles. She is the lead author of the casebook Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector. It’s still important for us to share examples of successful collaboration models that VSA members have put into place. As we all know, collaboration is a must in today’s world, and we will need each other’s support to get through these challenging times.  Diversity in the workplace was the other key issue that we were going to deal with at the Summit. It’s still important for the organizations that we lead to champion this with both our Boards and employees. At CABVI (the agency I lead), we have implemented several initiatives in this area in recent years to have an intentional on-going focus as we strive to increase our diversity. We’ve also implemented required Diversity Training for all our employees as we work to improve CABVI’s culture and strengthen our active inclusion of everyone. Stay safe everyone. Hope you enjoy this issue of LINKS and find the information that Lee and Wendy have put together for us helpful. Thank you for being a member of VisionServe Alliance .

CEO Corner Lee Nasehi, President & CEO, VisionServe Alliance, St. Louis, MO. Dear Friends, As of this writing, we are facing significant unknowns that could impact us all. Leadership demands that we remain calm, make the best plans possible under the circumstances and be prepared to pivot as we learn more. The theme of the conference we cancelled, Collaboration and Soar, remains relevant, in fact it is VSA’s primary strategy for the next few years. We believe everything we do throughout our field can be more successful, more impactful, more sustainable when we work together focused on the mission rather than individual goals and objectives and organizational roles. While every step towards real collaboration is valuable, it is more than combining events, sharing staff or occasional joint planning. It can take root among healthy teams described by VSA’s core value of exceptional leadership. It will be built upon a foundation of equity, diversity and inclusion. And it will thrive in cultures of trust, transparency and investment in a common mission. What can we accomplish together once we all embrace the principles and practices of “networking leadership”? I invite you to join your fellow leaders in VisionServe Alliance and find out . . .

2020 Board of Directors Chair: John Mitchell, Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired          Vice Chair: Bernadette Kappen, New York Institute for Special Education    Secretary: Mike McGowan, NOAH Treasurer: Lauren Branch, NewView Oklahoma         Immediate Past Chair: Miki Jordan, Wayfinder Family Services           Joe Bogart, Blinded Veterans Association Lee Nasehi, VisionServe Alliance David Morgan, Future In Sight Libby Murphy, Louisiana Association for the Blind Courtney Plotner, Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired, Charleston Erika Petach, Blind and Vision Rehab Services of Pittsburgh Shari Roeseler, Society for the Blind-Sacramento Dennis Steiner, VisionCorps Renee Vidrine, Lighthouse Louisiana Ken Warkentin, Valley Center for the Blind Welcome to new Board Member, Courtney Plotner, CEO, Assoc. f/t Blind and Visually Impaired, South Carolina.

What’s New at VSA Voices of Vision Leaders Podcast Launched! Tune in to Lee Nasehi as she speaks with leaders in the field of blindness and visual impairment on a range of topics affecting the field such as networking and collaboration, public policy, accessibility technology, leadership development, and much more. She is joined by executives from around the country to hear what they are doing to improve the lives of people living with blindness and low vision. To Listen to the VVL Podcasts,Visit: 
Or Search “Voices of Vision Leaders” available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Anchor, and many more.   VSA 2020 Academic Scholarship Application Open VisionServe Alliance offers an Academic Scholarship each year to assist members and staff in the field to continue their education to better serve their local population. This scholarship is for members and staff seeking a degree or certification that serves people who are blind and visually impaired. Scholarships will be awarded to an applicant who meets all requirements and is deemed most deserving. Applications for the 2020 year are now begin accepted and will be reviewed month by month until all funds have been awarded so get your application in now. For details on how to apply, visit our website at    Compensation & Benefits Survey Now Open  In partnership with NIB and NAEPB, the 2020 Compensation & Benefits Survey is ready for you to complete. By participating, you will contribute to the comprehensive survey results that will help you to make key hiring and employment decisions during these difficult economic times and have access to information that can be used to save money on salary and benefits costs. Also, by participating in this survey, you are helping to establish important trend data that over time will show changes in salaries, staffing levels, benefits costs, and more. Your online response will be submitted directly to our survey and all data is held in strictest confidence and is reviewed only by the survey consultant. Results will be reported in the aggregate so that no survey information can be traced to any specific organization. The deadline to submit your data has been extended to Friday, May 8th. Submit your data by the deadline and you will receive a copy of the final report FREE. If you choose not to answer the survey, but wish for an individualized report later, members of VisionServe Alliance, NIB and NAEPB can purchase a reduced rate copy for $275 as a member benefit. Since organizations from across the country will be participating in this survey, the data published in your copy of the final report will be customized to labor statistics for your geographic location. VSA suggests forwarding the survey link to an HR manager to fill out due to the length of the survey and details required. To learn more and get your copy of the survey, see your inbox for the latest Compensation Benefits Survey email (latest sent 3/7/20). Here is the link to the survey:
  EOS Consulting Offered to Members VisionServe Alliance is embracing EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System). Not only has VSA implemented EOS internally, Lee has continued to offer member organizations EOS implementation services. Lee offers these services exclusively to VSA members at a discounted rate.  Lee’s professional experience as the chief executive of a comprehensive Lighthouse for 20 years that implemented EOS distinguishes her expertise from other EOS Implementors and makes it incredibly valuable for VSA members. NewView Oklahoma recently completed the EOS implementation journey and continues to use this valuable operating system as its organizational backbone. ABVI South Carolina is nearing the end of their implementation journey and has made tremendous progress towards their organizational goals using the system. VIA, formerly Olmsted Center for Sight in Buffalo, is the newest member of the EOS family having begun implementation in February. ACB will begin its journey in April. And three additional members are considering implementation this year.  Get a grip on your business and gain real traction! As Lee can only work with a limited number of organizations each year, there are very spots left. If you are interested in learning more, reach out to Lee to schedule a no obligation 90-Minute Exploratory Meeting. We realize it may be even more challenging to consider taking on something like this in the midst of the COVID-19 Crisis. However, having an operating system can bring order in chaos and provide some stabilization to an ever-changing situation. If you are interested, VSA may be able to offer special pricing, payment plans or defer session invoices. PHOTO: Lee Nasehi implementing EOS with the executive team at VIA in Buffalo, NY

CEO Summit Postponed until Spring 2021 Dear CEO Summit Attendees, Given the increasing concerns about COVID-19, along with the recent news from the World Health Organization declaring the outbreak officially a pandemic, to help protect the health and safety of our members, speakers, partners, VisionServe Alliance’s Board of Directors has agreed to cancel the 2020 CEO Summit. The good news is we were able to rebook the CEO Summit in Albuquerque, NM at Hotel Chaco in Spring 2021. We have tentatively booked April 27 – May 1, 2021 with Hotel Chaco, so please mark your calendar. This was a difficult decision for our organization, but ultimately the VSA Board of Directors is taking this extraordinary step to help protect the safety and well-being of our attendees, exhibitors and all participants from the coronavirus. We know many of you were looking forward to the great networking opportunities provided by our CEO Summit, so we are planning some online opportunities for you to connect and share information with our community of members in the coming weeks. We are currently discussing with our speakers and presenters whether they can share their presentations through a webinar in the coming weeks. We have also started a digital forum through for you to share resources and questions with each other. The link was shared with you via email on 3/17. Thank you to all our members and partners for their support, open discussions and encouragement during this time. We know you are all busy dealing with this crisis at your own organizations too. Thomas Panek of Guiding Eyes has shared on important document detailing resources for guide dog users affected by COVID-19. If any of you are interested in crisis plans, let us know as several other member CEO’s have already shared theirs with us. As everyone has been reminding us, great things happen when the community comes together. We understand there will be a lot of questions and concerns following this announcement. We are taking the following immediate actions: • There are three choices as to how you can direct us to treat your registration fee: 1.) Donate your CEO Summit registration fees. If you like, we will gladly provide a letter stating the amount of your donation for IRS purposes. 2.) Let us transfer your registration towards our upcoming Executive Leadership Conference in Tampa, FL Nov. 1 – 4. When you do this, you save money for your organization too by avoiding paying the Eventbrite processing fees a second time or 3.) request a refund. Please email to let us know your preference by April 3rd • For Sponsors, we would like to transfer your sponsorship to our fall Executive Leadership Conference in Tampa. If you have any concerns with this, please contact Wendy Hymes at For questions and concerns, please contact and visit  We are aiming to answer your queries within 48 hours but due to a high volume of emails, please expect a slight delay in reply. We thank you in advance for your patience.

Thank you for your continued support as we all navigate this unprecedented situation and we look forward to seeing you at a future conference. Best Regards, Lee Nasehi

Remote Learning Opportunities will continue – Watch for upcoming webinars to share some of our CEO Summit presenters in the coming month. Also details of our rescheduled CEO Summit will be posted on our conference page:

New Collaborations Establishment of a New Public Policy Committee Attendees at the VisionServe Alliance 2019 Fall Executive Leadership Conference gave VSA a strong mandate for the organization to take a leadership role in public policy on the national level.  Thus, the creation of the VSA Public Policy Committee. This is an extraordinary opportunity to bring together the many organizations that serve people who are visually impaired to create a national public policy platform. VisionServe is uniquely positioned to help that platform coalesce, given the many different voices represented in our membership. Moving forward, YOUR help is essential as we establish a collective vision for public policies that will improve education, training, employment, and life opportunities for people of all ages who are visually impaired. Stay tuned for developments as they occur!   PHOTO: Pictured here are Libby Murphy, chair of the newly formed Public Policy Committee with Lee Nashi, President/CEO of VisionServe Alliance.   Future Conferences & Collaborations We are exploring the feasibility and benefits of combining future (2021 and beyond) fall Executive Leadership Conferences with the conferences of other national organization members. We are also collecting examples of successful collaboration from our members, so email us. Here’s a great example of the kind of model collaborations we’d love to hear about from our very own “Queen of Collaboration” Sharon Giovinazzo:   World Services for the Blind (WSB) and Computers for the Blind (CFTB) have joined forces to support each other’s missions. WSB is utilizing trainees from their Assistive Technology Instructor (ATI) program to deliver computer training to the clients of CFTB. This is truly a synergistic collaboration between two organizations. As a VisionServe Alliance member agency, WSB’s CEO Sharon Giovinazzo states: “Collaboration is in the very DNA of the VSA agencies and working together makes us all stronger”. The mission of Computers for the Blind is to open the world of information technology to persons who are blind or visually impaired by providing computer equipment, software and training; and they do this for a cost to the client of only $130 for a desktop, and $185 for a laptop, with all the adaptive technology software included. For more information, contact Christy Householter at     PHOTO: Pictured here is a WSB computer technician.   MEMBER SPOTLIGHT Libby Murphy, LAB (Louisiana Association for the Blind) 1. What do you do in your down time? Read or spend time wandering through woods and pastures. 2. What are you reading, watching and/or listening to? I am fascinated by our planet as an ever-evolving geological entity, so currently I’m reading “Cascadia’s Fault”, by Jerry Thompson. 3. What is your best guilty pleasure? Piling up on the couch with my dogs on a Saturday or Sunday for hours to watch ridiculous “no brain cells required” shows while playing Words with Friends. 4. Tell us about one item on your bucket list. Ha. A bucket list is not for me … just live a no-regrets life. 5. The best advice I ever got… Anything my grandmother ever said.  Also, “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later” (Richard Branson). 6. My best childhood memory is… So many to choose from. But I think it is the hours of total freedom wandering through the woods and pastures of Bienville Parish. 7. What do you want to be when you grow up? Now and when I grow up, I want to be the person my dogs think I am.   FUTURE CONFERENCES – SAVE THE DATES!

Postponed ‘till 2021:
Tentative dates are April 27 – May 1, 2021. 5th Annual CEO Summit | Albuquerque, NM | April 26 – 29, 2020 Venue: Hotel Chaco
[photo of Albuquerque’s Sandia Mountains at sunset; photo credit: Kip Malone]   32nd Annual Executive Leadership Conference | Tampa, FL Nov. 1 – 4, 2020 | Venue: Westin Tampa Waterside Hotel [photo overlooking the bay; photo credit: Visit Tampa Bay] For conference details, visit our conference page online:   Follow us online:  Facebook: Twitter Linkedln:

Podcasts:   Mailing Address: 8760 Manchester Rd, St. Louis, MO 63144 Phone: (314) 961-8235 • Website:   PRINTING AND MAILING DONATED BY LEWIS DIRECT


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