Tanque Verde Ranch signThe setting for our 2018 CEO Summit was unique with the aroma of horses, no televisions, and astounding views at every turn. The Tanque Verde Ranch also offered attendees an opportunity to let go of the day-to-day stress of organizational leadership; and to network, relax, and learn.

The goals for VisionServe’s CEO Summit included providing focused high-level learning that keeps you thinking, sending each attending leader back to their organizations refreshed and ready to lead, and providing extensive opportunities for networking and information sharing.  The ranch location was successful in achieving these goals even more so than a city hotel location.

“VisionServe is the “go-to” conference for high-level learning for me,” remarked Elly du Pre, Executive Director of Florida Agencies Serving the Blind.  “In addition to the presentations, that learning comes from the networking and sharing.  This conference had the best networking opportunities of any other conference I have attended.  As far as “refreshed” goes, I had a great time…”


US Trust presenters
Board Chair, Mark Ackermann and President, Roxann Mayros, with Glen MacDonald, William Jarvis, and Joseph Danowsky from US Trust

The conference offered a pre-conference symposium: “The 2018 Tax Bill and Financial Management Challenges Facing Nonprofit Institutions,” hosted by three experts from corporate partner, US Trust, William Jarvis, Managing Director of US Trust and forger Executive Director of the Commonfund Institute, Joseph Danowsky, Managing Director, and Glen MacDonald, Senior Vice President & Institutional Client Advisor.  The presentation offered advice to nonprofit leaders on how the new tax law passed in late 2017 would be anticipated to affect nonprofit finances such as tax implications and future donations to nonprofits in the coming year.

Doug Stevenson, featured speaker
Doug Stevenson, master storyteller and featured speaker

The CEO Summit offered attendees two keynote speakers. Day 1 focused on storytelling for CEO’s with master storyteller, Doug Stevenson, CSP, Founder and President of Story Theater International. Doug’s session didn’t just show us how to tell stories, but instead taught us the techniques to make our own stories more effective and persuasive for fundraising, legislative visits, and more.



Small group exercises at the 3rd Annual CEO Summit 2018
Small group exercises at the 3rd Annual CEO Summit 2018

“The storytelling exercises were great ways to deepen the relationships between CEOs as well as valuable skills for so many aspects of CEO communication,” remarked Dan Needham.



Jane Wei-Skillern, speaker
Jane Wei-Skillern presents, “The New Network Leader”

Day 2 our featured speaker was Jane Wei-Skillern, Senior Fellow at the Center for Social Sector Leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, who presented the essence on how to foster successful collaborations in the nonprofit sector.  Jane left us all thinking as she presented a new approach to collaborations that is timely and important to our field. Her Network Principles include: 1) Mission, not organization. 2) Trust, not control. 3) Humility, not brand. 4) Network, not hub.

attendees at CEO Summit 2018
Board members Mark Ackermann and Mike Bina

Miki Jordan, President of Wayfinder Family Services in Los Angeles, California, remarked that the summit was the “perfect setting and blend of networking and speakers.”

Other attendees expressed similar reactions.  “Thank you so much for the amazingly wonderful conference! I think it’s the best I can remember in 20+ years of attending them,” said Pam Brandin, President of the Vista Center in Palo Alto, California.

Horse riders Lou Tutt and Pete Benavidez
Horse riders Lou Tutt and Pete Benavidez

The opportunity to connect with peers in the field was ranked the most important aspect of attending the CEO Summit, and attendees had ample opportunities to network with other national leaders and discuss issues pertinent to the blindness and vision impairment nonprofit sector.  Along with sharing all our meals together, attendees signed up for activities every afternoon where new friendships were made.


Board member Thomas Panek with 1st-time attendee Joe Bogart
Board member Thomas Panek with 1st-time attendee Joe Bogart


Another unique VisionServe Alliance tradition: assigning a meeting mentor to all first-time attendees.  Mentors connected with their mentees before the conference and also made sure that new attendees felt included during all the conference activities.


Spiel and Steal session
Spiel and Steal

The final morning of our summit ended with a breakfast ride up to the Old Homestead, where we enjoyed the ranch’s famous blueberry pancakes and held our ever-popular Spiel and Steal session, an open forum where attendees shared news from their organizations, a replicable program idea, or asked a question of their leader peers.


Even if you couldn’t attend the summit, members can access all conference materials including speaker PowerPoints, handouts, and links to the videos of the speakers’ presentations by logging into our members only portal.

We hope you’ll make plans to attend our next conference, the fall Executive Leadership Conference in Portland, Oregon, October 28 – 31, 2018.


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