100+ Years Later, This Non-Profit Is Still Finding Ways to Change the Game
“Each individual has unique needs and goals. We aim to provide them with individualized service,” says Jen DuBois, Director of Finance & Administration, of CABVI’s mission. “Our mission is about offering blind and visually impaired people the opportunity to seek independence.”
More than a century ago, the Cincinnati Association for the Welfare of the Blind, an organization that would grow to become the Cincinnati Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired (CABVI), was founded with the simple mission of helping provide vocational opportunities for blind, homeless men in Cincinnati. Since its founding in 1911, CABVI has grown substantially, taking on a much greater role in social service between the 1960s and 1980s. This expansion continued up to today, and with 11 counties served in two states, CABVI has established itself as a staple of goodwill and service throughout the region.
Today, CABVI assists 5,000 people annually, and employs more than 70 who are blind or visually impaired in various roles, including the Industries Program, which has sales of $12 million in manufactured goods. CABVI has also recently launched an online social enterprise with Cincysight.org to sell office supplies. This enterprise not only creates employment opportunities for those who may not want to work in the Industries Program, but also diversifies funding sources for CABVI.
Jen started working with CABVI more than a decade ago, developing the passion for nonprofit work early in her career, and was fortunate enough to rejoin the agency after taking time to earn her MBA. She joined John Mitchell, CEO and CABVI veteran since 1999, promoting and fulfilling the mission of CABVI. The two have played integral parts in helping to shape the organization.
“My father instilled in me a strong belief that I should work to make a difference in the world,” says John, “he used to wear a pin that said ‘give a damn.’”
Several years back, John challenged Barnes Dennig to reinvigorate the value that the firm delivered, “The goal of an audit is twofold: to make you stronger, and keep you on the right path. Barnes Dennig holds us to that,” he said.
The result was more insight delivered and communicated by the engagement team. Barnes Dennig helped CABVI navigate through changes in financial positions, and made sure that CABVI was up to date on current legislation impacting nonprofits on a federal and state level.
“Barnes Dennig exceeds our expectations by providing us with business management analytics, benchmarking, and providing additional value in the form of seminars and commentary on the changing laws and regulations that we operate under,” says Jen.
“CABVI is such a fun client to work with due to their multiple revenue streams,” Says Patrick Frambes, Senior Audit Manager at Barnes Dennig, “they’re a manufacturer, radio station, office supply retailer and social service agency all rolled-up into one!”
When asked what sets Barnes Dennig apart, John replied, “I appreciate the people and the oversight. Barnes Dennig’s dedicated nonprofit team is admirable, the entire firm gets involved in the community.”
Barnes Dennig has sent volunteers to CABVI for Outreach Day, when the entire firm annually participates in community projects throughout the region.
“Their management team and board is one of the strongest I’ve seen,” says Chip Dennig, Director at Barnes Dennig, “They are always pushing themselves to do things the right way, no shortcuts and total transparency.”
Looking forward, John and Jen want to continue to innovate and grow the way CABVI can provide people who are blind or visually impaired with opportunities to achieve independence. Whether through technology and e-commerce via
Cincysight.org, or the continued growth of the Industries program and services offered, John is confident CABVI will continue to serve the Greater Cincinnati region for a long time to come: “Our community here is so generous. Cincinnati has the 6th largest United Way funding nationally, but is only the 28th largest metro area in the country.”
Wherever CABVI’s mission takes them, Barnes Dennig will be there to continue to challenge the way that they operate and provide them with insights and ideas for growth.