How a Digital Strategy is Fighting Blindness on a Global Scale

By: Candice Naylen; Vice President of Advancement at Operation Eyesight People who live in developing countries are 10 times more likely to live with blindness or vision impairment than are people who live in developed countries. The worst part? Many of those cases of blindness could have been prevented. At […]

By: Candice Naylen; Vice President of Advancement at Operation Eyesight

People who live in developing countries are 10 times more likely to live with blindness or vision impairment than are people who live in developed countries. The worst part? Many of those cases of blindness could have been prevented.

At Operation Eyesight, we’re working to change that staggering number. Our mission is simple: to prevent blindness and restore sight. With today being World Sight Day, this is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of a problem that’s largely preventable or treatable. This day is a reminder of the wonder of sight — for those who have it — and the opportunity we have to enable all the world to see.

80{429fc2506e610357e12b2a5665db82631200a2e00b3a1d8839077d76f18e2e8b} of blindness can be prevented or cured.

Based in Canada, our work is focused on countries around the world where the rates of avoidable blindness are among the highest. Worldwide, it’s estimated that at least 2.2 billion people live with a visual impairment of some sort, and for at least 1 billion of these, it could have been prevented or has yet to be treated — this is known as avoidable blindness. However, 90{429fc2506e610357e12b2a5665db82631200a2e00b3a1d8839077d76f18e2e8b} of those suffering from vision impairment live in developing countries where access to healthcare can be limited. 

Common causes of avoidable blindness are ones you might guess: poverty, malnutrition, living in remote areas and inaccessibility to clean water. For many people in the countries in which we work — India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, and Liberia — the struggle for survival becomes a priority over everything else. When merely living is in question, eyesight is just one of many challenges that take a secondary priority. However, the downstream consequences for millions of people who can’t see are devastating. Not only are they damaging for families and communities, but for countries who need a healthy, thriving populace to succeed.

The good news? Around 80{429fc2506e610357e12b2a5665db82631200a2e00b3a1d8839077d76f18e2e8b} of blindness can be prevented or easily treated. That’s what drives our work and serves as a reminder of #HopeInSight. Unlike so many global problems, this is one that is often entirely preventable.

So, how are we doing this life-changing work that has resulted in declaring 1,150 villages free of avoidable blindness? To put it simply, our supporters. And a digital — and CRM — transformation with technology is our roadmap to reach them. 

  1. Enable a highly efficient and collaborative global team. We’re headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but we have teams on the ground in India, Ghana, Zambia and Kenya. Our localized team approach has proven beneficial to enabling sustainable programs, especially during our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been able to continue our work on the ground without having to travel internationally, but it has been challenging to find a viable communication solution that suits the wide-ranging needs of our global team. While we were initially using it as a basic CRM, Salesforce has given us the platform to unify our communications in one place — from infrastructure to lead generation, customer service, measurement, and the donor journey.
  2. Engage constituents through targeted communications. We’ll be the first to say it: our vision is ambitious, which makes effective donor engagement that much more critical. For an organization that began with a singular goal of helping alleviate the burden of cataract backlogs, and evolved into one that’s focused on eliminating avoidable blindness, we rely heavily on our constituents’ support to fund our work. But if we’re not engaging our donors effectively — or not accurately measuring that engagement — our potential is minimized. That’s where Salesforce comes in. The platform serves as our comprehensive view for communications outreach, campaign effectiveness, donation tracking, and, perhaps most importantly, analytics and reporting on the impact of donated dollars. We recognized the impact of Salesforce as a critical tool to our success as we moved through our digital transformation strategy.

    An older woman looking thankful and happy
    Operation Eyesight’s country program offices are located in India, Nepal, Kenya, Zambia, and Ghana.

  4. Enhance the constituent’s experience with your organization. We have recently started using the term Engagement Management instead of Moves Management. This is in large part due to the breadth and depth of work we do in acquiring and retaining donors. As we start to utilize various features across different clouds and begin integrating them into our processes, we get exponentially closer to multi-dimensional engagement within our organization.
  5. Make data-informed decisions. As mentioned above, tracking the data is one thing — having the tools necessary to turn that data into actionable insights is another thing entirely. Because what good do a bunch of numbers do without the context and clarity necessary to make them useful? Sound familiar? Us, too. Before making the switch to Salesforce, we had data littered across disparate systems without a way to unify it to get a clearer picture of how our campaigns were performing, what the tangible result was, the overall impact of our work, or where we need to allocate more resources. Our focus now is to work closely with the existing structures within the organization to lead digital transformation practices, increase efficiencies, and use valuable data to help drive our decisions.

This four-step approach creates a strong ripple effect that allows us to make a greater impact. We’re able to bring clean water and hygiene programs to communities, helping them to stop the spread of blinding bacterial diseases like trachoma. We’re able to focus on gender equality, ensuring that women and girls are prioritized for eye health as much as men and boys. It brings #HopeinSight for people who have lost opportunities for education or employment as a result of vision impairment, helping them break the cycle of poverty.

Today on World Sight Day, we will be celebrating with our colleagues and partners from around the world and we would love for you to join us. We will tell incredible stories and share the passion, resilience, and accomplishments of the amazing work Operation Eyesight and our partners are doing everyday. Follow us to see videos from our team in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa throughout the day. 

Learn more about how to make the digital transformation journey for your nonprofit organization.

About the Author

Candice Naylen, Vice President of Advancement for Operation Eyesight

Candice Naylen is the Vice President of Advancement for Operation Eyesight, overseeing the global fundraising, marketing and communications strategy.

Candice has extensive fund development experience in the non-profit sector, particularly in the post-secondary environment. She has fundraised for various capital campaigns in Calgary and has been responsible for multimillion-dollar fundraising goals.

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