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CNIB Foundation (Canadian National Institute for the Blind)

Explore how CNIB Foundation (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) is using Salesforce technology to live your mission.
Learn More About CNIB Foundation (Canadian National Institute for the Blind)

Using Salesforce technology to live your mission

The CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) Foundation is one of Canada’s oldest charities and on the heel of its 100th anniversary (2018), it is revolutionizing what it is to be blind. Established over 100 years ago, the nonprofit recently underwent a major change in the way it organized its work, and set out a bold strategy of innovative programs and powerful advocacy to create bright futures for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted. With its accessible technology, Salesforce has become a key partner in supporting the CNIB Foundation to deliver on this game-changing strategy, and to achieve its mission to enable Canadians impacted by blindness to live the lives they choose.

Identifying the right partner in Salesforce

The CNIB Foundation, along with its two sister organizations, Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada and CNIB Deafblind Community Services support the needs of Canadians living with sight loss- no matter where they might be on their journey. In total, over 800 staff and thousands of volunteers work tirelessly providing programs, services and operational functions from 55 offices across Canada. Given the size and diversity of the organization, senior leadership recognized that, if the organization was going to be successful in telling a cohesive story about client impact, it needed to bring together the different arms onto a single technology platform, capable of program management, meaningful engagement and impact evaluation.

“Donors wanted to know, stakeholders wanted to know, how were we changing people’s lives through this program. We needed better data that looked for stories and impact. We had to move away from our existing CRM and towards a more forward-looking system like Salesforce.” recalls Angela Bonfanti, Vice-President, CNIB Foundation.

In addition, and with [20]% of its own workforce experiencing some form of vision loss, CNIB Foundation was determined to find a provider that was willing to partner and deliver a technology solution that was accessible to all staff. With its dedicated Accessibility team, working with clients to augment the technology to suit all needs, Salesforce could be that partner. CNIB also chose to enlist the help of a Premium Partner, Arkus, to carefully architect, implement, and test their new Salesforce platform to ensure it truly worked for everyone.

Nonprofit Cloud increases operating efficiency and program impact

Prior to Salesforce, CNIB Foundation did not have appropriate tools with which to manage its programs and was using technology more suited to the rehabilitation program for its other activities. In a very short space of time following the restructure, the organization has been able to create the program management tools it needs, in the Nonprofit Success Pack, migrating existing data from other systems. For example, with the application, DogTracker, CNIB Guide Dogs staff can effectively manage the process of raising, training and assigning guide dogs, a vital support service they offer to clients with sight loss.

At the very heart of the CNIB Foundation’s new platform now lies accurate client information. Data is added in through a single entry point within Salesforce, enabling staff to make more effective operating decisions and program choices. Once an individual’s needs have been identified, they are redirected into relevant programs. Using Reports & Dashboards as well as custom forms, the Foundation is able to track outputs such as number of staff or volunteer hours spent with a client, and outcomes that demonstrate how the nonprofit has been able to move people along their individual journey.

Dashboards open up conversations around a common set of metrics and enable senior management to explore why a program is more successful in one region than others. The dynamic capability of Salesforce also allows staff to quickly run their own analysis and create reports in formats that are appropriate for all users.


“Staff can now run a report themselves in Salesforce in 10 minutes and it’s awesome”,says Frank Lombardo, Director, Information Technology, as compared to the days that a report request might have taken to complete on their previous platform.

Mobile technology enhances client experience

Building upon this strong foundation, the ability to use accessible, mobile technology in the field has greatly enhanced client experience and CNIB Foundation’s impact. In particular, as part of their strategy to be a local focal point for services, the Foundation is reorganizing and expanding its ‘community hubs’ across the country to be open spaces for anyone coming in looking for support. The Salesforce mobile application has played a pivotal role in enabling staff and volunteers to collect information in real-time and act upon it. “We needed tools at our fingertips to capture people’s information and to make sure we don’t miss a beat when it comes to enrolling people in programs”,says Wayne Henshall, Manager, Career Support Program and Impact Evaluation.

Assistive technology enables CNIB Foundation to live its mission

As a staff member experiencing sight loss, Henshall points to the double role that Salesforce plays in enabling CNIB Foundation to live its mission as well as deliver on it. When engaging with people walking into the Hub, he uses the assistive features of the technology to capture client data, triggering automatic emails to connect them to services, such as “Phone it Forward”, a program that enables clients to gain access to smartphone technology (the waitlists are also tracked in Salesforce). “I’m using my iPhone to show them how they can use it in day to day activities,” Henshall says. The ability to provide a live demonstration has added power when the client can experience what is possible.

Furthermore, Henshall and his coworkers are able to demonstrate the effectiveness of Salesforce assistive technology to other stakeholders. For example, partners offering employment opportunities to clients with vision loss are able to see how CNIB Foundation staff use those features, and therefore how anyone who has access to that technology will be able to contribute effectively in the workplace.

More broadly, Bonfanti says, by introducing technology that staff with and without sight loss can use, every staff member is on a equal footing. “We are living the mission in what we are doing. I didn’t think it would be the case with something as simple as CRM”.

CNIB Foundation is determined to become a connected nonprofit

Salesforce has enabled the CNIB Foundation to be dynamic in its work and understand the return on investment of donor dollars. Staff recognize the value in the technology helping them to run their programs efficiently and effectively. “The dream”, says Lombardo, “is to know everything about our constituents, as clients, donors, volunteers and advocates.” This will enable CNIB to better target its program and services to meet constituent needs. As a first step, CNIB Foundation staff are undertaking a data enrichment exercise where they are augmenting client records with additional information, and cleaning up any inaccuracies or gaps.

Also in 2019, the CNIB Foundation plans to continue its partnership with Arkus and migrate its volunteer management into Nonprofit Cloud, and its scholarship program into Community Cloud, tracking individuals from application to acceptance. There are also opportunities to leverage existing features to enhance operating efficiency, for example, using Form Assembly to create a web-based form that can direct inquiries to the right program team. Further into their journey, the team plans to explore how to connect clients directly from the Vision Loss Rehabilitation Program into the CNIB Foundation programs, and to add Marketing Cloud to its suite of tools. The hope is that 80% of all business units part of the broader CNIB family will be on one unified Salesforce platform.

The path forward is clear and the team are excited. “We have the support of a great organization behind us,” says Lombardo.

The CNIB Foundation’s vision for its technology is as bold as its program strategy. But as they have found, only big ideas will ensure success in enabling people with sight loss to live their dreams.