A Name Change to Represent a Change of Nonprofit Personality

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February 16, 2016; TapIntoDenville

A few years ago, NPQ wrote about the changing names of a number of organizations dealing with persons with disabilities. For instance, the former Spastics Society became SCOPE, and the Royal National Institute for Deaf people became Action on Hearing Loss. Often, these changes came as a consequence of changed attitudes and understanding on the part of the public as well as new assumptions regarding the style and purview of programs.

Joining them is the 72-year-old NJ Foundation for the Blind, originally a residential camp for blind women, which has taken on the new name of Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey. Kris Marino, the organization’s CEO, says the new name better reflects the nonprofit as it is today.

“We are an alliance of people, organizations, and communities that have worked together for over 72 years to provide programs and services designed to help individuals with profound vision loss get back up on their feet, confident in their homes and communities, and to the best of their abilities, lead the independent lives they had before,” Marino said.

Suzanne Sytsma, who has glaucoma, says the Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey has empowered her. She now teaches some of the same tech-related skills she learned at the nonprofit. “Losing your sight is devastating,” Sytsma asserts. “This is where everyone understands, a safe place to learn the skills to live in a sighted world.”

Richard Hawkes, who headed SCOPE until this past May and saw some of its name recognition wane for a bit, still believes that on balance the name change was a good move. “It was an important moment in our transition from being a traditional charity that helped vulnerable beneficiaries to being an organization that’s about working alongside disabled people to make change happen.”—Ruth McCambridge