Founded in 1978, the mission of Virginia Voice is “connecting individuals with disabilities to information using technology and the human voice.” Our mission statement reflects the variety of technologies we now use to deliver readings of current print and on-line publications, as well as self-produced interview programs.These technologies include not only closed-circuit radio and TV audio channels, but also a “responsive design” website that gives user-friendly access to live-streaming broadcasts and recorded programs on demand from any device that can access the internet.Our distinctive service uses volunteer readers to broadcast current news and information so that individuals challenged by blindness, vision impairments or other disabilities can stay connected to community life. We serve as eyes for those who cannot see and hands for those who cannot turn pages.Listeners of all ages rely on the volunteer readers of Virginia Voice to “see” the world through the nuanced sound of human voices. Both our programming and our delivery options are focused on connecting listeners to the people, places and events of Central Virginia and beyond. The voices of our volunteer readers bring listeners – day and night – not only news and information, but also opportunities for involvement in their community.Pursuing our defining purpose of connecting print-challenged individuals with the broader community involves
In 2015-16 Virginia Voice
Virginia Voice was founded in 1978 as a result of a meeting of about 50 individuals from around the state who gathered to address the need for audio access to print materials. We provide services similar to other audio information services across the country, and we are guided by standards of best practices established by the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS).We are Central Virginia’s only source of audio access to current news and information as well as cultural connections for print-challenged individuals. What distinguishes our service from screen-reading software and smartphone apps (such as Apple’s Siri) is the human voice. A synthesized voice cannot convey compassion, warmth, excitement or any human emotion. Our volunteer readers not only connect our listeners to information, they connect them to a caring community.In the last five years, we have tripled the number of radios distributed annually, increased website traffic (unique hits) by 500% and expanded community partnerships by 38%. 97% satisfaction was reported in our 2014 annual listener survey.But the most powerful documentation of the effectiveness of our service is the gratitude expressed by listeners, whose lives have been immeasurably enriched by the combination of human voice connection and access to information. As one listener succinctly put it, "It means the world to me."We currently serve approximately 4,000 print-challenged individuals in Central Virginia and Hampton Roads via “traditional” broadcast media – closed-circuit radios (loaned to clients by Virginia Voice), TV audio channels in hospitals and nursing homes, and a toll-free telephone line. This number also includes a conservative estimate pf internet listeners.Increasingly, those who cannot see print of turn pages are “tuning in” to live streaming broadcasts and on-demand programs on our website – available from anywhere by anyone who has a connection to the internet. In 2014 our growing website traffic totaled a daily average of 78 unique hits to the site for information, volunteer scheduling, requests for loaned radios, secure online donations, and for our live stream broadcasts and recorded programs on demand.About 85% of our registered listeners are blind or vision impaired, and 15% are unable to read due to other disabilities. Clients range in age from ten to 105, and 62% are age 65 and older.
Virginia Voice serves approximately 4,000 print-disabled individuals in Virginia via traditional media – fix-tuned radio, closed-circuit television and toll-free telephone. This number includes a conservative estimate of listeners who access programming on our website. Anyone who can connect to the internet is able to receive the audio reading and information service of Virginia Voice.
Jim Wark joined Virginia Voice as CEO in March 2016. He previously worked with Partnership for Families, a nonprofit agency serving at-risk children and families on Richmond’s Northside, where he served as Director of Marketing and Communications. Before joining the Partnership, Jim taught 3rd grade for Richmond Public Schools. Prior, he worked in local media for over 15 years, a career that included management positions with the Richmond Times Dispatch and a stint as publisher of Style Weekly. He also serves on the board of directors of WRIR 97.3 FM, Richmond’s independent public radio station, and holds leadership volunteer positions with Venture Richmond and the Richmond Folk Festival.
We currently maintain about 70 working relationships with agencies and organizations that serve the needs of print-challenged individuals, including DBVI, McGuire VA Hospital, Sight Preservation Clinic, Foundation Fighting Blindness, Virginia Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, Sportable, the MS Society, and Virginia TRIAD. These relationships are vital in reaching people who need our service. In one of our most effective strategies, we invite representatives from “client-compatible” organizations to be featured guests on our interview series, Face-to-Face.
The rehabilitation specialists with DBVI and McGuire VA Hospital – as well as area healthcare and senior service providers – recommend and help register individuals for our free audio reading service.
Two invaluable partners are WCVE-FM, which donates the use of its subcarrier for closed-circuit broadcasts, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which contributes subscriptions for our daily newspaper readings, as well as a monthly ad.
Other partners provide access to our programming, including The Washington Ear, Serotek; the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS), and AudioNow, a dial-up service that is accessible by landline or mobile phone –no internet connection needed.
On daily broadcasts, volunteers read from current print and online publications, including information from organizations that provide services for individuals with disabilities. These readings are broadcast 24 hours a day via closed-circuit radio and on our website as live-streaming or on-demand programs.
We also produce Community Connections, interview-style programs designed to connect our listeners to services, organizations, people, places and events in our RVA community.
Another popular program presents readings from The Onion, a satirical website that parodies traditional news with stories, editorials and man-in-the-street interviews.
In several programs, our volunteers read from publications specifically for school-age listeners: KidStuff, Just for Teens, and Current Affairs. In partnership with Henrico County libraries and schools, we provide books that appear on recommended reading lists for middle and high school students.
we anticipate (1) a 3% increase in the number of print-disabled individuals who
receive our service via “traditional” media; (2) a 10% increase in the number
of partnerships with organizations that refer clients and communicate to their
clients the availability of our services; (2) a 10% increase in the number of “program
hits” (occurrences of visitors accessing and listening to archived programs on our website); and
(4) continued client satisfaction as reported in our annual survey.
The benefits of Virginia Voice go well beyond improving the quality of life for print-disabled individuals. Despite their many challenges, they are valuable members of society with unique gifts and abilities. Our services empower them to function as contributing citizens in the life of the community.
We believe electronic communications is the primary vehicle for future expansion of services and growth in our client base, particularly the younger print-disabled population. Live-streaming broadcasts and archived programming on our website are now accessible “on demand” by users of computers and mobile devices of all kinds.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
Broad-based community support will always be required to serve the increasing number of individuals who need audio access to current news, information and cultural connections. We are committed to our policy of no client fees, but ask listeners to participate in the annual fund campaign for gifts from individuals. Additional revenue comes from a special event in partnership with a local service club; contributions from foundations, corporations and civic groups; an annual state government grant; and income from a modest endowment.
In-kind services include free use of the sub-carrier of the public radio station, complimentary subscriptions to the daily Richmond Times-Dispatch, monthly ads in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and the thousands of volunteer hours without which we could not operate. The significant support we receive from our large corps of volunteer readers equates to in-kind donations of almost $110,000 for FY 2015. That necessary support remains consistent and dependable.
We will continue to seek support from new grant sources, as well as from current and prior donors such as the Virginia Board for the Blind and Vision Impaired, Altria Companies Employee Community Fund, the Kiwanis Foundation, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, SunTrust and others.
Fundraising plans for 2016-17 include an annual fund campaign for gifts from individuals, a major gifts program, a legacy Giving program, a special event in partnership with a local service club, applications for modest state funding, and grant requests to foundations, corporations and civic groups. Increased public awareness generated by our expanded outreach efforts will create a receptive environment for funding requests to existing and new donors.
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