Many times, I find myself working with nonprofits who are facing a time of transition. Perhaps their organization is undergoing a change in leadership. Perhaps their community is changing. Perhaps new needs and challenges are calling for a change in programs or ministries.
How do successful organizations navigate these transitions? They have a grander vision.
Let me illustrate with a story…
In the years immediately following the end of World War l, the Jerusalem YMCA, which had been established in 1878, was working to reestablish its very modest presence in the city after being shut down by Turkish forces during the war. In 1920, the Jerusalem YMCA Board reached out to the YMCA of the USA for assistance and the U.S. movement responded by sending Dr. Archibald C. Harte to Jerusalem to serve as the Director General of the Jerusalem Association.
Dr. Harte was very much aware of the historic conflict and related issues in the Holy Land and he brought with him to Jerusalem a grander vision for the Jerusalem YMCA. His visionary leadership soon resulted in the YMCA receiving one of the largest gifts in the history of the YMCA movement, the establishment of landmark buildings that were later pictured on the currency of the country, and a mission that decades later resulted in Jerusalem International YMCA being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
How did Dr. Harte help the Jerusalem YMCA make this transition?
- Harte defined a grander vision: To establish a YMCA presence in the Holy Land that would bring peace to the land and glory to God. This vision focused on resolving the community’s most significant and complex issues.
- Harte constantly shared his vision with passion and energy with the community and with those who could help transition his vision to reality. He worked tirelessly to raise interest in the YMCA’s work in the Holy Land and to invite others to support this critically important mission. In 1924, a conversation with a Montclair, NJ businessman on the Mount of Olives resulted in a $1.6 million gift to the Jerusalem YMCA. Throughout his tenure in Jerusalem he earned the right to ask for and to receive philanthropic support from friends throughout the Holy Land and, in fact, throughout the world.
- Harte’s leadership transitioned philanthropic support into facilities, programs and services that provided common ground for people of all faiths. Eventually, this created healthy relationships in a city that for centuries had been defined by conflict. In the 1990s the Austrian Parliament nominated the Jerusalem YMCA for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Israel fifty-shekel note pictured the YMCA buildings.
- Harte was masterful at expressing gratitude. Those who had invested in his grander vision for the Jerusalem YMCA knew that their support was deeply appreciated and very well invested in the critically important work of promoting peace in the Holy Land.
What is your grander vision? What impact do you hope your organization will have generations from now? What legacy do you wish to leave in your area of service, be it your neighborhood, your city, your country or the world?