Restoring vision: A non-profit leader’s story

First published February 18. This is one of several posts on Nehemiah this year. It didn’t make it into A Great Work.

Nehemiah had a problem in the non-profit he was leading. He’d been called to the international office for a lengthy assignment. During Nehemiah’s tenure, the organization had experienced a resurgence in reputation and impact. A major building project, stalled for a long time, was finally completed in record time. Membership was up, commitment was high.

And then Nehemiah left. While he was gone, a staff member had been involved with significant malfeasance. He’d allowed the organization’s facility to be used inappropriately. (A large storage space had been converted to an apartment. It was odd even then.)

The behavior of that staff member reflected an overall malaise about organizational values. Contributions were down, so staff had to be let go. The organization was losing the cultural impact it had regained under Nehemiah.

When Nehemiah returned, he took immediate action. He tore up the sublease. He carried the furniture out of the apartment. (I see it being thrown out of a window down a cliff, but I can’t substantiate that.) He returned the shelving and storage bins.

He appointed a new accounting team to take care of the contributions. Because the staff was divided into three areas of specialization, he appointed one person from each team to the oversight team. He also appointed an intern to help with the busy work.

While he was restoring the internal processes, Nehemiah reminded community leaders of their roles. Like the leadership team of a United Way campaign, these people were supposed to remind people of the importance of the organization.

With Nehemiah’s leadership, contributions returned to appropriate levels.

Nehemiah wrote a report and sent a short memo to his supervisor: Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.

(From Nehemiah 13:4-14)