A Message from Arva Rice, President and CEO of the New York Urban League: “Getting to Great”

Arva Rice

“If you are going to sing, sing loud – just in case someone is listening.” – Patti LaBelle’s Father

August 19, 2014 message from Arva Rice: “Since I penned this letter, I like you, have watched in horror as US citizens in Ferguson have fallen victim to a police state while the Brown family grieves their loss.  In times like these, the core mission of the Urban League movement of providing equal access and parity could not ring more true.  The tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner underscore our need to march, to fight, to strategize and work for social justice.”

As many of you know, for the past year I have been part of a national fellowship that is encouraging me to become a more effective, results-based leader.  The sixteen fellows selected from across the country come together every other month to refine the results we are working towards for children, how we can enroll others in the work, and how we measure both what we have accomplished and the ultimate difference it makes for children and families.  Each session has a theme and each fellow takes a turn helping co-design the session.  So it is appropriate that the theme of the session I will co-lead in September is “Getting to Great.”  

“Getting to Great” has been the theme of my recent work with Young Professionals, the goal of a newly funded initiative the affiliate will launch in the fall, and forms the core task of the affiliate’s strategic plan.

A few weeks ago, we piloted a leadership conversation that I hope will be added to the offerings for Young Professional members.  The reception brought together some of the leaders I have met along the way with a few young professionals in a discussion of greatness.  Danielle Moss Lee, President and CEO of YWCA; Aldrin Bonilla, Deputy Borough President of Manhattan; and Reggio Nance, Director of Community Affairs for Cumulus Radio shared their leadership journey and the lessons they have learned along the way.  They shared about the importance of working in environments that allow you to be authentic, being the embodiment of the qualities you would like to see in your work, e.g., creativity or problem solving, being goal oriented and intentional, and bringing your heart and soul to your work.  They shared that greatness is not an act but a habit of taking risk, not being afraid to fail, and an unfaltering faith in your ability. 

As part of the recently-approved New York City Council Fiscal Year 2015 Budget, the City Council allocated $2.5 million to establish a Communities of Color Nonprofit Stabilization Fund for community based organizations whose leadership are majority Black, Latino and/or Asian.  NYUL is pleased to partner with Hispanic Federation, Asian-American Federation, Coalition for Asian American Families, and Black Agency Executives to administer the fund and provide grants and training to smaller nonprofits throughout the city.  We believe that the peer support and concrete training in core areas of nonprofit management will help move these organizations towards greatness and improve the lives of New York City children and families. A special thank you to YP Executive Board member Eric C. Henry, Jr. for his work at Councilmember Andy King’s Office on this effort.

Lastly, NYUL is completing the last stages of our strategic plan.  Many of you took part in focus groups where we asked candidly, “How are we doing?” From the responses we heard we are setting a course for the future where we continue to not just sing, but sing loudly. We hope that you will join us. 


Arva Rice

PS  Since I wrote this letter, the Young Professionals won the National Chapter of Excellence award – Bravo!  I could not be more proud.


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