Vision is fuel, energy, passion -- or, as I like to suggest, as important as water to a garden. Unless that vision is clear in your mind, it is hard, if not impossible, to complete the process of refining your dream into an actionable plan. Furthermore, without clarity of vision the hard work and pain that come with setting in place a program or organization become all the more intense, as I would learn during the formative stage of The Global Fund.

To be sure, our dream was big, but it was not vague. This is important. Years of experience and learning had shown me how to avoid bad program practices and had given me a strong sense of what I should try instead. I wanted this new organization to:

respond to rather than set agendas;

respect small efforts, knowing that bigger isn't necessarily better;

eschew bureaucracy and rigid hierarchy; and

always listen and learn.

The clarity and coherence of your vision and plans for change are basic to establishing goals, setting up administrative and financial procedures, hiring appropriate staff people, developing program and fund-raising plans, and creating the very structure that allows your vision to become reality. Most important, clarity of vision is appealing to others, allowing them to understand and support this dream of change.

In the beginning, during the weekend at the conference in Philadelphia, my vision was pretty simple: I wanted to set up a foundation that would make money available to women to carry out programs defined, planned, and managed by women rather than suggested by and/or directed by donors. As I spoke with friends and colleagues at the conference and in the weeks following it, again and again I was asked, "How can I help?" Three women whom I had known through my foundation work offered money (five thousand dollars each), and I asked them if they would become a founding donor committee. (I made up the idea of a group of "founding donors" on the spot.)

Soon after that fateful weekend, when I was back home in California, Lynn Marsh, a friend and graphic artist, who had patiently listened to my endless talk about the new organization, asked what she could do to help. I immediately asked if she could design a letterhead, in case we might receive and write some letters. (No email in those days, remember!) She then asked a couple of very obvious questions: "What is the actual name of this organization?" and "What address should we put on the letterhead?" Hmmm. Good questions!

We hadn't decided on a name, and we certainly didn't have an address. But I learned, if only from one of my grandchildren's books, Riding Freedom by Pam Muñoz Ryan, that "Naming something's important . . . A name should stand for something." Businesses of various kinds spend vast amounts of time and money researching, convening focus groups, and testing names for products and brands. Names and the other words (slogans, mission statements, ads, et cetera) that create the identity for your organization are vitally important. They need to embody your dream and passion. People completely unfamiliar with your idea should hear the phrase and either get it immediately or be intrigued enough to figure it out. Some names are perfectly clear. For example, the International Business Machines Corporation, now known as IBM, was named for the products it sells. But other names are just intriguing. In the cases of Apple Computer and, for example, the meanings aren't particularly clear, but an apple is nice, simple, and healthy, something that everyone might want to have at home, and to "move on" suggests progress toward the future.

When you ask people for money or other kinds of support, they need to feel good about aligning themselves with you and your organization -- and they are likely to look first at the way the name of your group represents its work in the world. Since the name is this important, you might wonder if it is necessary to hire professionals or to possess special advertising or marketing skills in order to coin a winning name or phrase for your effort or group. In my view, it is not.

At the conference in Philadelphia, I played around with various ways of describing the women's fund idea; I alternately called it an international foundation for women, a women's international fund, a fund for women, and a global fund. After speaking with my artist friend, I asked the other three founding board members -- Dame Nita Barrow, Frances Kissling, and Laura Lederer -- to indicate their favorite from among a list of names or to provide me with more ideas. The possible names I presented to them were: the International Foundation for Women, the Women's International Fund, the Global Foundation for Women, the Women's Global Fund, and The Global Fund for Women. After a phone call or two, we unanimously chose The Global Fund for Women. Frances made the specific point that the name should be The Global Fund for Women -- with a capital T -- and we followed that good idea from the beginning. In a few short and memorable words, this name captured the idea and embodied the vision: a pool of money that would be available for women globally. Capitalizing the T in The also made the group something very special from that small beginning. As usual, a group of a few women worked wonders!

Lynn, my artist friend, was delighted. She said, "I am so glad that you used global rather than international; global is rounder, fuller, more female-seeming."

And, she reminded me, what about the address? I did not want to use my home address, striving from the outset to have the organization be an entity unto itself rather than being directly associated with a founder. I did not want to use a post office box either, because to me "P.O. box" brings to mind something tiny. Though our organization was very young, it really was very big. I couldn't imagine fitting it into a post office box.

Racking my brain for a possible address, I thought of another friend, Cole Wilbur, the executive director of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, who had been very supportive of the idea of a women's global fund at the conference in Philadelphia. I remember calling his office on a Sunday, a few days after returning from Philadelphia, thinking that I would leave a message on his office machine. Instead, the phone was picked up, and it was Cole, working through the weekend. He suggested I meet him at his office that afternoon to discuss the new fund. In our meeting, I asked if we could place a small box in the Packard Foundation office, where mail could collect (if anyone were to write to us) and I could pick it up occasionally. He not only agreed that we could use the Packard Foundation address; he asked if we needed an office space, since the foundation had just moved into a new building and had some empty offices to spare. This was tremendously exciting. All of a sudden, we had not only an address but also a room of our own!

While we were in such a positive mood, I asked him if it might be possible for the Packard Foundation to consider offering a grant to The Fund, now that we were beginning to actually set up the organization. This required a proposal, which Laura and I wrote up quite quickly. Because we did not yet have our IRS 501(c)(3) status (a necessary regulatory step in order to qualify as a not-for-profit organization and to receive tax-deductible dollars in the United States), the Packard Foundation people not only approved the grant, they also agreed to serve as our fiscal agent for a short time.

An additional generous touch from the Packard Foundation was a phone call the next day from a lovely woman there who was responsible for arranging for office furniture. "Do you need anything?" she asked. Little did she know that we needed everything, but I said that a couple of desks and chairs and maybe a file cabinet or two would be wonderful.

As I think of this time, of the excitement of the idea and the generosity of people, I think of a conversation I had years later with a group of women in Zimbabwe when I visited there in 1992. They told me about an idea they had for a women's center; they wanted to create a place where women could come together and meet and where documentation about the women's situation in Zimbabwe would have a home. I urged them to apply to The Global Fund for Women for a small grant. This they did, and it was the beginning of the Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network. Some years afterward, the women told me that even though they had had a dream of a women's center and even though they had written a short proposal to obtain a grant, it was when they were told that the grant was forthcoming that they looked at each other and said, "Well, now I guess we have to do it! We have to do what we have dreamed of and what we have written about!" It was then that they began to talk with friends about finding an office, hiring a part-time worker, getting a telephone installed, and beginning work. Support from the outside was not essential, surely, but it helped a great deal.

So it was with us. When those three women donors at the conference offered money, when the Packard Foundation offered a place, with space and furniture, when Apple Computer responded positively to our request for a computer and printer (which happened very soon after the office gift), I realized that we no longer only had a dream; we now had to make very specific plans about how to build the organization that would be the vehicle for the dream.

I mention these seemingly minor administrative events in some detail for a number of reasons. First, turning your dream into reality requires all sorts of little tasks, some of them quite unanticipated. Second, you can take care of these many tasks quite smoothly; if your vision is clear, things fall into place. Clarity of vision and passionate determination can create the kind of getting-things-done and getting-support domino effect that we experienced at the beginning of The Fund. Have I mentioned yet that we were also having fun?

From the book Paradigm Found.(June 2006;$14.95US; 1-57731-533-2) Copyright © 2006 by Anne Firth Murray. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. or 800/972-6657 ext. 52.

Author's Bio: 

Anne Firth Murray, the founding president of The Global Fund for Women, serves on the boards and advisory groups of several social change organizations and is a consulting professor at Stanford University. Her website is