Rich Stearns, outgoing World Vision U.S. president. Photo by: World Vision U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO — Twenty years ago, Rich Stearns resigned from Lenox, a fine china and crystal company, following what he describes as a calling from God. He joined World Vision United States, the Christian humanitarian organization focused on poverty and injustice, as president. On Tuesday, he announced to staff his intention to retire.

“Rich is an exceptional leader and replacing him will be the most important undertaking of this board. We are committed to diligently seeking God’s will in selecting the individual whom God has prepared to lead World Vision U.S. in this next season,” said Dr. Joan Singleton, chair of the World Vision U.S. board. “We are confident that just as God called Rich 20 years ago, he has also prepared a new leader for such a time as this. We are grateful for Rich's commitment to continue to lead World Vision U.S. until the new president has settled.”

The new leader will join World Vision U.S. after its strongest growth in a decade, and will be tasked with mobilizing 2 million supporters, child sponsors, and other partners to reach the organization’s stated goal of helping 30 million children by 2022.

Q&A: Rich Stearns of World Vision US on the role of advocacy, faith, persistence in development

The longest serving president of the Christian humanitarian organization announced his intention to retire, following the NGO's strongest growth in a decade. In an interview the day the news went public, he shared advice for other NGO leaders.

“I was a corporate CEO before I came to World Vision. And that’s probably more common today than it was 20 years ago. But I’d like to think I brought best business practices to the nonprofit world,” Stearns said an interview shortly after the news broke.

World Vision International is an Evangelical Christian aid, development, and advocacy organization, whose CEO is based at the executive office near London. The organization’s mission is “to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.”  World Vision U.S. is the founding organization of World Vision International.

Annual revenues for World Vision U.S., known for its Sponsor a Child method of fundraising, grew to more than $1 billion during the past 20 years. Stearns spoke with Devex about some of the factors that contributed to that growth, like his book The Hole in Our Gospel, which asks Christians to put their faith into action. In the early 2000s, he called on the church to respond to the global AIDS pandemic, and more recently his call to action has focused on the refugee crisis.

World Vision U.S. is working with an executive search firm that specializes in Christian ministries and will consider external and internal candidates, and Stearns has said he will continue in his role until his successor is ready to take over.

About the author

  • Catherine Cheney

    Catherine Cheney is a Senior Reporter for Devex. She covers the West Coast of the U.S., focusing on the role of technology, innovation, and philanthropy in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And she frequently represents Devex as a speaker and moderator. Prior to joining Devex, Catherine earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, worked as a web producer for POLITICO and reporter for World Politics Review, and helped to launch NationSwell. Catherine has reported domestically and internationally for outlets including The Atlantic and the Washington Post. Outside of her own reporting, Catherine also supports other journalists to cover what is working, through her work with the Solutions Journalism Network.