For nearly 40 years, Martha’s Table has worked to support strong children, strong families and strong communities by increasing access to quality education programs, healthy food and family supports. They believe that every child deserves the opportunity for their brightest future and a deeply engaged family and community committed to their success.
What does being a finalist for this award mean for you and your organization?
This recognition is quite gratifying for the Martha’s Table board, especially given the major milestones we’ve hit in the past year. It feels like we’ve run several marathons consecutively, with everything that went into our new headquarters and satellite location, selection of our new CEO and transition to a new board chair. That we’ve emerged from each of these challenges a stronger Martha’s Table is a testament to the steady hand and tireless work ethic of our board.
At the same time, there’s still so much to be done at Martha’s Table, and our place-based work in our new neighborhood in Southeast D.C. is just beginning. As we noted in our award application, Martha’s Table’s board holds itself to high standards and does not seek the limelight. Being a finalist for the Board Leadership Award is a reminder that someone is watching us at work, and a nice validation for our board that we should keep doing what we’re doing.
What have you learned through the application process for the Board Leadership Award?
Through the application process, we appreciated the opportunity to pause and reflect. Perhaps most significantly, it was helpful to take stock in Martha’s Table’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, as the application forced us to delve into this area. As far as we’ve come in diversifying our board membership and staff, in adopting asset-based language and amplifying the voices of our community members, we still have much remaining to do on this front.
We are proud of what we’ve accomplished in championing greater equity within Martha’s Table and within the District of Columbia. But we can’t rest on our laurels while so many members of our community are denied a real opportunity to be successful in life. We’re glad the Board Leadership Award emphasized equity, diversity and inclusion in the application, which reinforces the critical role our board must play in realizing system-level change.
What advice would you offer for other organizations/board members striving for excellence in board leadership?
At Martha’s Table, our board members and senior staff are true partners in our work to support strong children, strong families and strong communities. To be effective, both our executives and directors consistently push and challenge each other—respectfully, of course—in service of our mission. Our board is effective because they “get it” when it comes to Martha’s Table’s mission.
We often compare board member recruitment to casting a play, each role having specific characteristics and expertise. We’ve built out our board roster very strategically, with a purposeful mix of business leaders, academics, food experts and longtime Washingtonians, all of whom give generously of their time and resources. We hope other organizations can learn and benefit from how we’ve filled our board with great people and allowed them to do what they do best.