With support and input from area experts, the Center created this award in 2011 to recognize and spotlight outstanding leadership from nonprofit Boards of Directors in the Greater Washington area.

By executing their fiduciary and leadership responsibilities, board members ensure their organization is well led, well supported and responsive to the people and communities it serves. This award distinguishes those Boards that go above and beyond recommended standards and fundamentals to bring new levels of leadership to their role, resulting in positive changes and notable successes for their organizations.

We are excited to announce our 2021 BLA Finalists!


Click on their logos to read what board leadership and this award mean to them. Each will now complete a site visit with the selection committee, so stay tuned to see who will be the winner!

The Center’s 2021 Board Leadership Award is presented by



with additional support from


At the Center, we believe the benefits of competing are well worth your time and effort, but don’t take our word for it. Hear what past participants have to say.

"The application process for the Board Leadership Award has been an opportunity for reflection, a rare moment to take stock and connect the dots on actions that brought us to where we are today—to see how far we have come, how effective our Board development has been, and how important this strategic and consistent effort to build and manage the Board is to ISPU’s success. — ISPU

“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. ” — Martha's Table

“Putting this application together gave us a moment to reflect, appreciate, and recognize how robust our Board operations are now, the effort that went into getting to this place, what is still left to do, and - more specifically - what tasks the Board must undertake to continue its growth into the future. All of these practices documented in one place is a great resource for our current Board and will undoubtedly be extremely valuable to new Board members.” — DC Scores

The competition is open to any 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in the Washington metropolitan area. The Washington metropolitan area is defined as:

  • District of Columbia
  • Maryland: Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.
  • Virginia

Two-thirds of the Board members must have served on the Board a minimum of one year as of the application due date. All examples and explanations used in the nomination must have occurred during the Executive Director or Board members’ tenure, and must not exceed five years past. Internal nominations must be made in cooperation with the current Executive Director. External nominations must be made in cooperation with the Board Chair and the Executive Director.

Winners of this award must wait a minimum of three years to re-apply.

One winner is selected and will receive a $10,000 grant, community exposure and training opportunities for the organizations’ board and executives from BoardSource and the Center’s Training Hub.

Up to two organizations are also selected as honorable mention recipients and receive a $1,000 grant each, as well as communication exposure and training opportunities for their board members and executives from the Center’s Training Hub.

The Board Leadership Award nomination fee for nonmembers is $150.  There is no charge for Center members.

The competition incorporates a three-part judging process that includes a part one written application and fact sheet, a part two interview for semi-finalists, and a part three site visit for finalists.

To learn more about the award process and application details download the 2021 Board Award Leadership Packet and the Nomination Packet.

As a Center member, you can access successful practices shared by the Board Leadership competition participants in the members-only Resource Center.

The selection committee is a group of local leaders in the nonprofit, foundation, corporate and government sectors. The committee’s purpose is to read, review and evaluate all applications for the award. Commitment includes in-person attendance at a minimum of three committee meetings, two site visits and the award ceremony.

Participation on the selection committee provides an excellent opportunity to make new connections and see first hand exceptional practices in action. To learn more or express interest in joining the selection committee, contact Sean Sweeney, Director of Education & Special Programs.

Learn from the experience of our 2020 winners!

In 2020, the Center presented a series of video shorts on four relevant topics. The series includes interviews with leaders from award winner, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) and honorable mention, Food & Friends. Videos are available to watch on demand.