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.

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. To win the award, all candidates must go through an extensive selection process that includes nominations, interviews, and final site visits.

Learn from the insights of our 2021 winner and honorable mention:

First release: Leading an Organization Through Transformation

Cast: Edith Bullard, Board Chair at Carpenter's Shelter
Guest appearance:  Anne Schrantz, Partner at CohnReznick, Board Leadership Award sponsor

Over the past two years, Carpenter's Shelter successfully transformed from being a homeless shelter to working to eradicate homelessness. Listen to Edith Bullard as she details the extensive process in shifting an organization's mission and everything involved in both having key conversations and taking the next steps.


Second release: Measuring Impact 

Cast: Mike Lyden, Board Member at Carpenter's Shelter, and Zachary Clark, Executive Director of 826DC
Guest appearance:  Anne Schrantz, Partner at CohnReznick, Board Leadership Award sponsor

To achieve an impactful goal, it is important to set specific metrics to gauge the level of success and progress. Hear from leaders of Carpenter's Shelter and 826DC on what they look for and the specific role of board members and staff in this process.


Third release: Budgeting with an Equity Lens

Cast: Zachary Clark, Executive Director of 826DC
Guest appearance:  Anne Schrantz, Partner at CohnReznick, Board Leadership Award sponsor

826DC employs an extensive budgeting process to turn their values into action and move forward with a thorough gameplan for the future. Zachary Clark outlines the budget process, the benefits of having input from all levels of the organization, and adjusting the salary structure to create a more equitable


Congratulations to our 2021 Winner!

Carpenter’s Shelter completed a very competitive selection process to win the 2021 Board Leadership Award. This well-led nonprofit works with people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, providing the support and tools to achieve sustainable independence. They will receive a $10,000 grant, community exposure, and training opportunities for the organization’s board members and executives.


And to our Honorable Mention!

826DC is dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. They will receive a $1,000 grant and training opportunities.


Stay tuned for future videos!

This year, our winner and honorable mention will share how they overcame challenges to achieve success in: budgeting through an equity lens, measuring impact, working through leadership transition, and dealing with organizational transformation. Watch for videos in August!

Thank you to everyone who made this award possible:

Our selection committee dedicated their time for several months to focus on thoroughly reviewing all applicants, participating in interviews, and attending site visits.

And also to our 2021 Board Leadership Award presenting sponsor:



and 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.