Introducing … Kristine Martin, President of Eastside Neighborhood Services and my 2nd blog interview

This is my sophomore blog on sharing peoples stories of how/when/why they decided to make nonprofit their career choice.

Kristine Martin is the new President of East Side Neighborhood Services*. This is a BRAND new role for her and a really exciting move on her career path.  Her press release!  29 years in public and nonprofit service and leadership has prepared her for leading ESNS into the next decade of service.

A rock star resume and sustained impact in our communities! Kristine and I have built a friendship through our networking and I was really excited when she said she’d be happy to share her insights, passion, values and learnings from her incredibly successful career in the civic, foundation and nonprofit sector.

What motivated you to make the move from civic/government to foundation/nonprofit?

After 23 years, I wanted to get back into community, work more closely with grassroots leadership and work together to push for social change. I wanted to work WITH, not for families, and community.  True sustainable improvement and change has to start where there is genuine voice and commitment.

Why did you stay at Wilder?

During my 6 years at Wilder, I had a front row seat to how an accomplished CEO leads; strategy, staff, board relations, external relations, operations, policy, etc.  It was an incredible learning opportunity on how to run an effective nonprofit.

What was the biggest surprise for you when you compare civic with nonprofit?

In the civic sector, funding is not the top concern.  My biggest concern was … “Am I being bold enough?  Am I driving change? Can we think bigger? How do we help more people?”.

In the nonprofit sector, funding is the top concern.  I’m always asking myself … “How far can we go before we run out of funding? How long can we innovate before we need to find new funding streams? How can I creatively fund this change in order to continue driving impact?”

What was the biggest challenge for your civic vs nonprofit roles?

In the civic sector, it was navigating the bureaucracy. Great ideas often took ages to implement (and then not always in their purest form) due to process, policy and conservative nature and politics.

In the nonprofit sector, it is having to account for every dollar. EVERY decision was preceded by, how will I pay for this? Merit increases, new programming, capital investments, innovative ideas; they all required a solid business case and funding strategy.

(Observation from the author: wouldn’t be great to combine these worlds?! Get the best of funding with the best of programming, innovation and speed without the worry of where the next dollar was coming from or how to “sell” to all parties ?!  Just a thought … :))

What do you want people to know about moving between sectors?

Be crystal clear about your core values and motivation.  It helps if you are compassionate, curious and concerned for the human condition.  Everything about these sectors are mission driven. Be prepared to be uncomfortable, even afraid. It keeps me alert!

Advice to others who are considering these sectors?

Start with the individual stories, who people really are and what they dream of.  I started my career through clinical work, focusing on individual families.  Understanding the systems that impact them, help them find the best solutions available. See the person in context of family, community and learn about them. Its been an honor to serve families from so many different angles and approaches.  And, I’m excited to come full circle and be directly involved in neighborhood and community through my new role at East Side Neighborhood Services*.

Thank you Kristine! Pay close attention to East Side Neighborhood Services*, I suspect they are about to have an even greater impact in their community.


*Organized in 1915, East Side Neighborhood Services is a nonprofit human service agency that provides social and other services to individuals, families and the communities of primarily Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis. Our purpose is to assist people of all ages and backgrounds in realizing a higher quality of life.