Kim Ford’s Sad Departure

The Old Man of Anacostia

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Last month the community was shocked to hear about the resignation of Kim Ford, the chief executive officer and president of Martha’s Table.

In a resignation email sent to the staff, she cited “abusive” behavior by some board members. She offered to remain on staff to insure a smooth transition, but the board accepted her resignation and immediately removed her picture from the leadership section of the Martha’s Table website.

Martha’s Table opened its new building in The Commons at Stanton Square in Ward 8 in 2018. In 2019, former Obama appointee Kim Ford was chosen by its board to head Martha’s Table. She hit the community like a whirlwind and quickly achieved a reputation as hardworking, compassionate and charismatic.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, she led the largest nonprofit response in the community. She was in the streets almost every day helping the community survive the pandemic. The community loved her.

In response to Ms. Ford’s resignation, twenty Ward 8 community leaders sent an open letter to the Martha’s Table board and asked for a virtual meeting with its members. At that meeting not much was resolved because the board chair said that personnel matters could not be discussed.

Two weeks later the board released a letter to the community commending Ms. Ford for her work and pledging to 1) strengthen board governance by working with a consultant, 2) engage a neutral third party to conduct an independent review and assessment of the culture of Martha’s Table and how its board of directors engages with staff, community and stakeholders, 3) supplement the next president/CEO search committee with community member engagement, and 4) diversify the board with additional community representatives.

What the community should learn from this unfortunate episode is that it is not enough to interact with the directors of nonprofits. While the community may be aware of the work of the directors, rarely do they know who the chairs of the board of directors are. Always remember that the nonprofit directors report to the board chairs.

Kim Ford’s resignation has promoted a community discussion about the governance of nonprofits.  Also, in the spirit of the “Me Too” movement, most community activists have heard Kim Ford’s allegations and are initially believing her. A forum has been organized to hear from other women in nonprofit leadership. Please spread the word and join the discussion.

March 30, 2022, 6:30 to 8:30 PM, via Zoom at tinyurl.com/u2wtwz7t

Philip Pannell is a long time Ward 8 community activist. He can be contacted at philippannell@comcast.net.