Professional Volunteer’s Efforts Result in Effective Social Action
“To whom much is given, much is expected,” says Bonnie Reid Martin ’70 (political science), a longtime volunteer and fundraiser in Vermont and New Hampshire. “Giving back is part of my family’s tradition. If you have the means and the opportunity, if you’re blessed with good health, income and a nice place to live, then you need to pitch in and give.”
Martin, who resides with her husband Allen Martin in Orford, New Hampshire, now after many years in Vermont, certainly lives up to her family’s expectations. The list of organizations that have benefited from her tremendous organizational and leadership skills is impressive, and all of them reflect her personal interests and professional expertise as a former business owner, one-time senior policy analyst for Gov. Richard Snelling (Vermont), deputy secretary of the Vermont Agency of Development and Community Affairs, and the first woman to hold the position of budget and management analyst for the State of Vermont.
“There was lots of discussion at the time as to whether a woman could handle the job,” Martin laughingly recalls. “I was responsible for areas of environmental conservation, development, community affairs, agriculture and energy, and had a lot of interaction with the legislature.”
Martin is self-effacing about her credentials, but after graduating from UMass Amherst magna cum laude with membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi, she went on to Rutgers. She was one of sixteen graduate students, and the only one from New England selected as an Eagleton Fellow. These students are educated in the tradition of Florence Eagleton’s conviction, “that the cultivation of civic responsibility and leadership among the American people in the field of practical political affairs is of vital and increasing importance to our state and nation....”
Martin learned her lessons well. “I like to address problems with a Warren Buffett approach,” she says. “I can’t stand waste, and I’m very results oriented. There are so many organizations that support worthy causes and are staffed by dedicated people, but I am attracted to those that have a clear vision and run clean and mean. To join, I have to believe deeply in the work they’re doing. You can’t really ask for dollars if you don’t feel the cause in your heart.”
Clearly, as the following summation of activities attests, Martin has a very big heart—and a lot of energy! As an incorporator of the Upper Valley Community Foundation (part of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation), Martin made it her business to create a program that matches community needs or problems with philanthropic resources, turning them into opportunities for effective social action. She has lent her expertise to Vermont Girl Scout Council, the largest organization for girls in the state. A charter member of the Orford Historical Society, Martin also has been a fundraiser for the Humane Society of Chittenden County to support their various programs that foster the compassionate treatment of animals.
An interest in healthcare landed Martin on the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Costs, a coalition of Vermont health care providers, business groups, and bipartisan political leaders to find ways to contain health care costs and assure access to health insurance. She has worked as a fundraiser for the Fletcher Allen Health Care, that is both a community hospital and, in partnership with the University of Vermont, the state’s academic medical center. Martin has also been an overseer of the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire, and served the Vermont Heart Association on the financial development committee.
A love of learning led Martin to serve as a trustee and chair of the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont. This organization offers intensive and exciting cultural, scientific and creative programs for high school students to develop deeper understanding of selected subjects. She also has been a trustee and chairman of the board for the Stern Center for Language and Learning, a nonprofit literacy center dedicated to helping children and adults with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, or differences in the ways they learn best reach their full potential. She has also reached out to the Orford Social Library, currently as a board member, and to Vermont Public Television as a fundraiser and former board member.
Martin’s passion for the arts—she owned an art and interior design consulting firm for many years and continues to collect fine art—is reflected in her stewardship of the Vermont Council on the Arts, the Flynn Theatre for the Performing Arts, Burlington City Arts and the Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts, the Shelburne Museum, and Art’s Alive. She has also been director of the New England Foundation for the Arts that functions as a grantmaker, program initiator, regional laboratory, project coordinator, developer of resources, and builder of creative partnerships among artists, arts organizations and funders.
“It’s all about connecting and figuring out what builds a following,” Martin says of her work. “These days, though, I’m a slacker,” she adds. “I’ve shed most of my board responsibilities, but I’m still involved with many groups in other ways. My life has always been so busy, that I never stopped to smell the roses. It’s really nice now to spend a day just riding my bike or reading a book.”
Martin, whose heart has always belonged to the cause of animal rights and welfare in its many forms, intends to “devote the ‘second half’ of my life in charitable work to those ends as an active participant and financial supporter. I contribute to many national, regional and local animal advocacy groups, and I’ve been a longtime member and supporter of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Even though I have issues with some of their extreme positions, I do believe that they’ve done more to advance the agenda and bring it squarely into public consciousness.”
June 17, 2008