Kristin Martin, senior philanthropy advisor for the Piscataqua region. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

Kristin Martin, senior philanthropy advisor for the Piscataqua region. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

Helping people make a difference where it matters to them most

Kristin Martin, the Foundation's new senior philanthropy advisor for the Piscataqua Region, on falling in love with philanthropy (and with New Hampshire) volunteering around the world...and skiing Tuckerman's Ravine

Kristin Martin is the Foundation’s new Senior Philanthropy Advisor for the Piscataqua Region. She came to the Foundation from the Granite United Way, where she started as a graduate-school intern and rose to the position of assistant vice president of philanthropy. At the Charitable Foundation, Kristin works with generous individuals, families and businesses to help them achieve their philanthropic goals. She lives in Portsmouth with her husband.

What was your path to working in philanthropy? People seem to take really interesting routes to this field…

My undergraduate degree was in African history, which is not always super applicable in the real-world job scene…I always had a very globally minded focus. My husband and I travel pretty extensively. I volunteered in India, in an orphanage, taught in a school in New Zealand… I did the majority of my undergraduate research and work on South Africa and I knew it was a place I really wanted to go. So after college, my husband and I decided to quit our jobs, we got rid of our apartment, bought tickets to South Africa and went for three months. We travelled for a month and then we worked on a private wildlife reserve and volunteered in a school.

Then I went to graduate school at the University of New Hampshire for social work, and in the first year I interned for Child Protective Services in Manchester. And of all my experience to date, that was the most eye-opening experience I ever had. It was the toughest year by far, but it was also the most interesting and educational year of my life.

Say more about that. You have been to India, to South Africa, but this work in the center of Manchester was the most eye-opening experience of your life. Why?

Just being face-to-face with families in my own backyard that were really struggling, and seeing the complex barriers they faced to access to services or access to educational opportunities. All those things really blew me away. Also the opioid epidemic wasn’t quite at the level it is now, but seeing the role that substance misuse and mental health play and how that could really devastate families was just so eye-opening for me.

And how did that lead to working on the philanthropy side of things?

I quickly learned that, even though that was eye-opening and fulfilling, I knew I wanted to ‘work upstream,’ to hopefully be able to have an even more significant impact on those barriers and those struggles. I went to my grad school advisors and said ‘I want to be more macro, more systems-level,’ and they said you should really look at United Way…and I fell in love with the philanthropy side of it.

I found that, especially with my experience working in Manchester, I could really translate my experience of working on the front lines to those who really had the ability to do something about it … I loved being that connector, and inspiring and encouraging people who have the capacity to do something to do something. And I think I will do that for the rest of my life.

What have been some of the kinds of things that you have seen philanthropy be able to do that were really inspiring to you? Can you give me examples of connecting people and helping them to make a difference?

At United Way, it’s thousands of people coming together to make a really big impact. I always found it inspiring to go out to our partner agencies and see exactly what was happening, whether it was being at the Boys and Girls Club in their after school program or going to the homeless service center and seeing these different things that I knew United Way had funded.

And I love connecting individual donors with things they are passionate about. One donor had personal family experience with the substance misuse crisis, and he had the capacity to do something significant. We put together a very tailored package to show what a large gift could do in the community, and he said “Yup, I want to do it.” Then going out to show him the actual impact of his gift…that is just the coolest thing ever. To really help a donor see the possibilities and bring them to a place where they are making an impact.

At the end of the day, I think people give to people and even if they have that sense of the bigger picture and they want to make systems change, I think it’s people giving to people. And being able to show the impact of that makes all of the difference.

What are you interested in helping donors to do in your role at the Foundation?

The thing I get the most excited about is helping donors to do what they are most passionate about. So whether that is kids or the environment or arts and culture… it’s all about helping tap into whatever gets them really fired up and helping them show how they can make a difference in it.

And you are also involved in volunteer work in the community…

I did some work with Education for all Children, a nonprofit that helps kids in Kenya get an education…and I am currently on the Portsmouth Music Hall’s “Kitchen Tour” committee… it’s their largest fundraiser. Every year, they do a kitchen tour of eight to ten homes in Portsmouth…That’s a totally different type of volunteering that I really enjoy.

What’s the one book you most frequently recommend to people?

My favorite book is “Another Place at the Table,” by Kathy Harrison. It is about foster care, about taking people in and how family can look so different in different places.

So what is your “why New Hampshire” story?

After college at the University of Vermont, we moved at California, and then my husband got a job offer in Portsmouth. And I didn’t know anything about New Hampshire, and I was like, ‘all right, I’ll try it. I’ll go for a year and we’ll see.’ And I totally fell in love, and we have been here ever since and I completely plan to stay here forever and raise our family here…

Initially I fell in love with the Seacoast, the people, the culture, the scenery. It was so beautiful and so much fun. And then through my work with United Way, I fell in love with the state. My husband and I are both skiers, and we love hiking in the White Mountains…Cannon is like our ‘home mountain.’ My husband’s family has pictures of his grandfather skiing on Cannon Mountain in the 1930s.

We are all about being outside. In the summer in we have a little dinghy that we call our boat and we are always out on the water… and then in the winter we love skiing, we love hiking. Enjoying the natural beauty of New Hampshire is our big thing.

You went to UVM and then UNH…so Wildcat or Catamount? How do you reconcile that?

I went to a hockey game that was UVM vs. UNH and I cheered every time anyone scored — I felt so conflicted! I probably align as a Wildcat. My husband went to UNH, my brother is a sophomore at UNH, we go to so many UNH events, we are supportive of the university. I think I have turned the corner.

Say somebody is new to New Hampshire. What is the one mountain you would suggest hiking, and the one water adventure…

When friends come to New Hampshire, we rent paddleboards in Portsmouth and we paddle out to BG’s BoatHouse and get drinks and food and then paddle to the beach…

And Mount Percival in Campton is my all-time favorite mountain. It is little, but it is so fun. You have all these little caves you go through and all these little ladders…it is the coolest hike ever.

Your proudest outdoor achievement in New Hampshire?

My biggest accomplishment is every winter my husband and I hike up Tuckerman’s and ski down it.

Yeah, okay, you people are crazy.

It was the scariest thing I ever did the first time, but we look forward to it every year. It’s another thing about New Hampshire that is so cool.