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Maritza Martinez, Program Associate

Maritza Martinez of Echoing Green

What if you had a simple yet innovative idea with the potential to make a positive shift in the world? For many people, turning that idea into reality isn’t always possible – work and family commitments, bills to pay, and above all else, trouble finding others dedicated enough to see your vision through. Lucky for everyone, then, that Echoing Green is around. For nearly 20 years, Echoing Green, with the help of people like Program Associate Maritza Martinez, has been scouting for social visionaries eager to move the world towards positivity. The organization provides seed money (as much as $90,000 for two years) and support through various resources and its extensive network of other social entrepreneurs each year to the most outstanding innovators in social change. Echoing Green is committed to see those plans through to sustainability and gives some peace of mind to the individuals dedicated to help others. Find out more about how Echoing Green is helping to change the world in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.


Echoing Green





Name, Title

Maritza Martinez, Program Associate




Jackson Heights, New York

Current residence

Woodside, New York


Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy, Nonprofit Management, 2005;
University of the District of Columbia, Political Science, 2001;
George Washington University, International Affairs, 1995 – 1997;
Bronx High School of Science, 1995;

Work Experience

Echoing Green, Program Associate, 2005-present;
AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, Administrative Coordinator (2003 – 2005);
Whitman-Walker Clinic, Human Resources Generalist (2000 – 2003);
Friends of the National Zoo, Inventory Assistant/Data Entry Specialist (1997 – 2001)



About the non-profit

Echoing Green provides first-stage funding and support to visionary leaders with bold ideas for social change. As an angel investor in the social sector, Echoing Green identifies, funds and supports the world’s most exceptional emerging leaders and the organizations they launch. Through a two-year fellowship program, we help passionate social entrepreneurs develop new solutions to some of society’s most difficult problems. These social entrepreneurs and their organizations work to close deeply-rooted social, economic and political inequities to ensure equal access and help all individuals reach their potential.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

Support fellows in building sustainable social change organizations through one-on-one conversations, conferences, and provision of resources. Building a stronger overall community of social entrepreneurs.

Most notable milestones

Echoing Green has invested over $25 million in seed and start-up grants. We have supported over 400 social entrepreneurs in launching organizations in 30 countries around the world.

What’s the niche?

Entrepreneurial spirit has driven the U.S. economy throughout its history. We believe the same energy and creativity can foster new solutions in the social sector. That is why Echoing Green takes risks on undiscovered leaders when others won’t. Less than two percent of all foundation support is available for seed funding, making Echoing Green a leading global social venture fund that invests in new organizations at their earliest stages.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Knowing that there are dedicated social change agents all around the world that have solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems and not being able reach all of them.

What’s in store for the future?

This year, we will be expanding the number of opportunities we provide for leaders from around the world.

Who would you like to be contacted by?

I’d love to talk to people with innovative ideas for new social change organizations.

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Best way to keep a competitive edge

Never stop learning.

Guiding principle in life

Be the change that you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Ghandi

Yardstick of success

Watching start-up organizations grow, expand and begin to change the status quo.

Goal yet to be achieved

To reach every social change agent and empower them to create justice locally as well as globally.

Best practical advice

Always take risks. You have to be open to all the possibilities that will come to you. Even if people discourage you from following your dream, you have to follow your heart. Too often practicality is the enemy of innovation.

Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

It is not enough to be compassionate, you must act.

What motivated you to get started?

My moment of obligation to enter the nonprofit sector came in high school when my friend asked me to come check out this job that paid $10 per hour. The job was to provide peer outreach to teens about HIV/AIDS. From that day on, I knew that I wanted a career with meaning. After attending a few trainings, a few friends and I started our own student organization at our high school addressing HIV/AIDS prevention education. The rest is history.

Like best about what you do?

Everyday when I wake up to go to work, I know that even though my job may not be glamorous, I am making a difference in the lives of thousands of people around the world by helping build organizations that meet their needs. By working with some of the world’s best emerging social entrepreneurs I am certain that cutting-edge ideas are making their way to where they are most needed.

Like least about what you do?

I wish I was able to travel to see more of the work our fellows are doing first hand.

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a writer. I was always writing poetry, plays and short stories. I still often use writing as a creative outlet but I didn’t end up pursuing it as a career.

What was your first job?

Cleaning tables and sweeping the floor at McDonald’s because you had to be at least 16 years old to work at the cash register.

Biggest pastimes outside of work

Crocheting, learning to play the bongos and supporting vegetarian eateries

Person most interested in meeting and why?

Malcolm Gladwell-I love his books (The Tipping Point and Blink). He always makes me see the world a little bit differently.

Leader in business most interested in meeting and why?

Steve Jobs-Though he is a multi-billionaire, he doesn’t give much money to charity. I hope I would be able to change his mind and maybe get a free iPod.

Three interesting facts about yourself

1. I’m terrified of driving even though I have a driver’s license.
2. I have two tattoos, one of which I designed myself.
3. I love quirky socks.

Three characteristics that describe you

1. Easy Going (most of the time)
2. Creative
3. Stubborn

Three greatest passions

1. Social Justice Work
2. Encouraging Civic Engagement
3. Volunteerism

Favorite book

Be Bold by Lara Galinsky & Cheryl Dorsey
(check out the awesome website www.bebold.org)

Favorite cause

Social Justice – in general, most of the world’s problems are interconnected

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I was just in New Orleans for an Echoing Green conference and met some of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I would love to encourage everyone to visit New Orleans. Go and bear witness to what has happened there. People need to tell their stories and they need you to listen. We must not forget what happened there a little over a year ago. As people of color, we must not allow our brothers and sisters to continue to be displaced and ignored by the government and the media. The people of New Orleans need our help. The outrage that we felt as Americans during hurricane Katrina has been all but forgotten. Call your local legislatures, volunteer to build a home, or fuel the economy in the Gulf Coast.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.-Margaret Mead.

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Interview by Sumaya Kazi
Introduction by Kaiser Shahid

Also this week

Jacie Lee AlmiraAamir AlaviZainab Al Suwaij

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