Insights, News

Stepping Down: Reflections from CEO Margaret Hall

Jun 28, 2023



By Margaret Hall

In July 2003, I had the amazing fortune to meet John Simon, a social and business entrepreneur and investor with a vision. We started a conversation that led to the founding of the GreenLight Fund, and the rest, as they say, is history.

While even in those first conversations we envisioned an organization that would expand beyond Boston into other cities, we could not have imagined GreenLight as it is almost 20 years later: the reach GreenLight would have, how communities would embrace and embed this work as their own, the incredible people throughout the country who would join this journey, and what we’d learn and how we’d be changed along the way.

There is never an easy time to leave something that has your heart and that you’ve lived and breathed for so long. But there is a right time and this is the right time for me. I’ll be stepping down as CEO of GreenLight at the end of 2023 after an amazing 20 years.

We started with a staff of two and one portfolio organization in Boston reaching 32 children in its first year. Today, GreenLight has grown to a team of almost 50, in 12 sites (and growing) around the country. We have implemented the GreenLight process nearly 50 times to bring best-in-class, needed organizations to our cities that reached more than half a million children, youth and families this past year alone.

The numbers tell an important story, but GreenLight’s impact on people and cities goes far beyond that in countless ways. Each of the individuals and families reached have a story and ways these organizations have helped them achieve their goals. That, more than anything, is what GreenLight’s work is about.

In 2003, I came to GreenLight after spending years helping nonprofits build the strategy, capacity and support they need to achieve their missions and goals. I knew a lot about high performance in the nonprofit sector, which has been important to my work at GreenLight. Since then, though, I have learned so much more about what makes leaders and organizations succeed.

Some of what I’ve learned:

  • If in doubt, act. Move forward. You will learn and pivot as you go, but movement and momentum have power.
  • This is heart and soul work; it is a calling to do better and be better as a leader and a person. Yes, we need management skills and domain expertise, but to truly succeed in the way our communities and the world need us to, we have to be willing to listen deeply, hear the hard things, and be changed.
  • Relationships, relationships, relationships. Change happens in relationships and through the strength and quality of relationships. Whether it’s the relationship between a teacher and student, a nonprofit and a participant, a grantee and a funder, or leaders and team members, if we want change, we have to build reciprocal, trusting relationships and organizations that center people and relationships.
  • If you want the best answer, ask the people closest to an issue. From the beginning we knew we needed community leaders at the table, central to our work. We learned how important it is to center the voices and experiences of people who themselves have navigated poverty, encountered systemic inequities, and faced barriers to inclusive prosperity. This has changed the way we and our portfolio organizations work and the impact we have.
  • It is truly a gift to get up every day to make a difference in our communities and our world, particularly as we’ve gone through the political and cultural strife of these past years. It may not always be easy, but it is always a gift.

The GreenLight Fund is in the strongest place it’s ever been and poised to grow even stronger with greater reach and deeper impact. I have been blessed to work alongside so many gifted, passionate and generous team members, Board members, portfolio organization leaders, partners and supporters. Our people are exceptional: fully committed to this work to build equity through economic mobility in our communities. I know GreenLight will go from strength to strength because of the importance and impact of the work and because of the people around it. And I will look on with gratitude and pride.