Peter Temple left his mark on Island nonprofits

Longtime nonprofit leader and Aquinnah public official is moving on to a new career, but will stay on-Island.

Longtime executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Nonprofit Collaborative is leaving the organization for a new job helping a friend. — Lexi Pline

Peter Temple, a nonprofit stalwart and dedicated planning board member, retired from his post as executive director at the Martha’s Vineyard Nonprofit Collaborative (MVNC) at the end of last month, and he’s set to begin a new job, helping a friend.

Temple’s journey to the Island and his decision to stay follows a common trend: He fell in love with the place and wanted to stay.

Temple grew up outside Boston, and has been coming to the Vineyard since he was a child. He was staying near Menemsha Pond, trying to get a good signal on a black-and-white television, the day Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969. Despite not knowing many Islanders then, he remembers talk turned to the news and rumors of the tragic Chappaquiddick incident involving Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne. 

Temple’s always been more of an up-Islander, and eventually bought a house in Aquinnah in the 1980s.

Before coming to the Island permanently, Temple worked in the television and entertainment industry, and lived in Boston. But he found himself coming to the Vineyard almost every weekend to windsurf.

In 1995, Temple shifted his focus and his career. He left Boston, moved to the Island full-time, worked as a producer, and concentrated on sustaining the Island he’d grown to love.

“I really loved the Vineyard I knew growing up as a child, and saw things changing. There was a lot of development going on back then,” he said.

Many people who know Temple know he’s got a hand in many of the sustainability and planning efforts on the Island. Temple joined the Aquinnah planning board, a post he would go on to hold for 23 years. In the midst of his planning board tenure, Temple joined the MVNC, all in the effort to help further sustain the Vineyard.

“When [the MVNC] job came along, it was like a perfect opportunity, because our nonprofit community really is involved in sustaining the Island,” Temple said. “It’s not just maintaining the quality of life, it’s providing the culture experiences and everything else that we come to enjoy the Vineyard for.”

He says Island nonprofits face two big issues: They’re losing a generation of nonprofit leaders as baby boomers retire and fewer young people join, and the many Island nonprofits are so small they don’t have someone in the position to be the next in line for executive director. 

This is where the MVNC comes in. With a need to develop the next generation of leadership, the MVNC helps nonprofit leaders through a leadership development program with the Institute for Nonprofit Practice, a Boston-based leadership training organization.

Focusing on leadership works hand in hand with developing better governance practices is another issue the MVNC focuses on.

One of MVNC’s biggest focuses is on collaboration. Temple said there tends to be overlap with nonprofits on the Island, so the MVNC tries to help them work together.

Mulling over advice to give to his successor, Temple said establishing relationships with people and organizations is key. “Stay really close to the nonprofit community, and figure out the best ways you can help them do what they have to do,” Temple said.

Temple did note there is too much dependence on summer fundraising, causing event fatigue, and suggested new models be offered to raise money for the many important Island nonprofits.

Along with his work with the MVNC, Temple has also been the executive director of Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard, a nonprofit that explores issues facing the Island’s rapidly aging population, such as housing, transportation, and income, and looks at ways to support them.

One of Temple’s highlights from his time as a member of the planning board was going before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in 1999 to make Aquinnah a district of critical planning concern (DCPC), an area on Martha’s Vineyard that’s given special regulations by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to guide development, further preserving and sustaining the Vineyard. 

His planning board reach stretched across the Island when he joined the All-Island Planning Board, and worked with the MVC and the Island Housing Trust to have each Island town develop a housing production plan. 

In a letter to The Times, MVNC board chair Gerald Jones, wrote that the Island and its nonprofit community are stronger because of Temple: “In his executive director role, he helped us build a strong set of programs to help improve nonprofit effectiveness in areas of governance, marketing, fundraising, and board development,” Jones wrote. “He became, and helped us become, a trusted voice for and of the Island’s nonprofit community. Peter’s capabilities also helped us become a ‘convener’ of like-minded nonprofits to collaborate to address Island-wide issues.”

Ann Smith, the executive director of Featherstone Center for the Arts, said Temple served as a “catalyst” for convening arts and cultural organizations on the Island. “Peter continues to champion the arts on our behalf — always willing to collaborate and provide advice. It is really wonderful to have such a strong cheerleader for the creative community,” Smith said.

Paddy Moore, chair of Healthy Aging M.V., and a close friend of Temple’s, had nothing but good things to say about her colleague. “Peter is super-smart, able to absorb and manage reams of research data, grasp the financial implications, and explain it all in easily understandable terms,” Temple said. “He is a great communicator — clear thinker, clear writer, ever able to present dense facts in visual presentations that persuade. He is an excellent administrator — bringing new ideas and new off-Island experts to the nonprofit organizations and leaders in our communities. He is a serious sportsman — never missing the Sunday ice hockey game, and almost always to be found for two hours on windy days on his surfboard or windsurfer. He is a wonderful friend — always willing to provide feedback on new ideas, listen to woes, or suggest new approaches to tangled local political webs.”

Temple’s new job will be helping a close friend who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s manage the person’s business affairs, which have been put into a trust. Temple expedited his retirement from the MVNC when the job offer came up.

Although Temple is leaving the MVNC, he’s not going anywhere, and said he’s open to offering his expertise to an Island-wide project or task force. “I’m not moving away,” he said. “I’ll still be here.”