Sealholder Profile: Maryland-DC Campus Compact

August 15, 2014 by

We are pleased to bring you this Sealholder Profile, written by Standards for Excellence intern Tammy McCubbin. Tammy is presently working towards a Master of Science degree in Human Services Administration from University of Baltimore, Coppin State University.


The Maryland-DC Campus Compact (MDCCC) is a membership association of public, private, 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities. Initiated in 2008, MDCCC mobilizes the collective commitment and capacity of higher education to actively advance communities through civic and community engagement.  MDCCC provides leadership to colleges and universities in Maryland and Washington DC by advocating and encouraging institutional participation in co-curricular and academic-based public service and civic engagement programs. Maryland-DC Campus Compact became fully accredited by the Standards for Excellence Institute in July 2014.

MDCCC works to mobilize public service and civic engagement programs such as AmeriCorps Vista. AmeriCorps VISTA helps individuals and communities implement grassroots solutions designed to alleviate poverty. Initiated in 1997, Campus Compact VISTA programs join the mission of Campus Compact and AmeriCorps VISTA through projects that build campus-community partnerships to fight poverty.

Executive Director, Madeline Yates, noted about their accomplishment “frankly, our organization had a very positive experience with the Standards for Excellence process. It helped us clarify and strengthen our organizational policies and procedures, and essentially made us more effective in achieving our mission.  We received excellent technical assistance from Melissa Sines at Maryland Nonprofits’ Standards for Excellence Institute.”

Madeline Yates recalls that she first learned about Standards of Excellence “through the Weinberg Fellows program which offers high quality professional development for executive directors in our state. At Maryland Nonprofits’ annual conference I then re-connected with a fellow Weinberg colleague who had gone through the process herself and indicated that it really strengthened her knowledge of how to be an effective [executive director] and enhance her organization.”

For more information about the Maryland-DC Campus Compact, please visit their website at The Maryland DC Campus Compact is located at 401 Rosemont Avenue in Frederick, MD.

4 Fiscally-Responsible Changes You Can Make as a Board Treasurer

August 14, 2014 by

We’re pleased to bring you this guest blog post from Maribel Torres-Pinero, CPA, CEO & Director of Client Accounting Services at Lumix CPAs and Advisors.  Maribel is a Standards for Excellence Peer Reviewer.  


It is an honor being asked to be treasurer of the Board of a not-for-profit organization.  What seems like a time-consuming task is truly an opportunity to make a fiscal difference for the organization you are invested in.  As a CPA with an understanding of nonprofit experience, I have been lucky enough to serve on several Boards.

I served as a member of the Board for a particular nonprofit for about a year, allowing me to study the dynamics at the Board level and identify areas where, as a treasurer, I could make a difference.  When the new slate of officers was elected, I immediately discussed my ideas with the president. These are a few of the changes we immediately implemented:

  • Align Board meeting dates with logical financial reporting dates. This Board meets 4 times a year, including an all-day retreat.  The financials were presented as of the day or week before the meeting.  In addition, some Board meeting dates were a burden for the accounting staff who spent the first 10 days of the month preparing reimbursement requests for their government grants.  Consequently, I requested that the Board meetings be held no earlier than the 20th of the month following the end of each fiscal quarter.   This way the Board could examine reports closed at the end of each quarter and provided time for the staff to perform all necessary closing procedures.


  • Present a full set of financial statements. This includes a Statement of Financial Position (equal to Balance Sheet), Statement of Activities (Profit and Loss), Statement of Cash Flows and Budget to Actual comparison for the quarter-to-date.  Each of these statements presents a different and yet essential view of the organization’s financial health.  The Board should have the opportunity to review all statements and ask question at each quarterly meeting


  • Document Board’s actions and activities on financial discussions. Minutes of Board meetings should obviously include actions taken by the Board.  They should also list the financial reports presented (by name), their dates and significant issues discussed in each.  This demonstrates the organization’s transparency with its financial matters and the Board’s involvement and understanding of the relevant financial issues.


  • Create meaningful dashboards. It is no secret that Board members have differing degrees of financial literacy.  The financial statements listed above can be very confusing for many Board members.  Dashboards present the same information contained in the financial statements in a way that is easily understood and highlights the key points, whether positive or negative.  Three reminders when preparing dashboards: they must represent the exact data taken from the financial statements; they do not replace a full set of financial statements; and no more than two should be presented at each meeting.

These are a few ideas to get started with as you embark on your journey of helping the Board carry out their fiscal fiduciary duty.  There are many more changes a treasurer can implement, and I plan to continue writing about them in future blogs.  What changes have you successfully implemented as a board treasurer?

Melissa Sines, Standards for Excellence Institute Accreditation Manager, to Speak at 2014 BoardSource Leadership Forum

August 12, 2014 by


Standards for Excellence Institute Accreditation Manager, Melissa Sines, has been selected to present at this year’s BoardSource Leadership Forum.

BoardSource’s website states that “Speakers at the BoardSource Leadership Forum have always been among the most influential and knowledgeable in the nonprofit sector. They are inspiring leaders who are catalyzing change; researchers and consultants who are on the front-line of understanding effective governance and its influence on mission impact; and board chairs, board members, and chief executives who have led their organization to extraordinary heights.”

Ms. Sines will be leading a session called Standards for Excellence: Focus on Leadership. Participants in this session will have a chance to assess their leadership capacity using concrete benchmarks and measurements outlined in the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector that have been proven to help organizations grow and be more successful in meeting their missions.

Melissa Sines joined the Standards for Excellence Institute in March 2011. As Accreditation Manager, she works directly with organizations applying to earn accreditation and recognition, helping them reach the highest standards of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations. She has held positions at Jankowski Associates/, DeLeon & Stang, CPAs and Advisors, and as an associate governance consultant at Quantum Governance, L3C, an independent nonprofit consulting firm in the DC area. Melissa received a M.P.A. degree from the University of Baltimore and a B.A. degree from Hood College.

The 2014 BoardSource Leadership Forum will be held on October 9 and 10 in Washington DC.

Leaders of Accredited Organizations Recognized as “Most Admired CEOs”

July 18, 2014 by

Maryland’s The Daily Record has announced its 2014 Maryland’s Most Admired CEOs, a group of 30 top leaders in for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations statewide.

William McLennan, Executive Director of Paul’s Place, and Stephen H. Morgan, Executive Director of The Arc Baltimore, are among the honorees. Paul’s Place earned their Standards for Excellence accreditation in 2004, and The Arc Baltimore earned their accreditation in 2005 through a partnership with The Arc of the United States.

The Daily Record launched its Most Admired CEOs program in 2012 in order to seek out and recognize remarkable business and nonprofit leaders in Maryland. Nominations for the award were solicited from the public, and winners were chosen by a panel of eight past Most Admired CEOs honorees and a representative of The Daily Record. Nominees were judged on their professional experience, community involvement and commitment to inspiring change.

“I am truly humbled and honored. Paul’s Place is a team effort, and I work with an amazing staff, board and group of volunteers.” says Mr. McLennan.

Mr. Morgan stated that he “appreciates the recognition. I feel honored to share this with my colleagues, both internally and externally, who have contributed to our successes.”

Paul’s Place’s mission is to be a catalyst and leader for change, improving the quality of life in the Washington Village/Pigtown neighborhood and the surrounding Southwest Baltimore communities. Paul’s Place provides programs, services, and support that strengthen individuals and families, fostering hope, personal dignity and growth.

The Arc Baltimore’s mission it to provide advocacy and high quality, life-changing supports to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

The Standards for Excellence Institute would like to congratulate Mr. McLennan and Mr. Morgan on their recognition and for the great work they do.


Sealholder Profile: Class Acts Arts

July 18, 2014 by

We are pleased to bring you this Sealholder Profile, written by Standards for Excellence intern Tammy McCubbin. Tammy is presently working towards a Master of Science degree in Human Services Administration from University of Baltimore, Coppin State University.


Class Acts Arts is a nonprofit arts-outreach organization that brings interactive performances, workshops and residencies to local communities. Their programs represent a broad range of artistic disciplines and cultural traditions. Class Acts Arts works with youth, children, and families throughout the Maryland, District of Columbia, and Northern Virginia regions, with goals to strengthen education, stimulate creative self-expression, and inspire a fresh view of the world.

The organization brings a scope of activities into the community to inspire a global world view. Class Acts Arts enhances art education in schools and communities with interactive programs that meet curriculum standards through the arts, and provide unique opportunities for cross-cultural learning. Class Acts Art also works with underserved populations through such programs as Project Youth ArtReach, which promotes positive youth development by providing juvenile offenders in detention, corrections, and probation settings with arts programs taught by master artists.

Executive Director, James E. Modrick, noted about their accomplishment “Receiving the Standards for Excellence is a very proud moment for the Class Acts Arts Board of Directors. Even with an executive transition in the midst of the application process, the Standards kept our focus on the governance and fiscal oversight of the organization. We continue to see improvement in our operations and the board as a result of this process.”

For more information about the Class Acts Arts, please visit their website at Class Acts Arts is located at 700 Roeder Road in Silver Spring, MD.

Become a Standards for Excellence Peer Reviewer!

July 16, 2014 by


Volunteering as a Standards for Excellence Peer Reviewer is a truly special type of volunteer experience. Unlike more traditional volunteer roles, Peer Reviewers are trained individuals responsible for evaluating an organization’s application for compliance with the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector®. Using a peer review process ensures that individuals with diverse opinions and expertise in the nonprofit sector review application packages and that the outcomes will be fair and unbiased.

This volunteer opportunity offers many benefits:

  • Contribute to strengthening ethics and accountability in the nonprofit sector
  • Network with other nonprofit management professionals
  • Access professional development for your analytical and assessment skills
  • Receive complimentary registration to Standards for Excellence-related training programs

Peer Reviewer Job Description

Volunteers are encouraged to promote their peer review experience on their resumes and professional networks as a compliment to their professional experience in the nonprofit sector. If you are interested in this opportunity, please complete the online application. If you have any questions, please contact Susan Larsen at 443-438-2323.

Congratulations To Our May/June Organizations!

July 10, 2014 by


The Standards for Excellence Institute would like to congratulate several organizations who recently earned or renewed their accreditation under Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector®.

Exclusive Interview: How They Did It!

July 9, 2014 by

We are pleased to bring you this article from Susan Detwiler, Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant.  This topic, an important issue for all nonprofits helps us to consider the importance of benchmarks in the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector  on board diversity which states “The board should establish a rigorous board development strategy for recruiting and selecting new members and ensuring that the board has an appropriate mix of talent, connections to the community, and diversity.”

Moving your board toward diversity is tough. Everyone knows it has to be done; yet, as Newton’s first law of motion states, a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Inertia, the tendency of a body to resist change, is the norm. Similarly, without a push or a pull, we continue to look to our usual sources for new board members. Or worse, to satisfy ‘best practice’ requirements, we collect tokens.

But what if the incentive is big enough to disrupt the inertia? If your board foresaw a financial crisis, all of a sudden the trustees would start looking for funds. But what external force would push a board to focus on diversity? Is there a compelling reason to really embrace diversity on a board?

Yes. The future.

definition of diversity As reported by David Feitler in Harvard Business Review, two different studies show that diverse groups are more likely to foster innovation. Prof. Lee Fleming and his colleagues at Stanford University found that “higher-valued industrial innovation…is more likely to arise when diverse teams are assembled of people with deep subject matter expertise in their areas.” Prof. Ben Jones and colleagues at Kellogg Business School of Northwestern University found that “the most influential [research] papers…exhibited an intrusion of interdisciplinary information” and “groups were more likely to foster these intrusions than solo researchers.”

Surprisingly, it’s not a great leap to go from research and industrial innovation to nonprofit boards; even in the nonprofit sector, research supports the idea that greater diversity promotes greater organization success.

Of course, research is great, but if you want to hear a real world example, I can attest to the excitement that comes from having a diverse board. Meeting with the board of a regional theater group, I showed them a headline from five years in the future. “Exclusive interview: Theatre Group tells how they did it!”

Their assignment? For the next ten minutes, write down what amazing things the organization had accomplished that prompted this headline. What activities or initiatives did you take that made it possible? How did you do it? Whom did you collaborate with? What did it do for the community?

When we regrouped, the stories started emerging. But instead of centering on what the organization was currently doing, each individAbstract Artual brought her own vision of what the organization could become. One focused on the what the competedcapital campaign would make possible. One added the idea that theireducation programs became a template for programs across the country. Another focused on building the writers’ workshops. Another focused oncollaboration with a number of other community arts organizations. As each idea was presented, conversation grew more animated, as each added details from their own backgrounds.

Because of the diversity in age, experience, life stage, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, they built a rich picture of the future that no single one of them could have imagined. The stories they created together are forming the basis for a vision toward which they’ll work.

This same exercise, in a much less diverse group, produced stories that were less visionary.  Group members were almost all of the same ethnicity, age range and socio-economic level.  They built on each others’ ideas, but with incremental steps in the same direction.  The difference between the two groups was evident.

We tell people to think outside the box, but it’s not easy.  We are bound by our own experience.  Yet when your board is filled with people who naturally come from other backgrounds, the scope of imagination is enlarged by this rich diversity.

Diversity isn’t a box to check on a grant application, or an ‘ought to have.  Diversity of experience and thought is vital to the future of your organization.

This post was originally published by the Detwiler Group.  Susan Detwiler is a Standards for Excellence® Licensed Consultant who specializes in strategic planning, governance, board excellence and facilitation. Located in the MidAtlantic, she works with agencies across the United States. Have some thoughts to share on this subject?  Get in touch with her at 

PA’s South Central Community Action Programs, Inc. Discusses Building a Bright Future in

July 9, 2014 by


Megan Shreve, Executive Director of South Central Community Action Programs, Inc. (SCCAP) recently discussed her organization’s experience with the Standards for Excellence accreditation program on

“What is really, really valuable is the work, insight and improvement that took place through the process!”

Read how SCCAP is “Building a Bright Future” here.

Keeping the Focus on the Mission

July 7, 2014 by

We’re pleased to bring you this guest blog post from Maribel Torres-Pinero, CPA, CEO & Director of Client Accounting Services at Lumix CPAs and Advisors.  Maribel is a Standards for Excellence Peer Reviewer.  

You start with the mission – Point A.  This is your intent.  You want to achieve the objectives – Point B which is stated in your mission.  This is your goal.  You then create your annual report, which is a way of showcasing your accomplishments.  The fundamental message of this report is demonstrate how well you’ve connected the dots.  So why did your annual report miss point B?

Many organizations report on accomplishments that do not address their stated mission or there is no clear and logical connection between their intent and their achievements.  Some organizations measure activities instead of results. I suspect that many find themselves confronted with having to report their accomplishments, and at the time, come up with the best available data that somehow measures what they’ve done.  This is a last-minute exercise at displaying such a vital aspect of your organization.  I view this as a lack of proper planning at the time you set your mission and improper mapping of those essential points that align your intent with your accomplishments.

Your mission should be as specific as possible, stating a narrowly focused intent.  You can have a short-term mission and revise as you grow and are able to tackle broader issues.  A laser beam intent should be one that can be translated to a specific target by a specific date.  From the perspective of your mission, you should be aiming directly at your accomplishments. There it is: Point A to Point B.


However, getting from Point A to Point B is not necessarily a direct route.  Along the way, you should be hitting the following points that will keep you on track:

  1. What specifically will I accomplish?  State your accomplishments now as if you were writing it in your annual report.  State accomplishments based on how you have affected your constituents, not based on your activities.How will I measure these accomplishments?  It is crucial at this time to set up a system of measurements or metrics that include a base line, questionnaires, follow up calls or visits and other proactive methods of obtaining data.
  2. Strategic plan: This plan, regardless of how simple or complex, or whether it is short term or long term, should be aligned with your stated intent and should have measurements incorporated to each strategic objective.  This document should faithfully mirror your mission, but if it does not have clearly defined measurements that document real accomplishments, you may have created an instant disconnect from your mission.
  1. Annual budgets: A budget is a plan for financial activity and results of operations.  This plan should be aligned with your strategic plan, addressing each strategic objective.  If you have more than one program, create a budget by program, then make sure the planned expenses and operational results are consistent with your strategic objective. The planned use of your organization funds should have a clear connection to achieving the intended results.
  1. Faithfully monitor the system of accumulating data on your accomplishments.  This system is as important as your accounting system, and modern technology allows us to accumulate this data in real time with your accounting data.  You should have access to the data and review it at least monthly, if not more frequently.  Any negative trends or indication that you will not meet your target should be addressed proactively.  If feasible, each program should have its own set of measurements and targets.
  1. Quarterly budget to actual reports. The Board should review these reports and understand any deviations from the plan, particularly for each individual program.  Ask the question, “How does this result affect our targeted accomplishments?”
  1. Quarterly dashboard reports.  These reports should report on preliminary accomplishments against the yearly target and describe how these are measured.  Ask the question, “Are we on target and if not, how do we shift to meet or exceed our target?”

At any stage of your organization’s life, it’s worth taking a few steps back to ensure that your mission is properly aligned with your actions to produce the desired results, measured in objective accomplishments to those you serve.


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