Congratulations To Our Latest Organizations!

March 19, 2015 by


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

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We would also like to congratulate the following organizations who have earned their recognition under the Standards for Excellence Institute’s Standards Basics program:

Licensed Consultant To Host Free Training Through Chesapeake Charities

February 19, 2015 by

Linda Kohler, Executive Director of Chesapeake Charities and a Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant, and Mary Ann Gleason, Chesapeake Charities’ grants and evaluation specialist, are hosting a series of training workshops to be held in 2015, writes The first workshop, “Identifying Grant Opportunities and Aligning Your Program for Grant Success,” took place on Tuesday, Feb. 24, at Chesapeake Charities’ Stevensville location. Participants were invited to bring grant applications that they are working on, and time was set aside for one-on-one consultation following the program.

Future workshops will cover social media marketing (April 28) and managing databases (May 20). Seating is limited, and you must RSVP to reserve a spot.

Chesapeake Charities is a community foundation that supports a wide range of charitable causes including education, health and human services, animal welfare, and the environment in the Mid-Shore area and beyond. All of its 73 funds have a common cause — a passion for making a difference in their communities. Together they have invested more than $6.5 million in the Chesapeake Bay region since 2005.

For more information about the workshops, contact Chesapeake Charities at 410-643-4020 or

Congratulations To Our Latest Organizations!

February 17, 2015 by


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

Delaware’s Dover Post discusses the Standards for Excellence with Replication Partner Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement

February 17, 2015 by


Delaware’s Dover Post recently spoke with Chris Grundner and John Baker of Replication Partner Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement about nonprofits boards and the “search for excellence.”

“It starts with the fiscal and organizational management of the organization, encouraging organizations to have policies and procedures, good board governance in place,” says Baker, Executive Vice President of Policy. “Then it goes on to look at the programs of an organization and that the organization is evaluating their programs to ensure they’re meeting the needs of their population in their community.”

Read the article

Has your organization been featured by a local or national publication regarding the Standards for Excellence? We’d love to share it with the Standards community! Let us know through our Publicity Request Form.

Updated Educational Resource Packet Released: Personnel Policies – Standards for Excellence Employee Handbook

January 27, 2015 by

The following post was written by Issela Sono, Nonprofit Management and Governance Intern at the Standards for Excellence Institute. Issela has volunteered in various nonprofit organizations in the Maryland and Washington, DC area while pursuing her undergraduate studies in Global Business and Public Policy. Issela is certified in Nonprofit Management from Duke University and is currently pursuing a M.B.A., with a concentration in Public Management, at Hood College.

The Standards for Excellence Institute is proud to announce the release of the fourth edition of its Model Employee Handbook, revised with the help of experts in the human resources field to provide organizations with a guide to create and execute appropriate written personnel policies. The purpose of developing an employee handbook is to provide clear and consistent guidelines on how to proceed in the event complicated situations arise in employee-employer relationships.

The newly updated Standards for Excellence Personnel Policies educational resource packet and its accompanying Model Employee Handbook feature changes in the areas of personnel policies development, drafting of an employee handbook, and distribution of the handbook (including the importance of employee orientation).  Additionally, references such as websites, articles, and book resources have also been updated.

Below are a few of the changes made to the Model Employee Handbook:

  • The section pertaining the use of the Model Employee Handbook has been revised and updated. The updates:
    • Highlight the importance of adding an introductory statement regarding the utilization of the information contained in the document.
    • Include a disclaimer to provide protection to the organization in the event of a misunderstanding.
  • New sections have been added covering the following topics:
    • “Reasonable Accommodations” under Workplace Practices
    • “Attendance” under About Your Job
    • “Solicitation and Distribution” under Communication
  • The following sections have been removed:
    • “Compensation Time” from Leave Policies
    • “Consecutive Unauthorized Days of Absence” under Career Development
  • Changes were made to the Equal Employment Opportunity section to reflect the federal law requirements. A statement was added to the end of the segment regarding the variation of state laws and to ensure that nonprofit organizations take such laws into consideration during the development of their Employee Handbook.
  • The “Hours of Work and Overtime” section has been updated to more precisely state what constitute working hours, exempt and non-exempt employees, and the specifics of flextime programs.
  • A section on the subject of “Telecommuting” has been added to the body of the Model Employee Handbook. . It explains the subject in detail, how it applies to nonprofit organizations, eligibility, equipment and software, expenses and reimbursement, roles and responsibilities, supervisor responsibilities, monitoring, intellectual property and confidentiality, taxes, and health and safety.

We are scheduled to release additional updates to educational resource packets later this month on other related nonprofit management and governance topics. These resources are available for download, free of charge, to Standards for Excellence Institute members at our website. Stay tuned!

Don’t Miss 2015 Nonprofit Capacity Conference with Exclusive Pass to Excellence Program!

January 21, 2015 by


The Standards for Excellence Institute is once again a proud sponsor of the 2015 Nonprofit Capacity Conference. This year the Institute and NCC are offering an exclusive opportunity for registrants to attend a pre-conference Pass to Excellence seminar.

The Pass to Excellence seminar is designed for nonprofit leaders to acquire an in-depth knowledge of this vetted code of excellence, and to attain the resources necessary to put it into practice. During the full-day seminar, our expert Standards for Excellence staff will work with attendees to develop a tailored work plan for each organization to implement key areas outlined in the Standards for Excellence code. This plan will help leaders strengthen the management, governance, and operations of their organizations with concrete strategies and best practices.

Attendees will also gain comprehensive strategies should they consider earning the Seal of Excellence through the Standards for Excellence accreditation program, or the tiered approach for recognition.

The Pass to Excellence Pre-Conference and the Nonprofit Capacity Conference will take place on April 1-2, 2015 at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Discounted registration fee for both events is $378. Visit for more details.

Improve the Form 990: Help Us Advise the IRS

January 19, 2015 by

The Exempt Organizations Subcommittee of the IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Governmental Entities (ACT) is seeking your input on how the IRS can improve the Form 990. The ACT is a group of representatives of the nonprofit sector and practitioners who provide public input to the IRS on relevant areas of tax administration.

The Exempt Organizations Subcommittee’s current project focuses on improving and enhancing the effectiveness of the redesigned Form 990, which the nonprofit community has been navigating since the 2008 filing year. We are pleased to provide this opportunity to our readers to participate in the project and heartily encourage you to complete this brief questionnaire at your earliest opportunity. We would like to ensure that the views and voices of our constituents are heard. By completing the questionnaire below, you will

  • provide meaningful input for the ACT’s current project on improvements to the Form 990, which will be presented to the IRS Commissioner at a public meeting in June 2015 and published on the IRS website
  • have the opportunity to be sent access to the published report.

Your participation in the questionnaire is confidential. Responses will be aggregated and comments will not be attributed to any individual responder. We appreciate your willingness to consider this request and anticipate that it will not take more than 5 to 10 minutes of your time. Please click the link below to access the Form 990 questionnaire.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to help provide your important input to this process.

Amy Coates Madsen officially joined the ACT Panel on June 11, 2014. She is one of two new appointees to the exempt organizations sub-committee. The ACT was established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to provide an organized public forum for discussion of relevant issues affecting the tax exempt and government entities communities. It includes external stakeholders and representatives who deal with employee retirement plans; tax-exempt organizations; tax-exempt bonds; federal, state, local and Indian tribal governments. ACT members are appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury and generally serve two-year terms. They advise the IRS on operational policy and procedural improvements.

Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant To Serve On White House Panel

January 15, 2015 by

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Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant Dr. Imani Woody has been invited by the White House, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders to serve as a panelist at the National LGBT Elder Housing Summit. The summit will take place Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at the White House.

Dr. Woody was recently featured in the Washington Post for her initiative to transform the bungalow where she grew up in Washington DC into communal housing for elderly gay people. Woody’s project evolved from more than a decade of work with people who are aging, African American and gay.

“I am honored to be invited to the National LGBT Elder Housing Summit and to share what I’ve learned regarding the creation of an alternative housing environment that is indeed welcoming and focuses on the relational needs of LGBT older adults,” says Dr. Woody. “The Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector, developed by the Standards for Excellence Institute, will serve as a valuable resource for Mary’s House for Older Adults, Inc. as we move forward in raising money and building a stronger nonprofit organization.”

Dr. Woody participated in the Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant Training program in October 2012, and has been an advocate of women, people of color and LGBT issues for more than 20 years. Presently, she is the Principle of IWF Consulting, LLC, a full service consulting firm that works in the areas of Board and Staff Development, Talent Acquisition, Executive Coaching, Customer Service Training, Diversity and Inclusion, the Affordable Care Act and other health insurance benefit information. She has served as the pro bono coordinator of the D.C. Bar, and has worked at the National Association of Protection and Advocacy, the Mautner Project for Lesbians with Cancer, National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, and AARP. Dr. Woody is a member of the Advisory Committee to the DC Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, is a program officer for the Older Adults Advisory Council for Older Adults of the Metropolitan Community Churches, is the Chair of SAGE Metro DC, and is an Advisory Board member of the SAGE National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. She has a PhD in Human Services specializing in non-profit management, a Master of Human Services degree from Lincoln University, and is a graduate of Georgetown University’s Paralegal program. She presently lives in Washington DC with her wife of 14 years.

2014 Survey on the Board of Directors of Nonprofit Organizations

January 8, 2015 by

GuideStar USA, BoardSourceThe Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, and the Center for Social Innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business are presently conducting a survey on the Board of Directors of Nonprofit Organizations.

The goal of this study is to provide insights into the structure and workings of boards of directors of nonprofit organizations. They will provide participants with a summary of our research findings at the conclusion of the study.

As a participant in this research, you should read and understand the following:

  • Completion of the study is estimated to take approximately 10-15 minutes.
  • All participant responses will be kept in strict confidence. No individual company will be disclosed, and your individual privacy will be maintained in all published and written data resulting from the study.

Click here to to the survey.

Leadership for Long-Term Sustainability: The Board’s Role in Partnerships and Mergers

January 7, 2015 by

We are pleased to bring you this article from Debra Thompson of Strategy Solutions, a Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant.

To ensure long-term sustainability, organizations are beginning to explore or consider strategic partnerships and mergers. Is your organization:

  • Always in financial crisis or facing future funding cuts?
  • Looking for ways to lower costs, improve operations or increase capacity?
  • Seeking to grow as a result of a strategic planning process?
  • Struggling to recruit or retain staff or board talent?
  • Being asked to consider partnership or merger?
  • Nearing the retirement of the Executive Director without solid strategic and succession plans that explored partnership options for leadership and organizational sustainability?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then a strategic alliance, joint venture or merger should be considered as part of your long-term strategy.  Board leadership includes recognizing that fiduciary responsibility includes sustaining the mission as long as the need exists.  Organizations, even when facing financial crisis or dissolution should not operate as they have always done until they run out of money and are forced to close their doors, but should explore ways to ensure that the mission continues.  Many nonprofit leaders have shied away from the “M” word fearing loss of identity, autonomy, control, or their jobs. However, following best practices, you can craft a successful alliances that have achieves or exceeds expectations!

Before undertaking any thoughts of a strategic alliance or merger, the board’s first role is to articulate the goals and expected outcomes, first for the agency overall, then for a potential alliance.  This includes conducting an internal self-assessment to determine what your organization brings to the table and if it is a good candidate for a partnership or merger as well as defining specific criteria for a successful relationship that can be used to evaluate various options.  The board should be asking and answering questions like “What do we want to accomplish? What are we looking for in a partner and how will we know that the partnership is successful?” before diving into any specific discussions. Clashing corporate cultures is one of the main reasons that mergers fail, so it is imperative to understand what you are looking for and identify potential partners with compatible core values and cultures.  During these initial phases, the Executive Director’s role is to develop relationships, explore possibilities and to present ideas to the board for their strategic discussion.

According to a resource bulletin published by the  Standards for Excellence Institute, “If a nonprofit organization is considering a strategic partnership, the board of directors has an important role in the consideration, fact finding, parameter setting, and ultimate approval of the strategic partnership. The level of board involvement is highly related to the autonomy retained by the organization in the partnership. For instance, sponsoring or marketing a common event is low on the spectrum in terms of how much board involvement is needed. On the other hand, an initiative involving combining advocacy or administrative efforts requires a higher degree of board commitment to review, approve, and monitor, and a merger needs the highest level of commitment from the board in preparing, researching, reviewing, approving, implementing monitoring, etc.” [1]

Once you start considering a specific agency that meets your criteria, the next step for the board is to pass a resolution authorizing a “collaboration committee.” This is a designated subcommittee of the board, including the executive director, who is authorized to negotiate on behalf of the agency, bringing wisdom and thoughtfulness to the process.   David LaPiana, author of several books on nonprofit mergers, cautions not to “let unauthorized discussions among individuals (for example, the executive director or a small group of board members) proceed too long or too deep without taking the matter back to the entire board for consideration. Nothing can turn a board sour on a recommendation so quickly as feeling that the negotiations have already begun or they are being asked to act as a rubber stamp.”[2]

The collaboration committee discusses the issues to be negotiated, including confidentiality, a memorandum of understanding, the corporate structure, communications within the organizations and to the community, along with the specific components of the due diligence process, that culminates in the implementation plan.  LaPiana also recommends the use of “rolling meeting minutes,” so that previous information is “all in one place” and available during meetings.  Board members should also expect to review a projected business and financial plan for the entity, at least three years out.

“For organizations undergoing a merger, there are specific legal steps the organization should undertake regarding the organization’s corporate structure, some of which will be outlined in an organization’s bylaws and some of which are codified in state law. But, the board’s involvement in a strategic partnership does not end when the memorandum of understanding is signed or the merger documentation is filed. Rather, as part of its important planning and monitoring role, the board should continue to be involved in the process” [3] throughout the implementation.

Leadership means doing the “right things,” not the “easiest things.” Nonprofit leaders should not let fear or the perceived challenges associated with an alliance become a barrier to long term sustainability.   Led by a committed board and with the assistance of a skilled facilitator to get you started if the task seems daunting, following these steps can result in a successful long term future.

[1] Strategic Partnerships:  A Standards for Excellence® Educational Resource Bulletin (2014). Baltimore:  The Standards for Excellence Institute. Page 7

[2] LaPiana, David, Harrington, Robert. (2008). The Nonprofit Mergers Workbook Part I. (4th edition). Nashville, TN: The Fieldstone Alliance Publishing Center. Page 81.

[3] A Standards for Excellence® Educational Resource Bulletin. Page 8.

Debra Thompson is President of Strategy Solutions, Inc., an organizational development firm. For more than 20 years, Debra and her team have provided research, planning, training, and project management support for organizations and communities. She can be reached at, 866-480-8003 or


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