Encouraging Excellence

By: Greg Cantori, President & CEO, Maryland Nonprofits and the Standards for Excellence Institute

Last month I had the pleasure of welcoming the 2012 class of Licensed Consultants to Baltimore for three days of extensive training in how to work with organizations seeking to implement the Standards for Excellence® code.  Planning my remarks, I decided to tell the story of my first week on the job at my previous position at the Downtown Sailing Center…

Our summer Junior Sailing Camp was in full swing.  We had kids of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds out in the harbor learning to sail (a beautiful thing!).  I was loosely monitoring their progress from my desk – listening to the instructors’ commands via crackling radio transmission – when, all of a sudden, I heard the worst, “… body floating in the water…”  I jumped up from my desk and ran down the dock to see what was going on.  Chaos ensued: 911 was called, boats returned en masse, children disembarked, parents called, on-site counseling initiated.

I tracked down the skipper of the boat that spotted the body and asked him to describe exactly what happened.  He said he saw the body floating face down and tacked away (turned the boat) immediately; unfortunately not before some of the children witnessed the scene.  Then he thought he saw a Water Taxi pull up and recover the body.  “You’re certain they recovered the body?” I asked, wondering if I should call 911 back.  He wasn’t, so I called the Water Taxi’s main office to be sure.

The woman who answered the phone was befuddled – she hadn’t heard any grisly reports from her captains.  She promised to investigate and call me back.

Five gut-wrenching minutes later I answered the phone surprised to hear her laughing…  Apparently that morning’s crop of Water Taxi patrons failed to notice when their captain involved them in the random safety drill.  The body our instructor saw was nothing more than the Water Taxi’s “Man Overboard” dummy, Oscar, who is regularly elbowed over the gunnels into the harbor.  Their lack of observation meant Oscar floated for awhile until the captain could come back to recover him.

Hanging up the phone, I felt a rush of relief followed by the strong desire to better prepare my organization for the unknowns that tend to pop up unexpectedly…
The point is a day in the life of any nonprofit is often hectic and sometimes chaotic.  The purpose of the Standards for Excellence program is to equip organizations with the tools and resources they need to transcend – to produce Excellence from chaos.  

It’s our goal here at the Standards for Excellence Institute that every organization be recognized as a Tier One: Essentials organization, demonstrating that they adhere to basic legal, regulatory, and governance practices.  Our Licensed Consultants work with nonprofits here (and across the country!) to learn about, conduct self assessments, implement change, and become accredited in the Standards for Excellence program.  They are our agents of change, our disciples, our vanguard

Thank you and congratulations to our new class of Licensed Consultants!
  Thanks also to the beautiful Pier 5 Hotel for providing accommodations for our visitors and the perfect setting from which to tell my story.


About Amy Coates Madsen

Amy Coates Madsen serves as the Program Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute.
This entry was posted in Ethics, Governing Board, Mission and Program, Openness. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Encouraging Excellence

  1. Leora says:

    Its like you learn my mind! You appear to know so much about this, such as you wrote the ebook in it or something.
    I feel that you could do with a few percent to pressure the message home a bit, however instead
    of that, that is magnificent blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.

  2. I have to admit it was great to get a laugh this morning. A great story – and a great segue to Standards for Excellence. Well done!

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