Rolling Up Our Sleeves to Get the Hard Work Done!

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work in the nonprofit sector.  I am even more thankful to have this chance to work with so many people from different fields and with diverse passions working as hard as they can to fight the toughest problems.  With the Standards for Excellence Institute, we work with all different types of organizations, addressing all different types of ills and problems in our communities and world.

I spent most of this spring moving quickly from one training or speaking engagement to the next—it has been a busy few months with very little time at my desk.  One of ways I like to start such a talk is to cite one of my very favorite quotes, “You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time,” from former US Congresswoman Pat Schroeder of Colorado.  I just love the sentiment that there is a real difference between the people who see the problems and fret about them versus the people who see problems and envision a solution and are willing to jump right in to solve the problems or address the situation in some (hopefully positive!) way. Perhaps you, like me, have little patience for those in the “wring your hands” camp! 

Nonprofit leaders just have to exhibit this quality for rolling up their sleeves and getting the work done.  The people who lead our nonprofits work tirelessly help to feed the hungry, fight to protect the environment and animals, bring peaceful solutions to our world, and bring arts to our lives…..We know that nonprofits leaders are fiercely committed to their missions and the people and communities they serve.  But, what makes an organization able to handle the challenges that face them at every turn?  Having a well run, responsibly governed organization that has taken the time to build a strong infrastructure is one important precursor to being able to handle the challenges of the times.

Our Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector strives to help nonprofit leaders with issues of nonprofit management and governance so that they do not have to re-invent the wheel with regard to nonprofit infrastructure issues.  For years, we’ve been providing resources to nonprofits so that they can live by best practices while they are addressing the toughest of problems. 

The Standards for Excellence Institute is now engaged in an important project to ensure that the program and all of its resources stays in step with the times so that we can continue to provide the best possible resources to help build the capacity of nonprofits to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of their communities.  We have recruited a National Taskforce of over 30 thought leaders in the nonprofit sector. Through our Taskforce’s tireless efforts, we have completed an environmental scan, reviewed all programmatic aspects of the Standards for Excellence offerings, and are now in the midst of a careful review of the content addressed in the Standards for Excellence code.  We have collected ideas and input from Standards for Excellence stakeholders along the way and through a survey that we carried out last summer.  If you are interested in offering additional input as to how the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector can be an even stronger resource for nonprofits, I would encourage you to forward your suggestions to me this month by emailing me at Thanks for rolling up your sleeves and getting involved!


About Amy Coates Madsen

Amy Coates Madsen serves as the Program Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute.
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