52 Tips in 52 Weeks: Helping Your Nonprofit Live Its Best Life

August 14, 2020

Earlier this summer, I read an interesting article in Parade magazine called, “Secrets to Living to 100.”  I was struck by the tips that the article offered. Some of the tips were the kinds of things you’d definitely expect on such a list, like “eat less,” “exercise 45 minutes a day,” and “stimulate your brain.”  But, it also had some tips like “keep the faith,” “cultivate close friendships,” and “have a purpose.”  These tips all reminded me of my dear grandmother who would have turned 100 on August 26th.   Sadly, she passed away just a few years before the big milestone.  I have to admit that I’ve been carrying around this article for two months because I wanted to share it with my dozen first cousins.  You see, our grandmother lived by all of the tenets in the article, except for the one focused on eating a plant-based diet—not surprising—since she was a dairy farmer’s wife for most of her life.

The other thing that struck me about this article is the fact that the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector serves a similar function, encouraging nonprofits to follow its model for well-managed and responsibly governed nonprofits.  The Standards for Excellence code, as stated in its preamble, “aims to raise the level of accountability, transparency, and effectiveness of all nonprofit organizations to foster excellence and inspire trust,” and “provides a framework and step-by-step guidelines to achieve a well-managed and responsibly governed organization.”  The Standards offers advice and tips for the health and vitality of the nonprofit in areas like: Mission, Strategy and Evaluation Leadership; Legal Compliance and Ethics; Finance and Operations; Resource Development and Public Awareness, Engagement and Advocacy.  So, in a way, the Standards for Excellence code is like an instruction guide for growing sustainable nonprofits that are healthy and strong – so that they can be best positioned to meet their important community missions.  Like the article about the secrets to living a long, healthy life, we welcome you to read all of the Standards to learn how your nonprofit can enjoy a long, healthy life.

The Standards for Excellence code in its entirety is available for you to view on the Standards for Excellence Institute website, as a mobile app, and can also be purchased for distribution to nonprofit board and staff members. The Standards for Excellence, its licensed partners and Licensed Consultants, not only, encourage nonprofits to live by these principles, but they also provide a host of resources and tools to help nonprofits live by these tenets. A full series of Standards for Excellence educational packets  include sample policies, tools and model procedures to help nonprofits achieve best practices in their governance and management. They can be accessed by contacting a licensed Standards for Excellence replication partner, one of the over 150 Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants, or by becoming a member of the Standards for Excellence Institute.

I cherish all of the memories I have with my grandmother and am grateful for the lessons she shared with me for living a good and healthy life.

Amy Coates Madsen is the Director of Programs for Maryland Nonprofits and the Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute, a national initiative to promote the highest standards of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations, and to facilitate adherence to standards by all organizations. The Standards for Excellence Institute is a program of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations where Amy has served for more than twenty-four years. Amy is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the association’s comprehensive ethics and accountability program and efforts to replicate the program nationally. She serves as a frequent trainer and writer in the areas of board conduct, program evaluation, program replication, fundraising ethics, and nonprofit management. She has taught courses on nonprofit ethics and accountability at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies Certificate Program on Nonprofit Management.