Standards for Excellence
The Standards for Excellence Institute is:
- An operating division of Maryland Nonprofits that serves nonprofit organizations nationwide by promoting ethics and accountability.
- An initiative that provides individual nonprofits with an approach to achieving the highest standards in governance, management, and operations within their organization.
The Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector (the Standards for Excellence code) is:
- The centerpiece of the Institute’s work.
- A list of nonprofit “Standards” (best practices) in these areas:
- Mission, Strategy, and Evaluation,
- Leadership: Board, Staff, and Volunteers,
- Legal Compliance and Ethics,
- Finance and Operations,
- Resource Development, and
- Public Awareness, Engagement, and Advocacy.
- Free and available to all.
How can nonprofits in Maryland use the Code?
- Nonprofits use the Code to check whether their organization has implemented all the best practices in the Standards.
- Note: Our free online self-assessment is a great tool for nonprofits to assess their organization. After completion, nonprofits receive a detailed, actionable report with links to resources.
- Nonprofits that want to publicly demonstrate that they have implemented the Standards apply to become Recognized or Accredited.
How does being a member of Maryland Nonprofits help nonprofits implement the Standards?
- Maryland Nonprofit members have access to detailed, thorough, current educational resources for all the Standards for Excellence areas.
- Maryland Nonprofit members have access to free training about the Code and all the various areas covered by the Code.
- Maryland Nonprofit members get a discount on application fees when applying to be Recognized or Accredited.
How do nonprofits benefit from applying for Recognition or Accreditation?
Nonprofits of all sizes can find a level of recognition that works for them. Going through the process has many benefits.
The nonprofit will:
- Gain a deeper understanding of its effectiveness,
- Improve its decision-making,
- Maximize its board performance,
- Increase equity and inclusion,
- Earn public trust,
- Become a sustainable organization, and
- Minimize risks.
Earning Recognition or Accreditation sets a nonprofit apart as one that has third-party verification of its commitment to building capacity, accountability, and sustainability.
Earning Standards for Excellence Recognition or Accreditation
There are three levels:
- Standards Basics recognition requires strong policies in place for good governance and legal compliance, and calls for a well-defined mission with impactful programs.
- Standards Basics Enhanced recognition requires all the Basics requirements, plus the nonprofit must be inclusive of the community served, must hold strategic and effective board meetings, and must have programs that are attentive to strategic issues and trends in the community.
- Accreditation (Seal of Excellence) requires all the Basics and Basics Enhanced requirements, plus the nonprofit must create long-range strategic and sustainability plans, build strong board performance, and outline steps to strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion. Accreditation requires meeting all the requirements in the Standards for Excellence code.
Prepare to apply with the free online self-assessment! (Receive a detailed, actionable report.)
Hire a Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant — an independent consultant with the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to work with nonprofits interested in implementing the Standards and/or earning Standards for Excellence Recognition or Accreditation.
Attend a Maryland Nonprofits event about the Standards or one of the many areas covered by Standards (such as fundraising and board development).
Contact the Standards for Excellence Institute with any questions, or to get help.
See below for the fees for “Tiered Recognition” (Standards Basics and Standards Basics Enhanced) and for Accreditation.