BrightFocus Foundation

Summer 2013 Standards for Excellence® Institute Newsletter

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The header for the Standards for Excellence Newsletter.

In this issue of the Standards for Excellence Institute e-Newsletter, you will find:

  • Applications Available Now for the Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant Program on October 28-30, 2013 (Due July 15, 2013)

  • Standards for Excellence Replication Partner, Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO) Offers an Audio Version of the Standards for Excellence Code

  • Feature Article: Strategic Board Meetings

  • Spotlight on Excellence: BrightFocus Foundation

  • Harrisburg Area Community College Partnership with PANO offers Certified Fire/EMS Administrator Course

  • Upcoming Standards for Excellence Application Deadlines

  • Upcoming Standards for Excellence educational programming:

    • Standards for Excellence Introductory Webinar

    • Tier One: Essentials Interactive Webinar

  • Strengthening the Standards for Excellence Taskforce-Public Comment Period Coming Soon
  • On the Road to Excellence
  • Check out our Standards for Excellence Blog and visit us on Twitter

Standards for Excellence Institute: Licensed Consultant Training

The Standards for Excellence Institute is offering training, consulting, and support on the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. The Licensed Consultant Training is an exclusive, professional development initiative that gives independent consultants the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to work with nonprofit organizations across the country interested in learning about, conducting self assessments, implementing change, and becoming accredited in the Standards for Excellence Program.

The Standards for Excellence Institute (the Institute) is an initiative dedicated to promoting the highest standards of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations. The Institute is a project of the Maryland Nonprofits (

Program benefits include: a three day License Certification seminar October 28-30, 2013; access to educational and training tools and knowledge base; a two year membership to the Standards for Excellence Institute; a two year license to provide Standards for Excellence consultation; a consultant profile listing on the Standards for Excellence Institute's website; an opportunity to serve as an additional professional resource for the Standards for Excellence Institute on a contractual basis; and all current and updated materials.

To apply, request an application for the 2013 Licensed Consultant Training (due electronically by July 15, 2013). Acceptances will be sent in August 2013. Maryland Nonprofits or Standards for Excellence Institute associate members receive a $150 discount.

For more information and a list of licensed consultants, please visit

PANO's Standards for Excellence Program Partners with WITF to Offer New Audio Code Book

Standards for Excellence replication partner, the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO), in partnership with WITF, recently launched a new audio form of the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. The Standards for Excellence Audio Code Book allows any member of the community who is blind or visually-impaired convenient access to this valuable guidance for nonprofits.

WITF provided the resources to record, edit and produce the Audio Code Book, and Cary Burkett, Producer and Host for WITF, lent his voice to the project. "WITF is pleased to contribute this valuable resource to advance the ability of Pennsylvania's nonprofit organizations to achieve their missions," said Mark Duncan, Sr. Vice President & Chief Development Officer for WITF.

The Standards for Excellence code assists nonprofit organizations in efforts to strengthen their boards, manage risks, realize new efficiencies and fulfill all legal and regulatory requirements. As the foundation of the Standards for Excellence program, the Code provides the blueprint for building the capacity of community benefit organizations to advance their missions.

The Standards for Excellence Audio Code Book can be found on PANO's website at: Listeners can either stream the Audio Code Book in its entirety or select a specific topic of interest. The duration of the complete Audio Code Book is about 30 minutes and is available in MP3 or WAV formats.

The Standards for Excellence program thanks their many 2013 Code Book sponsors and supporters, including Major Sponsor, Mutual of America, for their commitment to the values and positive impacts of the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.

About the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO):

PANO leads, serves and strengthens nonprofits within Pennsylvania through leadership, advocacy and education. PANO's mission is to lead Pennsylvania's Community Benefit Sector to its fullest potential. For more information, please visit:

Feature Article: Strategic Board Meetings

By Heather Iliff, Director, Maryland Nonprofits Consulting Group

Are board members doing at least 80% of the talking at your board meetings? If the answer is no, and your board meetings tend to include a lot of staff reports and PowerPoints, you may be leaving a precious resource untapped. The Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector includes a heavy emphasis on the board's important responsibility for long term planning for the organization as a whole. Many organizations find that their board meetings become so consumed with information overload, that they have difficulty making time for genuine dialogue on important issues like long term strategic goals and how the board can add value to the organization.

In their book, Governance as Leadership: Reframing the work of Nonprofit Boards, the authors debunk some commonly held beliefs that if we can just get board members to understand their roles better, they will perform better. Chait, Ryan and Taylor found that the issue of board member engagement is deeper than that. It isn't that most board members don't understand their roles, it is that many are unsatisfied with their roles! Board members often do not feel fully engaged or feel that their talents are being tapped to their full potential.

One remedy is to help create more situations for board members to lend their creativity to the organization through meaningful dialogue at board meetings about the strategic future of the organization. The following are some practical tips to energize your board meetings.

Reframe Executive Director Reports:

The report from the executive director should come to the board in writing, in advance of the meeting. The report should be formatted according to the main strategic goals of the organization, with bullet points for what has been accomplished for each goal since the last report. One page or maximum two pages should be sufficient. This allows the board to monitor progress on the mission and strategic plan on an ongoing basis, and also drives staff to focus regularly on strategic goals as they provide input to the executive director on the report to the board. The executive director should also include any major staffing changes, grants received or declined and any other announcements to keep the board informed.

At the board meeting, there should be "questions only" on the executive director's report. This helps avoid common tendencies of board members to wade into operations when they hear operational updates verbally from the executive director. More time can be spent at the board meeting on strategic and governance questions, and keep the board out of the weeds.

One Strategic Goal on Each Board Meeting Agenda

If your organization has four or five main strategic goals, and the board meets 6 times per year, this provides a great opportunity to have a "deep dive" discussion of each strategic goal at least once per year. Other board meetings can be focused on the audit, executive director evaluation and other critical board business.

For the discussion of a strategic goal at the board meeting, staff or board committees (such as the fundraising committee or finance committee) may prepare briefings in advance on the organization's progress in the goal area. Then, allow for at least 45-60 minutes of pure dialogue among the board members on the following questions:

  • How well are we achieving this strategic goal? What are the metrics we are using or should use to track our performance in this area? From whom are we receiving feedback?
  • What is the value-added of the board in this area? What more can board members do to advance this goal?
  • Are the objectives and activities for this goal still appropriate? Are they aligned with our mission? Do we need to adjust the goal?\ Have we resourced this goal sufficiently? How much do we spend on achieving this goal, and what is our plan for next year's budget?
  • Do we have up to date policies and procedures related to this goal area?
  • Who are our partners?
  • Etc.

Lighten the Routine Agenda

In order to make room for more strategic discussions at the board meeting, seek ways to minimize large information downloads and routine reporting. Instead, utilize a consent agenda for approval of routine items such as minutes, contracts, vetted policies, etc. Limit committee reporting out orally (in some cases written reports like the executive director reports may be appropriate). Instead focus on committees bringing recommendations for action items to the board.

Board chairs and executive directors may find it a little unsettling at first to make a dramatic shift in the board meeting format. People may be used to more predictable and routine board meetings. When board members creativity and dialogue gets maximized, you may risk having too many "pop-up" priorities or adding things to the staff to-do list when you are already overwhelmed and maxed out.

That is why having a board-approved strategic plan is so important to make these kinds of engaging and energizing board meetings possible and practical. The board and staff must have an agreed-upon set of priorities to ensure all discussions are focused and don't lead to mission creep. Utilizing the strategic plan for reporting and board meetings is also a good way to ensure the strategic plan is used as an ongoing guiding force in the organization, not an opaque document that collects dust on a shelf.

One board member whose organization changed their board meeting format told me that their organization has overall become more effective and strategic since the board has become more engaged. If you do try making this shift, we would love to hear from you how it goes! You can contact me at or 301-537-9519 with questions or feedback.

Spotlight on Excellence: BrightFocus Foundation

The BrightFocus Foundation logo and tagline: Cure in Mind. Cure in Sight.

We would like you to join us in congratulating the BrightFocus Foundation on demonstrating continued adherence to Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector and for being recognized as a Standards for Excellence Seal holder.

The BrightFocus Foundation's strong commitment to financial and organizational transparency made BrightFocus an ideal candidate for the program. "The Standards for Excellence effort has one of the most esteemed certification programs in the country," said BrightFocus President and CEO Stacy Pagos Haller said. "And we fully understand the importance of ensuring that our donors and partners know we are good stewards of their resources in our efforts to find a cure for diseases of mind and sight."

Three research scientists working in a lab.

BrightFocus is at the forefront of brain and eye health, advancing early-stage, investigator-initiated research around the world. The Foundation provides free educational materials to people affected by or interested in these diseases, empowering them to take action for themselves and others. BrightFocus also offers news and research through its websites, publications, social media, videos, podcasts, and TV and radio public service announcements. And through the Foundation's toll-free phone number, 1-800-437-2423, members of the community can speak directly with a member of its information services staff each weekday for support, answers to questions, and referrals.

To learn more about BrightFocus, please visit their website at

About the Standards for Excellence voluntary certification program

The Standards for Excellence program is designed to promote excellence and integrity in nonprofit organizations. The Standards for Excellence Institute offers a voluntary, peer-review, certification program for nonprofit organizations that demonstrate that they adhere to The Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. For more information about the Standards for Excellence program and to request an application package to earn the Seal of Excellence, please visit the Institute's webpage.

¹ The organization changed its name from the American Health Assistance Foundation (AHAF) to the BrightFocus Foundation on February 1, 2013 to communicate its mission to save mind and sight, and to reflect its vision of a world where everyone experiences life fully and with clarity.

Harrisburg Area Community College Partnership with PANO offers Certified Fire/EMS Administrator Course

For the past several years, PANO has tried to reach out to fire and Emergency Medical Service organizations to make the Standards for Excellence training available to this specific part of the nonprofit sector. Jerry Ozog made that happen.

Jerry is the Director of Safety and Security Training at the Senator John J. Shumaker Public Safety Center HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College. Spotting an editorial published in the Patriot News in March 2012 responding to another embezzlement case with a fire company and citing the need for education in best practices, Jerry contacted Tish Mogan, Standards for Excellence Officer at PANO. Within a few months, Jerry and Tish designed a course and offered it in the fall of 2012 to eight volunteer fire and EMS company administrators.

Jerry's vision notes, "The majority of fire and EMS services in Pennsylvania are organized as nonprofits. This course was designed to meet a critical leadership need. To survive in today's environment organizational leaders must understand their responsibilities. This course clearly meets that need."

Over 60% of the course utilized the Standards for Excellence training curriculum adapted for the way that these organizations operate. The remainder of the course focused on leadership development.

Feedback was extremely positive and HAAC offered the course again in the spring. We must have hit a nerve since we had 24 for the spring course.

Brad Robertson, VP of the Monroe Fire Company in Mechanicsburg and class participants shared these thoughts:

". . .What a dynamic and wonderful class! Coming from being a firefighter for many (many) years and never really giving thought to what makes the organization flow, this is a real "eye opener" and is building a strong "foundation" with respect to the Administration side of the Fire/EMS fields.

I look at the information I have learned - WOW.... Because of this class, I have a better understanding of what is expected from me as part of the administrative team. I see how I should interact with others to build a stronger and better team. It's exciting....Here's what "we" have started to accomplish because of this class: rewriting the Mission Statement, rewriting the SOG's, rewriting the By-Laws, coordinating a new Junior Program, just to name a few. . . ."

Many students expressed similar sentiments. For many, this became a first time exposure to the numerous areas of nonprofit management that have legal and regulatory components. "The most exciting part of the course was to see the improvements students were making" cited Tish Mogan. "Student accomplishments included the analysis of Form 990's and improvements recommended, conflict of interest policies developed and implemented, internal controls documented, discipline procedure formulated, a first ever Annual Report produced for one company (and it is a "wow" of an Annual Report) and more."

Since the fall of 2012 HAAC has offered the course three times with a total of 47 attending. Interest continues to grow. Jerry and Tish agree the enthusiasm for the class is contagious.

Upcoming Standards for Excellence Application Deadlines

Upcoming deadlines for Standards for Excellence Applications are September 12, 2013; January 30, April 24, and June 19, 2014. All recertification applications for 2014 are due by the June deadline. New applications and tiered applications will be accepted at any time.

Upcoming Standards for Excellence Webinars:

Introduction to the Standards for Excellence

This webinar will provide an overview of the guiding principles and the specific standards addressed in this nationally recognized model and is appropriate for organizations that are brand new to the Standards. We will focus on how the Standards can be used to implement change within your organization; what resources are available to support your efforts; and how your organization can earn the Seal of Excellence or one of the tiered levels. Register here. Cost is $25 and class is limited to 25 participants.

Guided Self-Assessment: Standards for Excellence Tiered Recognition

This webinar is an interactive assessment-based session that will review the requirements for Tier One and allow participants ample time to ask questions of our staff and talk to one another about challenges. We will review what resources are available to support your efforts and the process to apply for Tier One recognition. Register here. Cost is $25 and class is limited to 10 participants.

Strengthening the Standards for Excellence Taskforce

Institute staff and volunteer leadership are working diligently to complete the work of the Strengthening the Standards for Excellence Taskforce. This effort is completing a full review of the Standards for Excellence program and its impact, including the Standards for Excellence code and program offerings. The first phase, the environmental scan, was completed in January. The second phase, focused on strengthening the program offerings, was completed in April. The final stage of the taskforce effort is now underway and is focused on the content of the Standards for Excellence code. Once the Taskforce has completed its work, the Institute will offer a public comment period to give the public and program stakeholders the opportunity to express your opinions and insights on proposed changes. We hope you weigh in on this important effort. Michael Daigneault of Quantum Governance L3C is serving as the facilitator for the taskforce discussions. Stay tuned for more details!

On the Road to Excellence

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Annual Management and Leadership Conference
4/25/13 Conference Presentation, National Harbor, Maryland: Standards for Excellence Program Director Amy Coates Madsen presented "Innovative Approaches to Engaging Best Practices for Boards."

Kansas Health Foundation Recognition Grants Conference
4/11/13 and 4/12/13 Mini Institute, Wichita, Kansas: Standards for Excellence Program Director Amy Coates Madsen presented The Standards for Excellence Institute's "Pass to Excellence."

Baltimore Rotary Club
4/2/2013 Luncheon Presentation, Baltimore, Maryland: Standards for Excellence Program Director Amy Coates Madsen presented an overview of the Standards for Excellence program.

National Healthy Start Association Leadership Training Institute
4/5/13 Opening Plenary for Project Directors and Key Staff for over 100 Health Start Projects across the US, Washington, DC: Standards for Excellence Certification Manager Melissa Sines presented an overview of the Standards for Excellence program

Check out the Standards for Excellence blog: found here!

You can also stay on top of Standards for Excellence news by following us on Twitter @S4Excel! And feel free to join the conversation by tweeting #S4Excellence with your questions and comments.

Standards for Excellence Institute
1500 Union Ave, Suite 250
Baltimore, MD 21211


FAX: 410.235.2190

Adapted from the Summer 2013 Standards for Excellence® Institute Newsletter