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Standards for Excellence® Resource Library


As a replication partner for the Standards for Excellence®, the Ethics Center maintains a library of educational resources for nonprofit organizations who have joined our learning community, Partners in Learning.  The resource packets include information on implementing specific standards, justification for the standards, best practices associated with the issue, model procedures, and sample policies.

The national Standards for Excellence® Institute created these materials by conducting an exhaustive review of literature on a particular topic, pulling the most useful information, creating original materials (including model policies) where the available information was not sufficient, and packaging the materials in an easy-to-use format.  The following resource packets are available to members of our learning community:

Mission, Strategy and Evaluation

Mission, Impact, and Planning

  • Steps to engage in strategic planning
  • Developing a mission statement
  • Benefits of mission statement revision
  • Complying with legal aspects of mission statement
  • Using your mission statement
  • Developing a three to five year plan
  • Pitfalls of Planning
  • Examples of mission statements

Program Evaluation

  • Definition of program evaluation
  • Purpose of program evaluation
  • Defining your programs
  • Monitoring vs. evaluation
  • The program cycle
  • Approaches to outcome evaluation
  • Logic models
  • Methodologies: quantitative and qualitative approaches
  • Effectiveness v. efficiency
  • Cost benefit analysis
  • Measuring participant satisfaction
  • Using program evaluation data

Sustainability and Sustainable Planning

  • Definitions of sustainability for nonprofits
  • Approaches to working toward a more sustainable organization
  • Considerations of sustainability in terms of: programming, leadership, personnel, finances, infrastructure

Strategic Partnerships

  • Types of partnerships and important considerations
  • Identifying and vetting potential partners
  • Memorandum of Understanding
  • Role of the board

Leadership: Board, Staff and Volunteers

Board Member Responsibilities

  • Board’s governance and fiduciary responsibility
  • Board member legal responsibilities
  • When board members act in a representative capacity
  • Bylaws
  • Policies
  • Board evaluation of its own performance
  • Expectations for board members
  • Board member development, orientation and training
  • Board meetings and attendance
  • Meeting Minutes
  • Strategic Meeting Agendas
  • Committees and Characteristics of Effective Committees

Board and Executive Partnership

  • Defining roles of the board and the chief executive
  • Sorting out board and staff roles and responsibilities
  • Understanding the line between management and governance
  • Hiring the chief executive
  • Executive roles and responsibilities
  • Determining chief executive compensation
  • Evaluating the chief executive
  • Chief executive termination and removal
  • Policies

Board Member Composition and Independence

  • Commitment to the mission of the organization
  • Employees on the board
  • Relatives and business associates in leadership position on the nonprofit board
  • Board member recruitment and selection
  • Board Development, Nominating, or Governance Committee
  • Board diversity
  • Term limits
  • Compensation of board members
  • Size of board
  • Board independence

Personnel Policies, Employee Orientation, Compensation, and Evaluation

  • Benefits of personnel policies
  • Contents of an employee handbook
  • Development of personnel policies
  • Drafting an employee handbook
  • Distribution of an employee handbook
  • Staff management (employee orientation, performance evaluation, outcomes of competitive compensation and employee evaluations)
  • Compensation Structure Overview (Conducting a salary structure review, developing a compensation philosophy statement, provisions of intermediate sanctions)
  • Appointing the executive director, setting executive compensation and conduction annual evaluation

Building Cultural Competency

  • Definitions of cultural competency
  • Developing respectful, appropriate and effective relationships with people of diverse backgrounds and ensuring equal access to resources
  • Cultural competency self-assessment and crafting a cultural plan
  • Developing and implementing a cultural competency policy
  • Tips for a successful cultural competency planning process

Volunteer Policies

  • Benefits of volunteer policies
  • Developing volunteer policies
  • Preparing for incorporation of volunteers into an organization’s efforts
  • Initial assessment or screening of volunteers for appropriate work responsibilities
  • Ongoing supervision, training, and evaluation of volunteers
  • Recognition and opportunities for advancement

Succession Planning

  • Types of succession planning
  • Preparing for succession, leadership and staff development
  • Key elements of succession plans and procedures
  • Hiring a new executive director
  • Succession planning for board leadership

Legal Compliance and Ethics

Legal Requirements Checklist

  • Requirements applicable to tax exemption/tax exempt status
  • Requirements for corporate start up
  • Requirements related to organizations with employees
  • Requirements related to solicitations, fundraising, and related activities
  • Requirements applicable to lobbying activities
  • Miscellaneous requirements

Disclose It: A Charitable Nonprofit’s Guide to Disclosure Requirements

  • Proper registration for soliciting contributions
  • Disclosure requirements in fundraising solicitations
  • Disclosure requirements regarding the deductibility of donor contributions
  • Disclosure requirements in fundraising receipts and acknowledgements
  • Sponsorships and Taxable Advertisements
  • Disclosure requirements regarding financial documents that must be provided to a member of the public upon request
  • Disclosure information for contests, sweepstakes and promotions

Reporting Misconduct and Whistleblower Protection

  • Benefits of reporting improprieties
  • Confidential means to report improprieties
  • Protections for those that “blow the whistle”
  • How a nonprofit can implement a policy to promote confidential reporting of financial improprieties

Conflict of Interest

  • Benefits of a conflict of interest policy
  • Why a conflict of interest policy is important
  • Identifying conduct that raises conflict concern
  • IRS conflict of interest concerns
  • Disclosure
  • Independent review and approval
  • Perceived conflicts and the appearance of impropriety – policy in action
  • Steps to take in preparing a conflict of interest policy

Developing a Code of Ethics

  • Guides the crafting of a statement that conveys the organization’s values to stakeholders and the public
  • Step-by-step strategy for developing a code of ethics

Working Professionally and Respectfully with Program Stakeholders

  • Working respectfully
  • Confidentiality policies
  • Grievance procedures

Finance and Operations

Financial Budgeting, Reporting, and Monitoring

  • Budget and budget process
  • Finance committee
  • Financial statements
  • Resources spent on program administration and fundraising
  • Audits
  • 2009 Accounting Standards Codification and 2006 Audit standards revision
  • Audit Committee and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
  • The Form 990

Financial Policies and Internal Controls

  • Policies and Procedures
  • Investment policies
  • Unrestricted current net assets
  • Purchasing policies
  • Internal controls policies

IRS Form 990 Governance and Management Policy Compendium

  • Ensuring nonprofits have the tools needed to complete the management and governance sections of the 2008 Form 990

Administrative Policies

Crisis and Disaster Planning

  • Key principles and guidelines for organizational responses to crises and disasters
  • Benefits associated with crisis management (and risks for not addressing crisis planning)
  • Recommended components of a Crisis and Disaster Plan
  • Integrating program delivery, service populations, and other stakeholders into crisis and disaster planning
  • Crisis communication
  • Steps in developing a crisis communications plan
  • Attachments: Sample crisis and disaster plan introduction, Roles and Responsibilities of the Disaster/Crisis Team, Sample Risk Assessment Worksheet, Sample Emergency/Crisis Communication Plan.

Information Technology Planning

  • Benefits of Information Technology (IT) Planning,
  • Discussion of the full scope of IT,
  • Strategic IT Planning (including strategy and needs assessment),
  • IT Management,
  • Online Fundraising
  • Getting Started with IT Planning
  • Attachments: Social Media Factsheet, Acceptable Use Policies, Information Technology Consultants, Data Security and Integrity

Communications, Engaging the Public and Social Media

  • Key elements of a communications policy
  • Key elements of a communications plan
  • Nonprofits’ efforts to engage the public
  • Social media platforms, benefits, getting started
  • Mobile applications
  • Attachments: Social Networking Policy (The Arc Baltimore), Sample Nonprofit Style Guide, Essential Communications Tools

Risk Management and Insurance

  • Immunity for nonprofits
    • Federal immunity laws
    • State immunity laws
  • Managing Risk
  • Insurance for Nonprofits
  • Directors and officers insurance
  • Other types of insurance

Resource Development

Resource Development Planning and Sources of Income

  • Cost-effective development of sufficient resources from various sources
  • Elements of a resource development plan
  • Implementing a development plan
  • Major categories of support
  • Evaluating plan effectiveness
  • Assessing sources of income for mission alignment

Fundraising Costs

  • Controlling cost of raising money
  • Determining ratio of charitable contributions for fundraising results to costs
  • Fundraising ratio do not reveal efficiency or effectiveness of nonprofits
  • Reasonable fundraising costs over time

Fundraising, Solicitation, Acceptance of Gifts, and Working with Donors

  • Benefits of fundraising and development policies
  • Accurate and truthful solicitations
  • Donor relationships and donor privacy
  • Solicitations and acceptance of gifts policy
  • Limits on persons or entities from whom organization will accept gifts
  • Limits on type of gift that will be accepted
  • Limits based on the practical or financial implications of accepting a gift
  • Limits on the purpose for which gift will be used
  • Anticipating unexpected gifts

Fundraising on Behalf of the Organization

  • Avoiding commission or formula based compensation for fundraisers
  • Proper registration of fundraising consultant
  • Exercising control over individuals or groups soliciting on the nonprofit’s behalf

Public Awareness, Engagement and Advocacy

Advancing the Mission through Public Policy

  • Advocacy and lobbying in charities is legal
  • Defining the terms advocacy and lobbying
  • Allowable lobbying activities (Default option: substantiality principle and
  • Election option: 501(h) election
  • Registration and disclosure of lobbying activity
  • Developing public policy/advocacy policy for your organization
  • Activities must be strictly nonpartisan

Educating and Engaging the Public

  • Benefits of engaging the public
  • Openness
  • Annual reporting
  • Elements of an annual report
  • Public access, opportunities for the organization leadership to communicate with the public
  • Educational information