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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Standards for Excellence Information

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Welcome to Standards for Excellence® at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, a customized ethics training program for nonprofits and philanthropists in the Social Sector. America’s social sector plays an essential role in our society and economy, and it’s vital to have accessible professional development opportunities to strengthen our nonprofit organizations.  The Social Sector ethics program at the Markkula Center offers this training and support about nonprofit standards to contribute to the sector’s sustained vitality.

Please save the dates for our upcoming Clinic Series trainings on November 12 & 13, 2020.  For more information about registration, visit our training page.


In a 2016 report on philanthropy in Silicon Valley, the Giving Code by Open Impact, several gaps between nonprofits and philanthropists were identified, including gaps in knowledge and information, social networks and experience, mindset and language and empathy.  The learning offered through Standards for Excellence® training and associated materials aims directly at closing these gaps.  Using a national set of standards outlined in a code of accountability for nonprofits, the Ethics Center has woven its own Framework for Ethical Decision Making through the training and materials to provide a truly unique blend of ethics training and practical tools for nonprofits, their boards, and donors.

The Standards for Excellence® aims to raise the level of accountability, transparency, and effectiveness of all nonprofit organizations to foster excellence and inspire trust. The Standards for Excellence® code provides step-by-step guidelines to achieve a well-managed and responsibly governed organization.

The code builds upon the legal foundations of nonprofit management, governance, and operations to embrace fundamental values such as honesty, integrity, fairness, respect, trust, compassion, responsibility, and transparency. The code consists of six Guiding Principles in 27 topic areas with specific performance benchmarks that characterize effective, ethical, and accountable organizations. Our program helps those in the social sector operate in accordance with the Standards for Excellence® code by providing educational resources, assistance, and a voluntary accreditation process.

Nonprofits enrich our lives in a variety of ways by creating a broad array of benefits to society in fields such as charitable, religious, scientific, economic, health, cultural, civil rights, environment, and education. Individuals, corporations, foundations, philanthropists, and federal, state, and local governments add value to the services that nonprofits provide by investing time, resources, and funds.

We encourage all nonprofit organizations to adopt the Guiding Principles of the Standards for Excellence® code and participate in our two-day training series and individual topic sessions. By becoming a member of our learning community, and implementing the performance benchmarks in the code, nonprofit organizations will meet the highest ethical standards for effective service in the public interest.

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