The Standards for Excellence® – Educational Resource Packets

The Standards for Excellence Institute® has developed and maintains educational resource packets for organizations interested in implementing the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. The educational resource packets generally include information on the importance of implementing specific standards, justification for the standards, best practices associated with the issue, model procedures and sample policies. Structurally, they include a narrative memo and attachments. The attachments include both original materials created by the Standards for Excellence Institute, as well as documents that have been obtained with permission from other sources.

The Standards for Excellence educational resource packets were prepared by conducting an exhaustive review of the literature on the particular topic, pulling the most useful information, creating original materials (including model policies) where the available information is not sufficient, and packaging the materials in an easy to use format. The cover memo for each packet provides a conceptual framework which is intended to help organizations make good use of the accompanying materials.

Collectively, the packets cover each of the 67 standards in the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. The following Standards for Excellence educational resource packets are available:


Mission, Strategy and Evaluation

(1) Mission, Impact and Planning (Updated January 2015)

  • Steps the engage in strategic planning
    • Conduct a SWOT analysis
    • Develop and revise the mission statement
    • Create a plan
    • Developing a 3 to 5 year plan (strategic plan)
      • Prepare to plan
      • Get organized
      • Review mission, vision, and values
      • Decide on strategies
      • Create goals and objectives
      • Connect long range strategic planning with ongoing operations
    • Pitfalls of planning
    • Examples of mission statements
    • Attachments: Strategic Plan Sample Worksheet for Executive Summary and Sample Strategic Plan Implementation/Action Plan

(2) Program Evaluation (updated January 2015)

  • 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
  • Data collection techniques
  • Effectiveness v. efficiency
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Measuring participant satisfaction
  • Using program evaluation data
  • Attachment: Sample Outcomes Logic Model (WK Kellogg Foundation) and Sample Program Evaluation Matrix (Standards for Excellence Institute)

(3) Strategic Partnerships (updated February 2015)

  • Types of partnerships and important considerations
  • Identifying and vetting potential partners
  • Memorandum of Understanding
  • Role of the board
  • Attachments: Sample Policy on Strategic Partnerships (Pathfinders for Autism), Mergers Due Diligence Checklist, Legal Issues and Nonprofit Mergers


Leadership: Board, Staff and Volunteers

(4) Board Member Responsibilities (updated September 2018)

  • Board’s governance and fiduciary responsibility
  • Board member legal responsibilities
  • When board members act in a representative capacity
  • Bylaws
  • Policies
  • Board evaluations of its own performance
  • Expectations for board members
  • Board member development, orientation and training
  • Board meetings and attendance
  • Meeting minutes
  • Strategic meeting agendas
  • Committees
  • Some characteristics of effective committees
  • Attachments: Sample Bylaws, Sample Board Evaluation, Position Description, Sample Board Commitment Form, Board Orientation Checklist, Board Member Handbook, Ten Tips for Effective Meetings, Board Meeting Minutes, and Board Committees, list of policies that should be approved by the board

 (5) Board and Executive Partnership (updated September 2014)

  • Defining roles
  • 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/removal
  • Policies
  • Additional policy considerations
  • Attachments: Leadership Roles in Management and Governance Diagram, Board Calendar Board Room Quick Tip, Sample Position Description: Executive Director, Sample Executive Director Evaluation Process Resource Tool

(6) Succession Planning (updated September 2016)

  • Staff departure-defined succession planning vs. emergency succession planning
  • Preparing for succession, leadership development
  • Developing succession pans and procedures
  • Key elements of succession plans and procedures
  • Hiring a new executive director
  • Succession planning for board leadership
  • Attachments: Sample Leadership Development and Succession Plan, Board Room Quick Tip, Strategies for Successful Succession

(7) Board Member Composition and Independence (updated September 2014)

  • 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
  • Board size
  • Board independence
  • Attachments:  Board Development Committee, Board Composition Analysis, Statements on Board Diversity, Family and Business Relationships and Interested Person Independence Questionnaire

 (8) Personnel Policies, Employee Orientation, Compensation, and Evaluation (Updated December 2016)

  • Board and staff human resource roles and responsibilities
  • Personnel Policies and Procedures
    • Benefits of personnel policies
    • Model employee handbook
    • Developing personnel policies
    • Drafting an employee handbook
    • Distributing the handbook
    • Additional policies to consider
    • Staff Management
  • 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
    • Hiring the executive director
    • Setting the executive director’s compensation
    • Evaluating the executive director’s performance
  • Attachments: Annual Reviews of Executive Director, Annual Employee Evaluation Form, Compensation Philosophy Statements, Compensation Policy for Employees, Compensation Policy for Executive Director, Model Review of Organization’s Salary Structure, Model Employee Handbook (includes employee orientation checklist) and A Charitable Nonprofits’ Guide to Telecommuting

(9) Organizational Sustainability and Sustainability Planning (updated October 2017)

  • Taking a broader view of sustainability and sustainability planning
  • Working toward a more sustainable organization
  • Double bottom line: The Matrix Map
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Strategic Planning
  • Capital Planning (Operating reserve, facilities and maintenance)
  • Funding Depreciation
  • Strategic Partnerships
  • Succession Planning
  • Leadership Development
  • Succession Planning for Board Leadership
  • Definitions of sustainability for nonprofits
  • Approaches to working toward a more sustainable organization
  • Considerations of sustainability in terms of: programming, leadership, personnel, finances, infrastructure
  • Attachments:  Sample worksheets on cataloging income, capturing expenses, and assets and liabilities, organizational sustainability assessment, calculating revenue and expenses by program (Recession Tool Kit)

 (10) Volunteer Policies (updated September 2016)

  • Benefits of volunteer policies
  • Developing volunteer policies
  • Preparing for incorporating volunteers into an organization’s efforts
  • Ongoing volunteers and episodic/special events volunteers
  • Nonprofits engaging unpaid interns
  • Whistleblower protection for volunteers
  • Inclusive workplace
  • Initial assessment or screening of volunteers
  • Assigning and training volunteers for appropriate work responsibilities
  • Ongoing supervision and evaluation
  • Motivating and promoting volunteer enthusiasm and productivity
  • Recognition and opportunities for advancement
  • Attachments: Model Volunteer Program Policies and Procedures, Position Description for Volunteer Coordinator, Sample Volunteer Policies, Sample Volunteer Agreement, Sample Agreement for Unpaid interns

(11) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (updated November 2018)

  • Assessing your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work and values
  • Creating a strong and effective DEI Policy
  • Historical concept for DEI
  • Understanding the terms and language around DEI
  • Benefits of including DEI practices within programmatic outcomes and nonprofit work culture
  • Attachments: Organizational assessment and planning for DEI, Sample DEI Self Assessment for Nonprofit Organizations, DEI Self Assessment for a Nonprofit’s Stakeholders, Sample DEI Plan (Oyster Recovery Project), Sample Cultural Competency Policy (Arc of Central Chesapeake)


Legal Compliance and Ethics

(12) Legal Requirements Checklist (updated October 2016)

  • Affordable Care Act
  • Employer shared responsibility provisions under the Affordable Care Act
  • Notice for retirement benefits for same sex marriages
  • Requirements applicable to tax exemption/tax exempt status
  • Requirements for corporate start up
  • Requirements related to organizations with employees
  • Requirements related to Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Requirements related to solicitations, fundraising, and related activities
  • Requirements applicable to lobbying activities
  • Miscellaneous requirements
  • Attachments: Checklist of Compliance with Selected Legal, Regulatory, and Financial Reporting Requirements for Charitable Nonprofits, 

(13) Disclose It: A Charitable Nonprofit’s Guide to Disclosure Requirements (updated October 2018)

  • Before you solicit contributions be sure your organization and the fundraisers it works with are properly registered
  • Disclosure requirements in fundraising solicitations
  • Disclosure requirements regarding the deductibility of donor contributions
    • Deductibility and charitable auctions
    • Deductibility and membership benefits
    • Benefits provided to employees of corporate contributors
  • Disclosure requirements in fundraising receipts/acknowledgements
  • Sponsorships and taxable advertisements
  • Disclosure requirements regarding financial documents that must be provided to a member of the public upon request
  • Detailed disclosures are required for contests, sweepstakes and promotions

(14) Reporting Misconduct and Whistleblower Protection (Updated June 2015)

  • 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
  • Attachments:  Sample policy on Confidential Reporting of Financial Impropriety or Misuse of Organization’s Resources, Sample policy on Reporting Improprieties, Fraudulent or Dishonest Conduct, Sample Financial Impropriety or Misuse Policy, Sample Job Description for Individual (Volunteer or Paid Staff) Managing the Ethics Hotline (or similar mechanism to provide employees a confidential means to report suspected financial improprieties or misuse of organization resources).

(15) Conflicts of Interest (updated July 2018)

  • Why a conflict of interest policy is important
  • Identifying conduct that raises conflict concern
  • Benefits of a conflict of interest policy
  • Disclosure
  • Duality of Interest
  • Independent review and approval
  • Perceived conflicts and the appearance of impropriety – policy in action
  • Nepotism
  • Other family relationships
  • Other business interests
  • Gifts/no-gifts policy
  • Summary of steps to take in preparing a conflict of interest policy
  • Attachments: Model Conflict of Interest Policy, Model Conflicts of Interest Annual Affirmation of Compliance and Disclosure Statement, Sample Questionnaire on Family and Business Relationships and Interested Person Independence, Sample Gifts to Staff Policy

(16) Developing a Code of Ethics (updated October 2014)

  • Developing a code of ethics
  • Step-by-step strategy for developing a code of ethics

(17) Working Professionally and Respectfully with Program Stakeholders (updated February 2015)

  • Respect
  • Confidentiality policies
  • Grievance procedures
  • Attachments: Sample Statement of Privacy, Sample Confidentiality Policy with Accompanying Enrollment Form and Family Rights Policy (Prince Georges’ Childcare Resource Center),and Sample Fundamental Human Rights Policy (Humanim)


Finance and Operations

(18) Financial Budgeting, Reporting, and Monitoring (Updated June 2015)

  • The budget
  • The finance committee
  • Steps in the budget process
  • 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
  • Form 990
  • Attachments: Glossary of Terms associated with financial planning and monitoring, Sample Request for Proposal for an Audit, sample Independent Nonprofit Auditor Policy, Board’s Review of the Form 990 Policy, Effective Fiscal Management, Sample Section of Board Minutes Reflecting Review of Percentages Spent on Program, Administration and Fundraising

(19) Financial Policies and Internal Controls (Updated June 2015)

  • Policies versus procedures
  • Policies address in the Standards for Excellence code
    • Investment policies
    • Unrestricted current net assets
    • Purchasing policies
    • Internal controls policies and procedures
  • Attachments: Sample Investment Policies, Sample Joint Venture Policy, Sample Policy on Unrestricted Net Assets, Model Purchasing Policy, Sample Internal Control Policy, Practical and Almost Painless Approaches to Improving Internal Controls

(20) Administrative Policies (updated October 2017)

Crisis and Disaster Planning

  • Importance for nonprofits
  • Dealing with crisis
  • 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 Continuity Plan Worksheet, Sample Emergency/Crisis Communication Plan

Information Technology Planning

  • Benefits of information technology (IT) planning
  • Full scope of information technology
  • IT Policies (acceptable use, contracting, outsourcing, data integrity,
  • Strategic IT Planning (including strategy and needs assessment, budgeting, total costs of ownership)
  • Online Fundraising
  • Getting Started with IT Planning
  • Attachments: Sample Technology Policy (and Privacy Policy for Users), Acceptable Use Policies, Information Technology Consultants, Data Security and Integrity, Getting Started with IT Planning

Communications and Social Media

  • How to begin
  • Social Media Platforms
  • Mobile Applications
  • The communications policy
  • The communications plan
  • Working with social media
  • Attachments: Sample Nonprofit Style Guide, Sample Communications Policy, Social Networking Policy (The Arc Baltimore), Essential Communications Tools (excerpted from Generate Buzz! Strategic Communications of Nonprofit Boards)

(21) Risk Management and Insurance (updated September 2018)

  • Managing Risk (with risk cycle)
  • Insurance for Nonprofits
  • Directors and officers insurance
  • Other types of insurance
  • Immunity for nonprofits
    • Federal immunity laws
    • State immunity laws
  • Attachment: Questions and Answers about D & O Coverage


 Resource Development

(22) Resource Development Planning and Sources of Income (updated October 2014)

  • Elements of a resource development plan
  • Carrying out the development plan
  • Sample income streams that may be found in a resource development plan
  • Assessing sources of income Attachments: Sample Resource Development Plan, Sample Board Development Calendar, Income Worksheet, Fundraising Case Statement Fundraising Readiness Worksheet, Annual Campaign Information, Telemarketing and Phone-a-thon Information, Major Gifts, Grants, Federated Fundraising, Special Events, Planned Giving Overview, Supporting Organizations Overview 

(23) Fundraising Costs (Updated November 2014)

  • Controlling cost of raising money
  • Determining ratio of charitable contributions for fundraising results to costs
  • Fundraising ratios do not reveal efficiency or effectiveness of nonprofits
  • Reasonable over time
  • Attachments: Typical Fundraising Event Expenses, Nonprofit’s Fundraising Expenses

(24) Fundraising, Solicitation, Acceptance of Gifts, and Working with Donors (Updated September 2016)

  • Benefits of fundraising and development policies
  • Fundraising activities
  • Online fundraising
  • Fundraising by third parties
  • Donor relationships and privacy
  • Acceptance of gifts
    • Limits on persons or entities from whom organization will accept gifts
    • Limits on types of gift that will be accepted
    • Limits based on the practical or financial implications of accepting a gift
    • Limits on the purpose for which a gift will be used
    • Anticipating the unexpected
  • Attachments: Model Solicitations and Acceptance of Gifts Policy, Donor Bill of Rights (Association of Fundraising Professionals)

(25) Fundraising on Behalf of the Organization (updated November 2014)

  • Working with fundraising consultants
  • 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
  • Attachment: Sample Fundraising Agreement for Outside Organizations Raising Money Without Charge on Behalf of a Nonprofit


 Public Awareness, Engagement and Advocacy

(26) Educating and Engaging the Public (updated September 2014)

  • Benefits of engaging the public
  • How to begin
  • Openness
  • Annual reporting
  • Five elements of an annual report
    • Element 1: Mission statement
    • Element 2: Program activities and accomplishments
    • Element 3: Basic financial report
    • Element 4: Names of board members
    • Element 5: Names of management staff
  • Public access – opportunities for the public to communicate with organization leadership
  • Public access – opportunities for the organization leadership to communicate with the public
  • Educational information
  • Attachment: Final Checklist Before Releasing Materials to Public

(27) Advancing the Mission through Public Policy (updated August 2014)

  • Advocacy and lobbying in charities is legal
  • Defining the terms: What is advocacy? What is lobbying?
  • Allowable lobbying activity
    • Federal regulations
  • Registration and disclosure of lobbying activity
  • Developing an advocacy policy for your organization
  • Activities must be strictly nonpartisan
  • Attachments: Sample Policy on Public Policy, Sample Advocacy Policy, Limited Advocacy Policy, Worry-Free Lobbying for Nonprofits, (Alliance for Justice, 2012)

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
  • Attachments: Board Member Independence Questionnaire, Board’s Review of the Form 990, Conflict of Interest Policy, Compensation Policy, Auditor Independence Policy, Whistleblower Policy, Joint Ventures Policy, Expense Reimbursement Policy, Solicitation and Acceptance of Gifts Policy, Document Retention and Destruction Policy

Updated November 4, 2018

"Leadership is not about being in charge, it's about taking care of those in your charge"