Voluntary Organizations and Civil Society

United States: Maryland Association of Nonprofits Adopts “The Standards of Excellence”

The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 1, Issue 2, December 1998

The Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations (“Maryland Nonprofits”) recently adopted “The Standards for Excellence,” voluntary guidelines for ethical conduct by nonprofit organizations. Maryland Nonprofits refers to the guidelines as a “consensus model of how a well-managed, responsibly governed” organization should operate. Maryland Nonprofits is a state-wide membership organization of more than 800 nonprofits, devoted to strengthening and improving “individual nonprofit organizations and the nonprofit sector as a whole, while also working to bolster public confidence in and support for nonprofit organizations.” Maryland Nonprofits developed the Standards to promote ethical practices and accountability in the nonprofit sector and thereby raise public confidence and support for the nonprofit sector in Maryland.

Standards for Excellence is comprised of eight Guiding Principles and 55 standards. All members of Maryland Nonprofits are required to commit to the Guiding Principles, and both members and nonmembers are welcome to subscribe to the standards. The Guiding Principles address such issues as establishing a well-defined mission and ensuring program effectiveness, establishing policies to prevent conflicts of interest by staff and board members, ensuring financial and legal accountability and responsible fundraising practices, and promoting openness and accessibility. The 55 standards provide more specific direction on how to achieve these principles.

Maryland Nonprofits will provide a voluntary certification process of compliance with the Standards. It is currently testing its certification process on four organizations. In order to gain certification, an organization submits an application for certification together with extensive supporting materials. A peer review group examines their compliance, then makes a recommendation on certification to a standards review committee. Since the certification process covers all 55 detailed standards, it is anticipated that organizations undertaking certification may not necessarily meet all standards at the time of application. Maryland Nonprofits provides educational materials and training to assist nonprofits in complying with the standards, with the goal of helping organizations that wish to become certified to succeed.

For more information visit the Maryland Nonprofits web site at https://www.mdnonprofit.org.

Cathy Shea is a consultant to ICNL on issue related to self-governance, accountability, and self-regulation.
E-mail: catshea@compuserve.com