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Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County and The Arts Council of Anne Arundel County Offer Special Program for Arts Nonprofits

Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County and The Arts Council of Anne Arundel County offer special program for arts nonprofits in Anne Arundel County and nonprofits EXCEL by earning Standards for Excellence® Awards


An amazing opportunity for Anne Arundel County arts programs aspiring to be more sustainable, build lasting relationships within their network, strengthen their boards of directors, and improve their organization’s performance was presented in 2017. The Arts Council of Anne Arundel County and the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County collectively created a proposal to help strengthen arts nonprofits in Anne Arundel County. Funders collaborated with the Maryland Nonprofits Standards for Excellence Institute and together decided to initiate a cohort named The Arts and Culture Standards for Excellence Cohort to benefit Anne Arundel County residents. A group of generous donors with the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County stepped in to support this important initiative.


In the summer of 2017, Maryland Nonprofits held a special information session about the best practices espoused by the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector and the upcoming cohort opportunity. Cohort applications were submitted, and eleven cohort members were chosen after an intensive review. Over a period of eighteen months, the organizations selected for the cohort participated in:

  • Three hours of Board Excellence training instructed by Mara Winters of Maryland Nonprofits,

  • Sixteen hours of Standards for Excellence Clinic Series training taught by Standards for Excellence Director Amy Coates Madsen and Licensed Consultant Pat Hanberry,

  • Four hours of coaching, and,

  • Six hours of cohort assistance conference calls.


The Clinic Series training sessions were offered over two full days and hosted by two of the cohort members, The Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, and the Chesapeake Arts Center. These stimulating, educational courses focused on six guiding principles of the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. Topics addressed included important areas in nonprofit governance and management such as board governance, conflicts of interest, financial policies, fundraising, and public policy. The cohort conference calls offered each member the opportunity to delve deeper into the six guiding principles of the Standards for Excellence code. The coaching sessions were personalized and centered around each organization’s individual goals, questions, and concerns. Participating members were also required to complete applications for Standards for Excellence Basics, Basics Enhanced, or full accreditation. All cohort members submitted applications to the accreditation and recognition program.


Organizations that successfully completed their accreditation or recognition by Fall 2020 were celebrated at the 2020 Maryland Nonprofits Annual Conference via an award presentation hosted by Natasha Cavanaugh (of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Standards for Excellence Council Chair). The Arts and Culture Standards for Excellence Cohort members were acknowledged for achieving the Standards for Excellence accreditation and Standards Basics and Basics Enhanced recognition. The Community Foundation and Arts Council were also recognized for their leadership in the program.


As of June 2021, all eleven members of The Arts and Culture Standards for Excellence Cohort to Benefit Anne Arundel County Residents have earned Standards for Excellence accreditation, Standards for Excellence Basics recognition or Standards for Excellence Basics Enhanced Recognition.


Full Accreditation:

Those who received their accreditation have worked hard to gain the highly anticipated privilege to display the Standards for Excellence Seal of Excellence. The Seal also indicates that an organization is committed to equity and inclusion, that their board is leading effectively, and that their programs are continuously evaluated. By earning the coveted Seal of Excellence, a nonprofit is proudly saying that all stakeholders can have confidence in the organization’s quality of programs, accountability, openness, and commitment to best practices.


Annapolis Maritime Museum

Annapolis Opera Company

Chesapeake Arts Center

Encore Creativity for Older Adults

Maryland Concert Series

Maryland Federation of Art

Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts


Basics Enhanced Recognition:

The Musical Autist


Basics Recognition:

Annapolis Arts District

Annapolis Film Festival

The Creative and Performing Arts of South County



During the Standards for Excellence Awards Ceremony at the Maryland Nonprofits Annual Conference, several cohort members shared their insights and experiences:

Mr. F. Joseph Gormley, President of Annapolis Arts District, a cohort member that achieved Basics recognition, shared that they “chose to seek Standards for Excellence certification because we feel that all stakeholders benefit when they have confidence that resources will be used effectively and efficiently…”

Annapolis Maritime Museum and Park President Alice Estrada expressed that they were “thrilled to have achieved the Standards for Excellence certification …confident that we have the best guidelines, policies, and procedures…it will allow us to continue our trajectory for growth.”

Maryland Federation of Art Executive Director JoAnn Vaughan shared that “Standards for Excellence has given us a renewed sense of purpose”.

Chesapeake Arts Center Strategic Initiatives Advisor, Belinda Fraley Huesman, articulated their experience by stating, “Grateful for the opportunity to participate, thank you to Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County…put us above board in all policies and procedure…true learning experience…cannot wait to put the seal on our website…”


The cohort members, supporters, and organizers concur that this concept can and should be repeated with additional groups of nonprofits. The Standards for Excellence Institute provides exclusive educational material that proves to be positively beneficial to the sustainability of nonprofit organizations. The lead consultant on this project, Pat Hanberry, offered, “the Standards for Excellence Arts and Culture Cohort was an excellent model and should be replicated,” she highlighted that “regardless of where they were in their development, each member acquired additional knowledge from the experience.”

Mary Spencer, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County (CFAAC) shared, "CFAAC is very proud of the partnership we established with the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County and Maryland Nonprofits that ensured the success of this creative opportunity to strengthen our local arts nonprofits. The collaboration was further strengthened by a group of passionate donors who had the vision to establish our first-ever arts cohort; a group formed to support peer learning and support as they completed this program. Kudos to all."

"The Anne Arundel arts community is grateful for the opportunity to participate in such a worthy program. The Arts Council recognizes a marked improvement in operations for the organizations participating in this cohort. We applaud the generous donors, Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, and Maryland Nonprofits," offered April Nyman, Executive Director of the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County.

Nonprofit leaders who wish to strengthen their organization will discover that the Standards for Excellence Institute provides solutions to organizations at a variety of different levels focused on building their capacity and strengthening their work in meeting their missions. Participating in the Arts and Culture Standards for Excellence Cohort to benefit Anne Arundel County residents has placed members in the position to become more viable, create lifelong meaningful connections within their network, reinforce their board of directors, and amplify their organization’s performance.

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About the Author: Shantell Kendall