Promoting Excellence and Trust in the Nonprofit Sector

Nonprofit Staff of Standards for Excellence

Heather Iliff, President and CEO

Heather Iliff is President & CEO of the Standards for Excellence Institute and its sponsor, Maryland Nonprofits, and is responsible for advancing both organizations’ vision to create a highly effective, ethical and accountable nonprofit sector that drives change through collective action and advocacy. Ms. Iliff previously served as Vice President of Maryland Nonprofits and Director of the Maryland Nonprofits Consulting Group, She is an experienced facilitator, trainer and manager with international, national and local nonprofit organizations. Ms. Iliff served a 4-year term as an elected member of the Prince George’s County, Maryland Board of Education, and was appointed to County Executive Rushern Baker’s Commission on Educational Excellence for Prince George’s County. Previously, Ms. Iliff was Deputy Director of Alliance for Nonprofit Management and Assistant Director of the Institute for Educational Policy at Open Society Institute – Budapest. Ms. Iliff has been featured as a speaker at national conferences including Organizational Development Network Annual Conference, The Philanthropy and Non-Profit Performance Conference, Alliance for Nonprofit Management Annual Conference, and the Association of Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action. Ms. Iliff holds a bachelor’s degree in international studies from The American University and a Masters in Political Science from the Central European University (University of the State of New York).

Amy Coates Madsen, Director

Amy Coates Madsen is the Director of Programs for Maryland Nonprofits and the Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute, a national initiative to promote the highest standards of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations, and to facilitate adherence to standards by all organizations. The Standards for Excellence Institute is a program of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations where Amy has served for more than twenty-four years. Amy is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the association’s comprehensive ethics and accountability program and efforts to replicate the program nationally. She serves as a frequent trainer and writer in the areas of board conduct, program evaluation, program replication, fundraising ethics, and nonprofit management. She has taught courses on nonprofit ethics and accountability at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies Certificate Program on Nonprofit Management.

She has held positions at the Trenton lobbying firm of the Princeton Public Affairs Group, and the Public Policy Liaison Unit at the world headquarters of Catholic Relief Services. Amy received her Master of Arts in Policy Studies degree from the Johns Hopkins University – Institute for Policy Studies in Baltimore, Maryland; and her Bachelor’s degree from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. Amy is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Amy was appointed by the US Department of the Treasury to serve on the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT), and served one term as the co-chair of the ACT’s Exempt Organizations subcommittee. Amy is a former member of the Disaster Action Team of the Central Maryland Chapter. She has also served as the former President of Central Maryland CAN TOO and was a member of the Board of Trustees of the largest United Methodist Church in Baltimore City. She serves as the Finance Chair of her church and is an active volunteer with the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland.

Kate Hull, Accreditation and Recognition Program Manager

Kate Hull manages the accreditation and recognition program of the Standards for Excellence Institute, a national initiative established to promote the highest standards of ethics, effectiveness, and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations. Kate’s role is to lead organizations through the accreditation and recognition process.

Kate started her nonprofit career at Maryland Nonprofits as the program associate for the Standards program and went on to pursue her Masters in Nonprofit Management and work in fundraising, development, stewardship and program management for several organizations in the Baltimore/DC area. She is glad to bring her experiences and expertise back to Maryland Nonprofits. Kate is an active volunteer with WTMD and the Maryland LGBT Chamber of Commerce. In her spare time, Kate is a concert enthusiast and volunteers with a variety of wineries at tasting rooms and festivals year-round.

Darryus Johnson, Member Relations Manager

Darryus Johnson is the Member Relations Manager at the Standards for Excellence Institute and its sponsor, Maryland Nonprofits. He manages all customer retention activities and takes initiative in customer satisfaction via process improvement plans and efficient reporting and flow of information. He acts as a “first-responder” handling feedback from customers, advocating their concerns, resolving and escalating as needed. He develops understanding of member issues, offers suggestions and identifies alternatives and develops unique solutions. He also maintains database information as well as assists members with using fundraising databases.

Darryus previously worked for the MVA, Air Tran Airways and Danya International. Darryus’ work as Communications Coordinator for Danya International and as a flight attendant for Air Tran Airways afforded him the opportunity to support global as well as domestic business operations, and to work with all levels of employees, from frontline staff to executive leadership.

Juliana Thomas, Finance Manager

Juliana Thomas is an accomplished financial and human resources manager with experience in nonprofit and for-profit businesses. She served as accounting and human resources manager for Juele Enterprises, PTC International, and Mid-Atlantic Lifespan and its subsidiaries. She was also tax associate for Reznick, Fedder and Silverman CPAs. Juliana attended Coppin State College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Management Science. Outside of work she is stays busy in ministry work with her church and spending time with family and friends, all of which she enjoys. Juliana enjoys traveling with her family and friends also.

Governing Body

The Standards for Excellence Institute is governed by members of the Maryland Nonprofits Board of Directors and its Standards for Excellence Committee, and individual volunteers who serve on the Standards for Excellence Council.

The Standards for Excellence Board Committee provides oversight and support to the staff of the Standards for Excellence Institute in the implementation of its goals and objectives. The Committee acts as a liaison between the Standards for Excellence Institute and the Maryland Nonprofits Board of Directors. The activities of the Committee include: maintaining the Standards for Excellence certification of the Corporation, and ongoing compliance of the Corporation with the Standards for Excellence code; serving as an advocate for the Standards for Excellence program as a whole and helping to inform the Board of Directors of the program’s features.

The National Standards for Excellence Council is charged with overseeing the Accreditation and Recognition Programs of the Standards for Excellence Institute. The Council’s main roles and responsibilities include: Providing advice and guidance to staff regarding the periodic review and evaluation of the application policies, procedures, and processes; providing advice and guidance to staff regarding the periodic review of content of the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector; and reviewing and approving or denying all Accreditation or Standards Basics Enhanced applications.

Maryland Nonprofits Board of Directors

Joshua Pedersen, United Way Worldwide

Kimberly Corbin, Greater Washington Urban League

Carl Delorenzo, Howard County Government

Philip Symonds, CPA, Comprehensive Housing Assistance

Violet Apple, At-Large Executive Committee Member, Girl Scouts of Central Maryland
Natasha M. Cavanaugh, J.D., Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Richard Escalante, Baltimore Development Corporation
Erica Joseph, Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore
Grace Lee, Maryland New Directions

Jennifer Mcglothlin-Renault, Arrow Youth and Family Ministries
Kate Mcguire, Arc of Baltimore

Mike Mitchell, HIAS
Rebecca Teaff, Redstart Creative
Cheryl Thomas, CPA, Thomas and Associates


Heather Iliff

Standards for Excellence Council

Natasha Cavanaugh (Chair)

Natasha Cavanaugh is a tax attorney for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Prior to joining the Gates Foundation, she served as lead tax attorney at a major public research university where she managed complex corporate governance and tax-exempt matters, including employee benefits and public-private partnerships. Ms. Cavanaugh began her career in private practice where she represented educational organizations, museums, private foundations, and other tax-exempt organizations.  Ms. Cavanaugh has a J.D., University of Virginia; M.A., Sociology and a B.A., Economics, Stanford University.

Marla Bobowick

Marla has more than 20 years of nonprofit experience and a history of creative problem solving. Specializing in nonprofit management and leadership, she has extensive experience with board governance, strategy, and publishing. She has worked with nonprofit organizations of all types and sizes, including regional healthcare and social service providers, educational institutions (independent schools and colleges and universities), family and other private foundations, and local and national offices of federated organizations and professional associations.


Marla is affiliated with BoardSource as a senior governance consultant and Standards for Excellence® as a licensed consultant. She is the co-author of Assessing Board Performance: A Practical Guide for College, University, System, and Foundation Boards (Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges © 2018).


Previously, Marla was a Vice President of Products at BoardSource, where she oversaw publications, online products, and research. During her tenure at BoardSource, she was an active consultant and trainer, developed educational curriculum, managed regional capacity building projects, oversaw the global program, and coordinated the annual conference.


While at BoardSource, Marla managed the “Nonprofit Governance Index,” a research project that gathers baseline data about board practices in the United States. She was also a member of the working group for The Source: Twelve Principles of Governance That Power Exceptional Boards (BoardSource © 2005) and developed a corresponding online survey. She managed “Governance Futures: New Perspectives on Nonprofit Governance” a multiyear research project that culminated in publication of Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards (John Wiley & Sons © 2005).


Previously, Marla was an acquisitions editor at John Wiley & Sons, where she developed Wiley's Nonprofit Law, Finance, and Management Series and the Association of Fundraising Professionals Fund Development Series.


Marla holds a bachelor's degree in English from Amherst College, a master's degree in business administration and a certificate in nonprofit management from Case Western Reserve University. Marla is the past board chair of Maryland Nonprofits.

Melissa Curtin

Melissa Curtin is a certified coach and strategy consultant with Melissa Curtin Coaching & Consulting. Melissa's consulting practice focuses primarily on nonprofit leadership and organizational development. Prior to owning her consultancy, Melissa served as the President & CEO of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County and as President and CEO of the Virginia‐based Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence, a former Standards for Excellence replication partner. Throughout her career, Melissa served in a variety of other leadership positions at Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Forum for Youth Investment, Altria Client Services, Inc., Philip Morris USA and the National Conference of State Legislatures.  A Colorado native, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree from the University of Wyoming and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Denver.  She became a Maryland Nonprofits Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant in 2012.  She is also a Certified Martha Beck Wayfinder Life Coach, a Certified New Agreements Coach Training and Leadership Institute Coach, and an Advanced Emergenetics Certified Trainer. Melissa chairs the Ethics Standards Council for the Standards for Excellence Institute. She currently serves on the Maryland Commission for Women, on the Board of Directors for the Maryland Philanthropy Network (formerly the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers) where she chairs the Membership Engagement Committee, and on the Board of Directors for the Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women. Melissa previously served on various national advisory councils, the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Richmond & Tri-Cities, and the board of Maryland Nonprofits. She is a 2010 graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond. 


Janetta Cravens

Janetta Cravens is the Vice President of Programs at the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits and oversees the consulting, professional development, and membership programs the Center offers to the 18,000 nonprofits throughout the state. Janetta is gifted at identifying, training, coaching, and equipping leaders. She has built her career working at the intersection of social justice and community change and knows the unique support leaders need when they are leading initiatives to change a community and an organization. She specializes in understanding complex networks and identifying immanent workflows and strategies within the system. She has crafted processes throughout her more than 20 years working in the nonprofit sector that have assisted organizations in moving strategically forward to reach their goals. She holds a Masters of Ecumenical Theology from the University of Geneva in Geneva, Switzerland and a Masters of Divinity from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Barbara Ann Cusack

Barbara Anne Cusack received her doctorate in canon law from the Catholic University of America. She served as a judge for the Archdiocese of Chicago before becoming Vice Chancellor and then Chancellor for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She has been an active member of the Canon Law Society of America, serving on the Board of Governors and on several committees. She has served as a consultant for a variety of dioceses as well as USCCB committees. She has published and given talks on a variety of subjects, including diocesan pastoral councils, the role of the diocesan bishop in relation to Catholic schools, diocesan synods, the vacant see, and power of governance. She has taught canon law at Catholic University, St. Francis de Sales Seminary, and Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. She chairs the Board of Directors of Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. She has staffed the Diocesan Review Board for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee since its inception. She represented the Archdiocese in the Independent Mediation System that addressed healing and compensation for abuse survivors and participated in approximately 200 mediation sessions. She is responsible for overseeing the canonical processes addressing clergy offenders.

Peter Denio
Joan Harrington
Julie Hart

Julie is the Senior Director of Museum Standards and Excellence. She has been involved with accreditation and efforts to nurture institutional excellence throughout her 20 + year tenure at the American Alliance of Museums. Her access to, and assessment of thousands of museums’ operations, plans, governance, and policies during her two decades at AAM—plus service on other non-profit certification review panels—provides her with unique and holistic insight into the best practices and challenges faced by museums and non-profits. Julie is regularly sought after by other countries and industries as an expert to advise and speak about the US/AAM museum accreditation model. She has delivered numerous presentations and trainings on accreditation and museum standards across the U.S. and at international venues including Italy, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, China, Taiwan, and Canada. Also, she recently led a comprehensive, five-year reinvention of the Accreditation Program, which included everything from streamlining forms and processes to creating a new economic model to developing new preparatory programs.


Julie has been an Ethics Standards Committee Member for the Maryland Nonprofits’ Standards of Excellence Program since 2015, and served as a Peer Reviewer for eight years prior to that. She holds an M.A. (1996) in Art History from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Joyce Hoebing

Joyce Hoebing is the Administrator for Education at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where she oversees budget and finance, human resources, strategic planning, and new project development. Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, she worked with Towson University’s Division for Economic and Community Outreach, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She is a member of the board of the Samaritan Community. She holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Chicago and Bachelors of Science in Marketing and Sociology from the University of Oregon.

Karen Ito

Karen has an extensive background in nonprofit governance and management, with over thirty years of experience in the sector. This includes work at a national foundation, resource development for multiple organizations, and work as a consultant. She holds an MS in Family and Human Development as well as an MPA with a concentration in Nonprofit Management. Her past graduate work focused on the role of the education system in connecting children with nature and the resulting improvements in cognitive development. Her more recent academic emphasis was on nonprofit ethics and accountability and included research with Independent Sector. Karen has worked with organizations focused on animal welfare, environmental advocacy, community corrections, healthcare, and services for those with developmental disabilities. Areas of expertise include grant writing, on‐boarding training, merger facilitation, accreditation, governance, resource development and strategic planning.

Tiffani Mensch

Tiffani Mensch is the Director of Community Engagement for the Alliance for Better Nonprofits (ABN), a nonprofit resource center serving nonprofits in 25 East Tennessee counties by helping them achieve their missions and make a bigger impact in their communities. With over a decade of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, marketing, and community outreach, Tiffani is passionate about helping nonprofits achieve greater mission impact. Tiffani currently serves as Vice President of the Board of Trustees for Girls Inc. of Knoxville and is a member of the 91.9 Inc. WUOT Advisory Board. Prior to joining the Standards Council, she spent 3 years as a Peer Reviewer for the Standards for Excellence Institute. She also volunteers with several local nonprofits. She earned an MA from Rhode Island School of Design and a BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology.

Cara Morris

Cara Morris is the Vice President and CFO for US Lacrosse, Inc, the National Governing Body for the sport of Lacrosse. In her role she is responsible for Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology, and Facilities. Cara has worked in the non-profit sector for 19 years. Prior to that she worked in Manufacturing and Retail Accounting. Cara is a graduate of Boston University with a BSBA in Business Administration and received her Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Accountancy from Western New England College. Cara has volunteered in her son’s schools and after-school activities and served in a number of volunteer roles in her church including Treasurer from 2010 to 2015. Cara received the 2018 Best in Finance CFO Award Honoree by the Baltimore Business Journal. She became a peer reviewer for the Standards for Excellence Institute in January 2018 and was appointed in January 2019 to the National Standards Ethics Committee.

Patrick Stokely
Debra A. Thompson

Debra Thompson is President of Strategy Solutions, Inc. where she provides organizational development, strategic planning, training, facilitation, research and project management services to organizations and communities who want to grow and thrive. She is a licensed consultant, trainer and peer reviewer for the national and Pennsylvania Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. She was appointed in December 2016 to the National Standards Ethics Committee. Deb has completed advanced training in Strategic Planning, Quantitative and Qualitative Market Research, Total Quality Management and Leadership Development, Systems Thinking & Facilitation (through affiliates of MIT) and is a 1993 graduate of Leadership Erie. Additionally, Debra was a finalist for the International Stevie Award for Women in Business in 2006 in the Technology Innovator category and was also a finalist for the Woman of the Year in Erie, 2011. Debbie is a graduate of Villa Maria College with a B.S. in Marketing and received her Master of Business Administration from Gannon University.

Cyrus White

Cyrus N. White (Russ) is a consultant, speaker, and facilitator. He works with the CEOs and board chairs of foundations and other nonprofit organizations in healthcare, education, the arts, and social services. Russ has extensive experience as a nonprofit CEO and as trustee of private operating and community foundations. In addition to private clients, he is a Standards for Excellence® Licensed Consultant and a BoardSource® Certified Governance Trainer. Russ was in the inaugural 2019 class of the Sociocracy Academy, discovering how sociocracy and dynamic community governance can enhance the performance capacity of nonprofit organizations.


Russ is an active member of the Governance Section of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), BoardSource, the Standards for Excellence Institute, and multiple state nonprofit associations.  For more information, please visit or Pronouns he/him.