Earn recognition for outstanding executive leadership

The Excellence in Chief Executive Leadership (EXCEL) Award recognizes and spotlights outstanding chief executives among nonprofits in our region. The competition focuses on achievement in the areas of innovation, motivation, community building, ethical integrity and strategic leadership.

The Center has been awarding this honor since 2005, and the Bethesda-based accounting firm Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman has sponsored the award since 2007. More than 35 executive directors have been recognized.

Congratulations to our 2018 Winners:


Bethany Rubin Henderson
Executive Director, DC SCORES




Sarah Degnan Kambou
President, International Center for Research on Women




Jo-Ann Wallace
President & CEO, National Legal Aid & Defender Association



... and to our Honorable Mentions:

Edmund Glabus, Executive Director, The Veterans Consortium

Amy Yarcich, Executive Director, Rx Partnership

The time frame for submitting nominations opens in June each year and closes mid July, but you can start working on a nomination at any time. Download the Nomination Packet to learn more.

About the EXCEL Award

Why should I nominate?

At the Center, we believe the benefits of the EXCEL Award are well worth the time and effort of nomination, but don’t take our word for it. Hear what past participants have to say.

“[This award] affirms the work we have done throughout the organization at every level, from the Board to senior leadership to our staff. It also encourages us to continue to build on what we’ve done with our own employee engagement platform, our internal Connecting to Mission program and our commitment to professional development.” —Global Impact

“Hope for Henry is transforming from a high-performing local organization to one expanding to meet the needs of our country’s sickest kids. This transformation requires new skills. The opportunities afforded through the EXCEL award will give us the opportunity to elevate our skills and achieve our ambitious goals.” —HOPE for Henry Foundation

"Beyond the acknowledgement of the tremendous amount of hard work that we have done, [this award] also means a little relief. Certainly, finding funds for professional development is a tremendous task and usually the first thing that gets cut. Having some funds to train, study and prepare for the next phase will be unbelievably helpful." —Adventure Theater

Who is eligible?
The competition is open to any chief executive of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the Greater Washington area with an annual budget of $10 million and under. The Washington metropolitan area is defined as:
  • District of Columbia
  • Maryland: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery, St. Mary's and Prince George's counties.
  • Virginia
Board members, staff members, volunteers, clients and community members may nominate chief executives.
What do winners receive?

Up to three leaders are selected as EXCEL Award winners. Each winner receives a $5,000 fund to be used for the individual’s continued professional development. In addition, each recipient’s organization will receive a $2,000 fund to support the professional development of the organization’s staff.

Up to two honorable mentions will receive a $1,000 fund to be used for their continued professional development.

Is there a fee to apply?

There is no fee to nominate or apply to the EXCEL Award.

How do I nominate someone?
The competition incorporates a three-part judging process that includes a part one written nomination and fact sheet, an invitation-only part two interview, and site visits for finalists. To learn more about the nomination process download the Nomination Packet.
Who has won in the past?

Meet the winners of the past three years:

Erin Carlson Mast, President Lincoln's Cottage
Natalia Marlow-Otero, DC SAFE
Herb Tillery, College Success Foundation

Christopher Fay of Homestretch
Scott Jackson of Global Impact
Laurie Strongin of HOPE for Henry

Michael Bobbitt of Adventure Theatre, MTC
Nicole Lamoureux of National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics
Kathy Sibert of Arlington Street People's Assistance Network (A-SPAN)

What best practices and innovative solutions emerged this year?
As a Center member, you can access successful and innovative practices in motivation, community building, ethical integrity, and strategic leadership perfected by EXCEL competition nominees in the Resource Center.
How can I join the selection committee?
The selection committee is a group of local leaders in the nonprofit, foundation, corporate and government sectors. The committee’s purpose is to read, review and evaluate all applications for the award. Commitment includes in-person attendance at a minimum of three committee meetings, two site visits and the award ceremony. Participation on the selection committee provides an excellent opportunity to make new connections and see first hand exceptional practices in action. To learn more or express interest in joining the selection committee, contact Taylor Strange, COO.

Thank you to our presenting sponsor:

Thank you to our 2018 selection committee:

Bethany Blakey, Fed2Fed Solutions
Jonathan Beek, Associate Attorney, Winston & Strawn LLP
Caroline Cunningham, Founder & CEO, Big Vision
Amma Felix, President, Collegiate Directions, Inc.
Christopher Fay
, Executive Director, Homestretch
Javier Goldin, Managing Partner, Goldin Group LLC
Barry Hartzberg, Director of Finance & Administration, Tech Impact
Scott Jackson, President & CEO, Global Impact
Greg Kearley, Executive Director, Inscape Publico
Marla Lahat, Executive Director, Home Care Partners
Natalia Marlow-Otero, Executive Director, SAFE Inc.
Randy Marsh, Director of Operations, Horton’s Kids
Tony McCann, Judge/Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (Retired)
Danielle Schmutz, Director of Operations, Beacon House
David Smith, Senior Vice President Commercial Banking, The PNC Financial Services Group
Herb Tillery, Executive Director, College Success Foundation
Ian Shuman, Partner, Gelman Rosenberg & Freedman, CPAs