Recognizing outstanding nonprofit leaders

Learn from the experience of our winners!

The annual EXCEL Award not only recognizes outstanding nonprofit leadership in our region, but also provides an opportunity for all of us to learn from authentic paths toward excellence. The Center has produced a series of video shorts touching on three key issues identified in this year’s competition. Each video stars one of this year's finalists, with each leader sharing their successful experience in a relevant area of achievement.

Hosted by Sean Sweeney, the Center’s Director of Education and Special Programs, the videos also include guest appearances from Ian Shuman, representing GRF CPAs & Advisors, our EXCEL Award Sponsor.

First release: Staying Focused on Mission

Cast: Emily Gage, Phoenix Bikes
Guest appearance:  Ian Shuman, Selection Committee Member participating from our Award Sponsor, GRF CPAs & Advisors.

Learn how Phoenix Bikes avoids mission creep as a smaller organization, and how they handle the hard decisions that make it possible. Listen in on the ways this organization ensures all their programming serves their larger goal, and how they keep stakeholders engaged in the process along the way.

Second release: Putting DEI First

Cast: Brigitte Winter, Young Playwrights' Theater
Guest appearance:  Ian Shuman, Selection Committee Member participating from our Award Sponsor, GRF CPAs & Advisors.

Discover how Young Playwrights' Theater is able to center DEI efforts at the forefront of organizational management. Listen to Brigitte Winter as she details the ways they work with staff and board to formalize policies and make sure DEI permeates all of their programming.

Third release: Keeping Programming Fresh

Cast: Janine Tursini, Arts for the Aging
Guest appearance:  Ian Shuman, Selection Committee Member participating from our Award Sponsor, GRF CPAs & Advisors.

Arts for the Aging works hard to keep programming relevant and creative. In this video short, Janine Tursini shares the ways they use evaluations, and how they involve both staff and “clients” feedback in the process.

Congratulations to the 2022 award winner:
Brigitte Winter, Executive Director, Young Playwrights’ Theater

Brigitte Winter has more than fifteen years of experience in nonprofit leadership, arts administration, financial management, fundraising, and strategic communications in the DC region. She is also a writer, a metalsmith, a photographer, and the Co-President of the Board of Directors for the Baltimore Abortion Fund.

And we'd like to congratulate our honorable mentions:
Emily Gage, Executive Director, Phoenix Bikes
Janine Tursini, Director & CEO, Arts for the Aging

Click on their names to learn more about these individuals! Thank you to our sponsor and selection committee for their continued time and efforts.

Awarded by the Center since 2005 and sponsored by GRF CPAs & Advisors since 2007, the EXCEL Award honors exceptional nonprofit chief executives in our region. The competition recognizes achievement in the areas of innovation, motivation, community building, ethical integrity and strategic leadership.

Nominations can be made by board members, staff members, volunteers, clients or community members, and can be made with or without the candidate’s knowledge.

One nominee is selected as the EXCEL winner and is given access to a $10,000 professional development account. The winner’s organization receives a $2,000 cash award to support professional development programs for its staff. Up to two nominees may be selected as honorable mention recipients. Each of their organizations receives a $3,000 award to support professional development programs for the candidate and/or staff.

The call for nominations opens in July, and after an in depth review and selection process, winners are introduced at the Center's Annual Celebration in the fall.

If you have any questions about the process, please email