“Accreditation” vs. “Compliance”—The Whole Story

By Daria Teutonico, National Standards Manager, Community Foundations National Standards Board 

National Standards SealIf you attended the Council on Foundations’ 2012 Fall Conference for Community Foundations in New Orleans, you may have noticed something new: A ribbon with the word “Accredited” and a picture of the National Standards seal.

This ribbon was given to all conference participants from community foundations that are currently in compliance with the National Standards for U.S. Community FoundationsTM. Many conference participants were excited that we acknowledged their achievement in this way. Several were surprised (most of them pleasantly) that we used the term accreditation. And a few were confused. Therefore, I thought it important to provide some additional information so that everyone understands this language and the reasoning behind it.

The National Standards program is an accreditation program that confirms community foundations are in compliance with the National Standards for U.S. Community FoundationsTM. When the program was initially created and run directly by the Council on Foundations, the phrase “confirmation of compliance” was used and the term “accreditation” was avoided. But when the Community Foundations National Standards Board (CFNSB) was created in 2009, it was decided that the word “accreditation” could be used because the CFNSB was now the accrediting body. It was also decided that community foundations could continue to use the phrase “confirmed in compliance with the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations” to recognize accreditation.

This summer, the CFNSB revisited the language that is used to describe the National Standards program. The board reasoned that identifying the accrediting body (CFNSB) is similar to the way other fields refer to their accreditation. There was also some consensus that the term “accreditation” gives weight to the standards label and is more understandable to people outside the field. In addition, it was felt that the term “national accreditation” is more compelling than “compliance.” These are all good reasons for us to emphasize that the program is about accreditation, not just compliance. You will be hearing and seeing the word accreditation used more often. One example is the changes we have made to the Benefits of Accreditation page on the National Standards website. And more changes are to come!

We are excited about this new emphasis. Let me know what you think.