8 Ways to Make National Standards More Manageable
By Michelle Martin, The Chicago Community Trust
Tackling the National Standards is a big project, whether you are applying for confirmation or reconfirmation. The Chicago Community Trust recently secured reconfirmation with the National Standards, and I’d like to share some of the strategies we used. They might help make your process less daunting.
1. Start Early
We took about six months to work on reconfirmation. Starting early allowed us to break down the project into smaller, more manageable pieces and to work at a less stressful pace.
2. Point Person.
Our CEO decided to designate a point person (me) for the reconfirmation process, which helped us to streamline and manage our tasks more efficiently.
3. Cover Tab Review
Our CEO and I did an initial review of the standards using the reconfirmation cover tabs. We red-flagged places where we had questions or where we knew the Trust would need additional work to show evidence of compliance. We paid special attention to areas where a board-approved policy change was needed and made sure to schedule policy reviews for upcoming board meetings.
4. National Standards Website
After our quick review, I carefully read all of the information available on the National Standards website. I learned that the cover tabs don’t always have complete information on what the standards require and that some important details can only be found on the website. For example, your whistle-blower policy (Tab 15) must apply to volunteers, consultants, and board members as well as to staff. That requirement isn’t spelled out on the cover sheet, but you can find it on the website.
5. Consult Colleagues
The National Standards cover just about every working aspect of a community foundation, so applying for confirmation or reconfirmation requires lots of input and help from colleagues across the foundation. I consulted my coworkers on standards related to their areas of work and expertise. Together we determined how we would document the Trust’s compliance and we drafted changes to our policies and procedures where needed.
6. Sample Policies
There are many great sample policies from colleague community foundations on the National Standards website. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we often borrowed from this rich resource when we had to update our policies or create new ones.
7. Ask Emily
I consulted National Standards Program Specialist, Emily Watkins, countless times with questions about reconfirmation. Her responses were always timely and helpful.
8. One Cover Sheet at a Time
Rather than wait until the end of the six months to create our cover sheets, I filled them out as we worked. This helped make the final step of compiling the record book less overwhelming. I also tried to make the cover sheets fairly detailed so that we (and the reviewer) could easily locate our documentation.
To other community foundations who have recently gone through confirmation or reconfirmation: What tips worked well for you?