Why Is My Review Taking So Long?

You’ve spent days, weeks, and months preparing your record book submission. The board has been involved in the approval of policies and procedures. Teams of people have pored over documents, cover sheets, attended webinars, and finally the record book has been submitted for review. And now that the book is under review… it seems to be taking forever. For anyone who is in the confirmation or reconfirmation process, this last thought must cross your mind once a week. My associate Emily and I understand your frustration and want to give you an inside look at what happens to your record book after we receive it.

There are six stages to the process and these can be found on the process page. If you have shipped your record book, you have already made it to step 4. However, the last two steps are can take some time. Here's how it works:

  • After record books are received, we screen them to verify all documents are included. Foundations that omitted a document will be given 30 days to submit the requested materials. Ensuring the books are complete results in the most efficient initial review.
  • Complete record books are reviewed in our offices by your peers in the field approximately eight weeks after the due date. For example, if you submitted your record book in the July 2011 group, your book was reviewed in September. Our staff works with the reviewers to answer questions and provide technical assistance during this three-day marathon review.

After the reviewers depart, we conduct a second internal review of certain documents to help ensure consistent reviews. Because of the volume of books, this takes approximately 90 days from the date of review. Over the next 90 days, we will be conducting spot checks on record books that were received in July, so you can expect to hear the results of your review during this time period.

The foundation is given 30-90 days to review the initial reviewer's results, answer questions, and/or submit revised documents, which are preferably sent electronically, but can also be delivered by fax or snail mail. They are then forwarded to the reviewer. All of our compliance reviewers are actively involved in the field, so we try to cap the number of record books assigned to any given reviewer. This helps them get to your review faster.

Generally speaking, these supplemental reviews can take up to a month and in some cases longer, depending on the complexity of the document. If a reviewer has any questions after looking at your supplemental materials and the foundation needs to submit additional documents, add another 90-120 days to the process for your foundation to prepare additional responses and have those reviewed.

A quick side note on reviewer's questions: We have heard loud and clear from the field that you need concrete questions from staff and the reviewers so you do not have to work to decipher how you need to respond. We sincerely appreciate that feedback and expect this will be improved in the future. But if you are unclear about your request, please reach out to me or Emily Watkins.

Once you achieve compliance, your foundation will be issued a licensing agreement that allows you to tell the world that you are in compliance with National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™ and to use the National Standards seal. The license agreement is valid for five years.

There are over 200 foundations currently in some stage of the six-step process towards compliance. We give every record book the same consideration and thorough review. Given the high volume of record books, this can also take some extra time. I hope this gives you a better understanding of the path to compliance with National Standards. We appreciate hearing about your experiences—good and bad—so we can continue to improve the process!