Community foundation leaders began conversations about a voluntary self-regulation program in the late 1990s. These leaders recognized that policymakers were considering increasing regulation on foundations and that community members had difficulty distinguishing community foundations from other types of foundations and nonprofits. By the early 2000s, community foundation leaders organized and began designing the National Standards program. In 2005 the first community foundations were accredited.

In 2008, the Community Foundation National Standards Board was created to administer the National Standards. The Council on Foundations owns the National Standards and the Community Foundation National Standards Board administers the program. This structure creates a checks and balances structure for the accreditation program to ensure program integrity.

The National Standards are revised every five years. Here is information about the latest revisions.