Faced, in the 1990s, with emerging forms of competition, community foundations of all sizes and priority areas began to reflect on what constitutes a community foundation, the distinct value such an organization should offer, and the philosophies that should guide it.
Late in that decade, community foundation practitioners from across the country examined ways community foundations could differentiate themselves from other philanthropic organizations and for-profit competitors, strengthen the results of their work and still retain the independent distinctions of each local community they serve.
Guided by this early exploration, the Council on Foundations and a group of community foundation practitioners in 2000 formed the Community Foundation Standards Committee. For months, the committee researched and consulted with other practitioners via focus groups, calls and e-mails. Based on findings, the committee drafted 41 National Standards that enable U.S. Community Foundations to unify, define community foundations and promote their integrity and public trust.
By late 2000, the National Standards were presented to the field, formally adopted, and organized into a process to help community foundations meet them. Many members of the original Standards Committee, joined by other community foundation leaders, now make up the Standards Action Team (SAT), a subcommittee of the Community Foundations Leadership Team. The SAT has developed the process to guide and determine community foundation compliance with National Standards.
The Community Foundations National Standards Board was established as a supporting organization of the Council on Foundations to administer the National Standards. This board is responsible for the quality, value and integrity of compliance with National Standards.