Achieving National Standards Compliance

The National Standards team is no longer accepting paper submissions or statements of agreement. Starting in 2015, all applications and renewals will be done online. Whether you are applying for the first time or renewing your accreditation, you will use the online accreditation application (not the re-accreditation application). This is because we need all of your application documents in electronic files rather than paper files that you previously provided. The good news is that after the first application, renewal applications will only require information your community foundation has revised or responses to change in law/National Standards.

Eligibility

To qualify for National Standards, your community foundation must be:

  • Recognized by the IRS under Code sections 501(c)(3), 509(a)(1), and 170(b)(1)(a)(vi).  This information tells us that your community foundation is organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes and is a publicly supported charity.
  • In good standing with federal and state regulators.
  • Meet the National Standards definition of a community foundation as stated in National Standard 1.

Before you Apply

  • Keep in mind, preparing the materials and submitting your application for National Standards can take between a few weeks and a few months.
  • Discuss the value of National Standards accreditation with your executive committee and board to make sure your community foundation has support as you undergo the process.
  • Look through the accreditation requirements and make a list of items that will need board approval to assist you with building a timeline.  It is a good idea to start with the legal section for this list.
  • Know your accreditation expiration date if your foundation is currently accredited. If you don’t know your accreditation date, email submissions@cfstandards.org.
  • For your first online submission, we suggest submitting between eight and twelve months before accreditation expires.
  • For your annual online renewal, you must submit at least 90 days before your accreditation expires.

How to Apply

  • Visit our application website to start the online process.
  • Create an account using the Signup form.  You can only have one account per community foundation. 
  • Fill out the application. You can save your draft as you go.  If multiple staff members are logging into the application, make sure only one person is in the application at a time, or your work may not save.
  • Once you have uploaded all of your documents, completed the application, and review your work, you may submit. Keep in mind this process is rigorous and can take from a few weeks to a few months.  You may print a copy of your application while you work on it or when it is final.
  • After you submit the application, you will receive an email confirming your application and providing payment instructions.
  • Follow the email instructions you receive for payment. Your first online submission costs $1,250, annual renewal costs $1,000. Please make payment by sending a check payable to:
    Community Foundations National Standards Board
    2121 Crystal Drive, Suite 700
    Arlington, VA 22202

The Review Process

  • Once you submit your application and payment is received, peer and legal reviewers will go through your application.  This process can take several months depending on volume.
  • The National Standards Director will compile their comments and email them to the community foundation email used to set up the National Standards account. It is not unusual for your foundation to receive requests for supplemental materials.
  • Review the comments and respond to the request for supplemental materials.  Provide your response within 30 days or after your next board meeting if your materials require board approval.
  • This process of responding to comments from reviewers can happen more than once.
  • If supplemental materials are requested more than three times, the National Standards Director will require a call with the community foundation to discuss outstanding issues before the fourth submission of materials.
  • Once all National Standards are met, the community foundation receives an email that they are accredited.
  • The accreditation email has a link to the National Standards licensing agreement that must be signed online.

You’re Accredited!

Renewal

  • Now that your community foundation is accredited, all of your foundation's most important documents are available to you and saved in one online-easy-to-access place. Your annual renewal date is one year after you receive notice of your accreditation via email. Each year, you will review your original application and update any changes to your documents, policies, or responses to the application questions. Your renewal application is available to be updated throughout the year as your community foundation makes updates to its policies and procedures.  
  • Submit your annual renewal and payment no less than 90 days before your accreditation expires.