In an information environment where facts and figures are increasingly under debate, a rigorous process for transparency and accountability is important for all industries. U.S. community foundations that successfully receive accreditation achieve this because they model the best practices of the philanthropic sector — benefiting their donors and their grantees.

A significant value of National Standards accreditation is the rigor of the application and its review. Before embarking on the accreditation process, you should familiarize yourself and the leadership team of your organization with the application requirements. Achieving accreditation is no small undertaking. It can take a community foundation anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to submit the completed application. You can use the reviewer checklist to help organize and track your progress on your application.

Here are the five basic phases to receiving National Standards accreditation:

Eligibility

All community foundations receiving the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations accreditation must meet a number of standards. To qualify, 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 a publicly supported charity that operates exclusively for charitable purposes. Your foundation must also be in good standing with federal and state regulators and meet the National Standards definition of a community foundation as stated in National Standard 1.

The Application

All National Standards accreditation applications must be submitted via the online application. To get started, first create an account on the online application page here. The application requires many levels of information and documentation in a format that you can electronically upload. You do not need to have all the required documentation to create an account and you will be able to save drafts of your application as you go along.

After you have completed the form and uploaded your documents, you may review and submit your application for approval. You will then receive a confirmation email and payment instructions. Your first accreditation application requires a fee of $1,250, and renewal costs $1,000.

Review

Upon successful submission of both the application and payment, peer and legal review will begin. The name of your reviewers are confidential and all reviewers sign confidentiality and conflicts of interest documentation that are kept on file. Please note that the peer and legal review process can take several months to complete. Some applications require one-on-one follow-up with the National Standards Director. Supplemental materials may also be requested at this time.

After the first application, renewal applications only require information your community foundation has revised, or responses to changes in law or National Standards.

Accreditation

Once it has been determined that all National Standards are met, you will receive an email informing you that you are accredited along with a link to a licensing agreement for you to sign online.

Let everyone know what you achieved! The National Standards Seal and the Marketing Toolkit make it easy for your community foundation to share its achievement with the community.

Accreditation is valid for one year. Throughout the year, you can review your original application and update any changes to your documents, policies, or responses.

Renewal

Renewal applications only require information your community foundation has revised, or responses to changes in the law or National Standards.

When you renew your application, you can log in with the same email address and password used to create the original application. You can also reset your password if needed within the application page.

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 application questions. Your renewal application is available to be updated throughout the year as needed.

Both renewal applications and payments must be received no less than 90 days before your accreditation expires. We recommend submitting your application for renewal no less than 90 days before your accreditation expires in order to avoid a lapse in accreditation status. If accreditation lapses, the reinstatement application fee is $1,250.

Check the Community Foundation Locator to assess when your accreditation expires.