The Accreditation Process

A rigorous process for transparency and accountability is important for all industries, especially given today’s information environment where facts and figures are increasingly under debate. Accredited U.S. community foundations achieve transparency because they model the best practices of the philanthropic sector — benefiting all stakeholders and the larger community. The following sections give step- by- step instructions on completing the application as well as providing sample documents and tips regarding legal compliance and the National Standards.


To be eligible for accreditation the 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 certifies that the community foundation is a publicly supported charity operating exclusively for charitable purposes. The 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.

Accessing the System

Request access

You will receive an email with a link to reset your password. Note: This link includes an Authentication Token that expires within 30 days. Creating an online account gives the applicant access to sample documents and other reference documents that are unavailable without an account in the system, in addition to letting the applicant save and return to the application at a later date.

Phases of National Standards Accreditation

The Assessment

It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to submit a completed assessment, and many legal and organizational documents are required for submission. Applicants can use the reviewer checklist to help organize and track their accreditation progress. All community foundations receiving National Standards accreditation must meet 26 standards. The assessment requires many levels of information and documentation in a format that must be uploaded electronically. Applicants do not need to have all the required documentation at the time they create an account and will be able to save drafts of the application as needed.

  1. General Information: This includes National Standards contact name, foundation EIN, mailing address, etc. 
  2. Documents for Legal Compliance: The second section references legal, financial and donor relationship documents that are reviewed by peer and legal reviewers to ensure the foundation’s policies are compliant with current laws and regulations. The first section of the application requires you to upload several documents confirm legal and regulatory compliance. These include Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Policy Documentation (such as a Confidentiality Policy), among others. This section of the application also details additional documents that may be required.
  3. National Standards: The third section evaluates operational excellence and effectiveness. National Standards accreditation goes above and beyond compliance to demonstrate commitment, insight and innovation in service to communities. While some questions in the compliance process only require a yes or no response, your community foundation is expected to keep documentation representing how your community foundation meets each standard. Reviewers reserve the right to flag and follow up regarding answers that require further explanation or documentation.


After the applicant has completed the form and uploaded relevant documents, the application should be reviewed and submitted for approval. Applicants will then receive a confirmation email and payment instructions.

3-Year accreditation submissions cost $3,250 in total. Applicants have the option of paying the full amount up front, or paying on a 3-payment schedule. 

All payments  must be made via check payable to:

Community Foundations National Standards Board
1255 23rd Street NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 202-991-2225

*At this time we are unable to accept online or credit card payments.


Peer and legal review will begin upon submission of both the application and payment. The names of 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.


Once the reviewers have determined a foundation has met all National Standards the applicant will receive an email confirming accreditation, along with a link to a licensing agreement requiring an online signature. Upon receiving accreditation foundations can use the National Standards Seal and the Marketing Toolkit which make it easy community foundations to share their achievement with the community. Accreditation is valid for three years. Foundations can review their original application and update any changes to foundation documents, policies, or responses at any time.


Accreditation renewal assessments only require information the community foundation has revised, or responses to changes in the law or National Standards. When renewing an application, log in with the same email address and password used to create the original application. Assessments become available for editing six months prior to expiration. Applicants can also reset their password as needed from the application page.

We recommend submitting your renewal assessment and payment at least 90 days before your accreditation expires to avoid a lapse in accreditation status. Check the Community Foundation Locator to assess when your accreditation expires.

If your community foundation has been accredited via the online system only once before, your accreditation is valid for one year. Second online renewals are eligible to join the 3-year program. Accredited organizations are encouraged to review their initial online assessment at least three months before their accreditation renewal date in order to update and submit any information that has changed. 

For community foundations that were last accredited through the paper submission process, we recommend submitting your accreditation renewal assessment 8-12 months prior to your renewal date to avoid a lapse in accreditation status.