National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™

The Council on Foundations takes a leadership role in shaping community foundations' self-regulation by promoting The National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™.


What are National Standards?

The National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™ (National Standards) is an accreditation program created by community foundations for community foundations.  They are peer-driven, voluntary, and self-regulatory.

National Standards accreditation represents operational effectiveness to foster excellence in community philanthropy.  We do this in two ways.  First, we create standards for operationally and legally sound community foundations.  Second, we lead community foundation staff and boards through the process of achieving operational excellence.  With confidence in their operations, community foundations can innovate and take risks necessary to solve complex problems.

Community foundations submit documentation to confirm they meet The National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™. This documentation is peer-reviewed. Community Foundations reconfirm their accreditation annually. For more information about the program, please visit


Why should my community foundation participate in National Standards?

By accrediting your foundation, you enjoy benefits such as:

  • Unlimited use of high quality, vetted sample policies and procedures specifically tailored to community foundations.
  • An incentive to attract serious board members, assuring that your foundation is stable and legally sound.
  • Resources for staff training and transition because policies are in place and well documented.
  • Some policymakers provide incentives to accredited community foundations through tax credits and eligibility for managing state resources. See more about IowaKentuckyMaryland, and California.
  • Authorization to use the National Standards Seal indicating compliance with the most rigorous standards in philanthropy and guidelines for proper use.
  • Access to the updated National Standards Marketing and Communications Toolkit containing marketing content on the value of your foundation's accreditation.
  • Bonus points when applying for the HUD Secretary’s Award for Public-Private Partnerships


How is the Council connected to National Standards?

For twenty years, the idea of community foundations self-regulating their activities has been an important topic in the philanthropic community. The National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™ were adopted in 2000 by the Council on Foundations. The formal confirmation of compliance process began in 2005 with community foundations declaring their intent to comply. In 2009, the Council’s board approved the governing documents of the Community Foundations National Standards Board, a Type I supporting organization of the Council on Foundations. The CFNSB’s mission is to carry out and advance The National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™ accreditation process by ensuring the integrity of the process and building the value of confirmation of compliance for the community foundation field and greater community.


How can the National Standards team help you?

Feel free to reach out to the National Standards team with any questions or concerns you may have about the National Standards process or the benefits of becoming accredited by emailing


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