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?

Community foundations of all sizes use The National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™ (National Standards) as a roadmap for establishing and implementing legal, ethical, and effective practices that withstand the scrutiny of donors, government and media. They also provide a framework for documenting, communicating and providing training and technical assistance to advance best practices.

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 every five years. The National Standards are listed here and guidance for each National Standard is available here.

Why should my community foundation participate in National Standards?

The National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™ provide community foundations with a way to distinguish themselves from entities that provide similar services such as donor advised funds and scholarship funds. No other grantmaking bodies or foundation types have worked together to identify sound polices and accountable practices to be measured against. Community foundations’ efforts to self-regulate are viewed positively by the Internal Revenue Service, which has increased its scrutiny of charities especially those offering donor advised funds.

Being an accredited community foundation provides benefits including:

  • Authorization to use the National Standards Seal indicating compliance with the most rigorous standards in philanthropy and guidelines for proper use.
  • National Standards seal featured on accredited community foundations’ GuideStar listings.
  • Access to the updated National Standards Marketing and Communications Toolkit containing news releases, talking points, ads, web content, and letters to donors and advisers—all designed to share the value of National Standards and inform the public of this noteworthy achievement.
  • Access to the Centennial Portfolio announced by Vikki Spruill at the Community Foundations’ Conference. A toolkit that highlights 100 years of community foundations’ work with suggestions for customizing messaging for your community foundation. This resource is a result of collaboration among the Council on Foundations, the Council on Michigan Foundations, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
  • Bonus points when applying for the HUD Secretary’s Award for Public-Private Partnerships
  • Eligibility for Endow Iowa, a state tax incentive program for National Standards accredited community foundations in Iowa.

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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