Sandi Roehrig, Executive Director, Fond du Lac Area Foundation
Many years ago the community foundation executives in Wisconsin met to collectively talk about a growing concern. At the time, any organization could call itself a community foundation, and if their actions gave the term a bad name, we could all suffer the consequences.
We started an early process to ascertain characteristics of true community foundations that would provide a baseline for legal, ethical, and effective operational practices, yet still allow a foundation enough room for uniqueness to serve its community’s needs. Thankfully, thought leaders in our field were having those same ideas. Fast forward to 2017, where more than 500 community foundations have agreed to The National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations®, an accreditation program created by community foundations for community foundations. The beauty of this accreditation program is that it is peer-driven, voluntary, and self-regulatory.
My personal journey in the field started a few years earlier in the early 1990s. I wanted to make sure my community foundation was run professionally. There was no easily accessible training for the community foundation field. I used the Legal Compendium as my personal "bible" and I read everything I could get my hands on about mission, governance, resource development, accountability, grantmaking, donor relations, and IRS requirements.
This might sound familiar to you if you started in the field way back then. Imagine the difference it now makes for someone new in the field to have the National Standards as a base of learning.
So why become a reviewer? For me, I wanted to make sure I was able to give the best of what I could offer to my community foundation as well as to the field that I loved. Reviewers are trained by Lara and Christina, expert legal staff at the Council. This ongoing training empowers me with the knowledge I need to best serve my organization.
So what do you say? How about stepping up and joining us as a member of the National Standards Reviewer team? If you have questions, please feel free to ask me. Be a part of something that makes our field great!
Sally Cross, Vice President of Philanthropy, Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley
I recently signed up as a National Standards Peer Reviewer and just returned from my first training and review sessions. What a great experience! I am relatively new to the community foundation world, and at the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, we are currently undergoing standards re-accreditation.
After my first experiences as a reviewer, I feel like I’ve gained important insights into the complexities and opportunities that community foundations offer to our donors and grantees. I’ve deepened my knowledge of both the legal requirements and best practices on a wide range of topics, and this will help me better serve our donors and grantees.
As the Vice President for Philanthropy, I have frequent conversations with donors and professional advisors about the various aspects of our funds and practices. My experience as a reviewer gives me a deeper grounding in the “whys” as well as the many ways that other community foundations approach the same challenges. In addition, spending several days in the company of the knowledgeable staff at the Council on Foundations and the other experienced peer reviewers has provided me with insights that I will be able to use in my daily work.
In sum, I think the investment that the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley have made in my becoming a reviewer is well worth it from both a professional and organizational development standpoint, and I would encourage anyone who wants to expand their own body of knowledge to become a reviewer as well.