Are there standards that should be followed in philanthropy?

April 18, 2012

In the late 1990s, community foundations of all sizes and priority areas began to reflect on this question and what constitutes a community foundation.  What was the distinct value community foundations should offer, and the philosophies that should guide it?  As a direct result, the Council on Foundations and a group of community foundation practitioners formed the Community Foundation Standards Committee and established national standards in the spirit of accountability, transparency and self-improvement.

This committee drafted 41 National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations to unify and define community foundations and promote their integrity and public trust.  The National Standards seal was intended to be a mark of excellence and accountability, and the standards themselves were designed as a way to affirm best practices in everything from financial accounting to confidentiality agreements, donor education to annual reports.

The 41 National Standards addressed six key areas of community foundation operations:

•    Mission, structure and governance
•    Resource development
•    Stewardship and accountability
•    Grantmaking and community leadership
•    Donor relations
•    Communications

This program was founded on the premise that community foundations are a national asset and in order to strengthen the field of philanthropy and establish credibility to donors, communities, government, and others, certain practices should be followed by all.

Community foundations began to go through the compliance process in 2003.  Today, more than 60% of the community foundations nationwide are confirmed in compliance.  CCF went through the initial compliance process in 2004; it submitted materials to reconfirm compliance earlier this year.

Complying with these national standards is not only a sign of accountability and transparency, but a marker of effective philanthropy for communities across the country (and the foundations that serve them).

Check out the CF National Standards Blog for more information.

Thanks for reading,
Carol Bradford, J.D.
Senior Counsel and Charitable Advisor, CCF

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