Helping community grow the right way


By Dan Davis

The Community Foundation of Jackson County recently received word that our organization remains in compliance with the national standards for U.S. Community Foundations.

Standards were developed to distinguish community foundations from other philanthropic vehicles, build the capacity of community foundations to carry out their missions and assist the field with self-regulation in a manner viewed positively by the IRS. They matter.

To our many donors, fund holders and prospective donors, compliance with national standards offers some assurances that, quite simply, we do things right. We audit our books. We follow an investment policy. We follow a grants policy. We exercise due diligence. We protect the privacy of our donors. We honor our donors’ wishes and intentions that fuel their philanthropy.

In short, compliance with national standards matters.

To achieve confirmation of compliance with the standards, community foundations undergo an extensive review of their organizational and financial policies and procedures. The review is performed by trained, experienced community foundation practitioners.

The National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations accreditation process is thorough and rigorous, requiring compliance with the law and an extensive list of internal operating policies and procedures that have been scrutinized and deemed best practice by the sector.

Displaying the national standards seal, which we do on our web page and other materials, signifies that we have been confirmed as being in compliance. Professional financial advisors and prospective donors recognize the seal as an indication of the integrity and demonstrated excellence of our operations and commitment to our work toward living up to our motto — together we grow tomorrows. It matters.

Adopting and adhering to high standards is the best way we can demonstrate our ongoing commitment to maintaining the trust of our donors and the entire community. We are committed to reaffirming the honesty and integrity that are a hallmark of our foundation.

We’re not alone in complying with national standards. More than 500 community foundations in all 50 states can claim the same certification. That doesn’t mean we all operate the same, work out of the same policy manual or follow a cookie-cutter approach to our operations and our work.

No, individual community foundations all likely have something different or unique to their policies, just as all of the communities we serve are unique in their own ways and have their own unique needs.

Intended both as a blueprint for internal organizational development and as a tangible set of benchmarks for external assessment of performance, the national standards address five key areas of community foundation operations:

  • Structure and governance: reflects the independence and integrity of the organization’s board and staff in managing the foundation’s operations and assets.
  • Resource development: ensures that the organization receives a revenue stream that represents the diversity of citizen support.
  • Stewardship and accountability: assures that the organization complies with accountable financial recordkeeping and reporting disciplines, and prudent investment practices.
  • Grantmaking: determines that the organization responds to community needs, and uses funds only for qualified charitable purposes.
  • And community engagement: assures that the organization demonstrates leadership and outreach to the community.

The concept of national standards emerge in the late 1990s as community foundation leaders across the country and here in Indiana began discussing the value of a peer-regulated standards program. The need for creating such a program grew from a desire to demonstrate effectiveness and accountability to policymakers, regulators, and the public and to distinguish the unique role community foundations play in serving their communities.

The Community Foundation of Jackson County has been part of the state and national standards programs since 2007 and remains committed to staying in compliance. It matters.

Dan Davis is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County, 107 Community Drive, Seymour, IN 47274. For information about donating to the foundation, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to [email protected]. The foundation may also be found on Facebook at

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