Applying for Accreditation FAQ
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Applying for Accreditation FAQ

A great first step towards earning accreditation is to fill out the Standards Self-Assessment. The self-assessment is meant to measure an organization's current adherence to the benchmarks in the Standards for Excellence code and will help to reveal what the nonprofit needs to focus on, in which areas to get started, and how long the process may take.

Yes! Go to the Standards for Excellence website, and look under Accreditation Tools, to download a pdf of the accreditation application.

The short answer is yes. If the application reviewers feel there is something that needs to be put in front of the board, they will work with the nonprofit on that. It’s possible the review process could take a bit longer, but nonprofits are welcome to go ahead and start the application.

A new accreditation application platform was launched at the end of 2020 so any nonprofit that started its application during 2021 or later can go back in and continue the application wherever it left off. (Alternately, the nonprofit can start fresh with a new application; the old one can be deleted.) If a nonprofit started an application before 2021, it would need to start a new one.

Application fees are listed on the Standards for Excellence Institute website here:

Once an organization earns the Seal of Excellence, a letter indicating that the organization has earned the seal is sent to the organization’s executive director and board chair (or equivalent). With the letter, the organization’s leadership is asked to sign a licensing agreement with the Standards for Excellence Institute that outlines a seal holder’s continuing obligations to operate according to the benchmarks during the term of the license. One of the other obligations of seal holders is to pay an annual license fee. License fees are determined by the organization’s budget size and membership status (with the Standards for Excellence Institute or with one of the Standards for Excellence program’s licensed replication partners). To view the license fee schedule, click here.

Organizations that earn the Seal of Excellence accreditation initially hold the license to display the seal for three years. Upon their first renewal, the organizations are then licensed for five-year increments. In order to continue to hold the Seal of Excellence the organization must complete the application renewal process.

Yes, membership is a separate fee but includes many benefits, including a discount on the accreditation application. Note that some nonprofits may be eligible for membership in (and access to resources from) a licensed replication partner, based on the nonprofit’s location or affiliation. It would not need to join the Institute if it is a member of Maryland Nonprofits or a replication partner. See the list of replication partners.

Nonprofit leaders may contact the Standards for Excellence Institute’s Manager for Accreditation and Recognition, Kate Hull, at with any questions about the application process, online submission, or program requirements.

They may also reach out to one of the more than 200 Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants to engage a consultant who has been trained and licensed in all aspects of the Standards for Excellence code. Licensed Consultants are independent from the Institute and establish their own pricing and fees. To search for a Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultant, click here.

The answer depends on the applying organization and how much work needs to be completed before submitting. It is hard to predict how long it will take an applicant to complete the application. The Standards for Excellence Institute is available to help nonprofits set goals, and to answer questions throughout the application journey. Once submitted, the review process will start when the application fee is paid. For Basics applicants, the review process usually takes 4-6 weeks. For full accreditation the review process on average takes 4-6 months as each application goes through three reviews and there may be clarifying questions the organization needs to answer after each review.

It can be helpful to track the answers to the application questions in a separate document alongside filling out the application!

Once the nonprofit receives full accreditation, it will receive a press release kit that includes the logos, guidelines for posting on social media, and other tools to help it market this achievement!