Applying for Standards for Excellence Accreditation
To begin the application process, a deposit of $100 is required. This non-refundable deposit will be applied toward the Standards for Excellence application fee if the application is submitted to OANO within six months.
The deadline is December 15 of every year; though we will accept applications at any time. Please consult with OANO staff before submitting an application. The process of applying for the Standards for Excellence Seal of Approval is described below:
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Organizations applying to the Standards for Excellence program will have attended an introductory course and/or application clinic to learn about the code and the accreditation process. Application packets contain
- Application form and checklist
- Self-assessment checklist (organizations who have attended training complete this as part of their introduction to the program)
- Description of the application review process
- Estimating the time your application will take
- List of educational resource packets available
- Application deadlines for the year
- How to promote your certification
Organizations will work closely with OANO staff to ensure that applications are complete; staff will be available for questions and informal review of materials before the final deadlines. The goal of the program is for applicant organizations to be certified; OANO staff will not encourage applications from organizations that are not yet equipped to pass peer review.
Organizations submit a copy of the entire application package on a USB flash drive that OANO provides, and the application fee. Application fees are based on OANO member status and operating budget.
What comprises the application?
The application package consists of materials that demonstrate the organization’s adherence to each of the 58 standards. For example, appropriate documents might include the mission statement and the minutes of the board meeting in which the mission statement was most recently reviewed. Other documentation can include narrative descriptions of current activities, copies of internal personnel policies, the most recent IRS form 990, etc.
OANO staff reviews the application thoroughly and follows up with the organization if portions are missing or need further clarification.
OANO staff also conducts a community standing assessment of the applicant organization, which can include searches on the Internet, review of local and regional newspapers, informal questions to the OANO board, and informal information gathering in the community. At no time, however, will the confidentiality of applicant organizations be compromised.
Who sees the application?
OANO administrative and program staff initially review the application; every effort will be made to keep confidential those organizations submitting applications, as the Standards for Excellence program is entirely voluntary and organizations not approved for certification will not be publicly disclosed.
What if the application is incomplete or staff members have questions?
Any initial concerns about the completeness or quality of the application are immediately conveyed to the applicant organization, which then has the opportunity to amend the contents, explain, and/or expand on any portions in question. OANO members will supply the applicant organization with a checklist of materials that have been received and that satisfy the application requirements.
Can an organization waive some of the Standards?
Any standard that the applicant organization believes is not applicable may be marked N/A by the applicant organization. OANO staff will verify that this designation is accompanied by documentation or narrative that explains the rationale behind the decision. Peer reviewers (see below) will evaluate whether the rationale is appropriate with respect to the organization’s mission and the spirit of the Standards for Excellence.
Can an organization use other certifications it achieves to meet some of the Standards?
OANO staff will work with an organization to determine how an organization’s alternative certification program meets the criteria of the Standards. In consultation with the advisory committee, OANO staff will create a matrix of other common certification programs to assist staff, peer reviewers, and the advisory committee in their deliberations.
A team of three peer reviewers will read and evaluate each application. Peer reviewers are volunteers who have extensive experience in non-profit management. Each reviewer will also undergo training by OANO staff or other training partners. To the extent possible, peers who have experience with organizations that are similarly sized will be recruited for the review, and teams will ideally consist of reviewers with diverse areas of expertise.
Applicant organizations are supplied with a list of peer reviewers and have the opportunity to deselect reviewers in order to avoid conflict of interest. Peer reviewers sign conflict-of-interest forms for each application and for the confidentiality of the program as a whole. Based on the applicant characteristics and the deselection process, OANO staff members will select the peer reviewers.
What is the peer review process?
Each member of the peer review team reads and evaluates the application, noting any concerns or questions. Within fifteen days of receipt, the team and an OANO staff member will meet to discuss and make final recommendations about the application. OANO staff will work with the peer reviewers to gather any additional information needed and will write a brief report outlining the results of the review, which team members will have the opportunity to revise.
What about non-standard practices or disagreements among the reviewers?
Peer reviewers make the decision to accept any N/A designation on the application based on the rationale and accompanying documentation. Only 2 of the 3 reviewers need to agree on any decisions about the application, including whether to award certification to the organization.
What if the team does not recommend accreditation?
OANO staff will use the meeting report to communicate with the applicant organization about the peer reviewers? decision not to recommend accreditation. Applicants will be given a list of factors which resulted in the recommendation and will be notified that it can apply for reconsideration if it files a written request addressing each factor and provides supporting documentation where requested by the staff. The peer reviewers will reconsider the application and the new documentation. If the peer reviewers still do not recommend accreditation, the organization may appeal the reviewers? decision to the advisory committee.
What if the team recommends accreditation?
If the team recommends that an applicant be awarded accreditation, the recommendation is taken to the advisory committee for a vote.
The Standards for Excellence advisory committee determines whether an applicant receives the Standards for Excellence accreditation seal. Advisory committee members are volunteers who are appointed by the OANO board of directors and executive director. These individuals have many years of experience with the nonprofit sector and some have achieved the Standards for Excellence certification for their own organizations.
The committee may accept the application as presented, request changes in order to consider acceptance, ask for additional information or modification, or accept the application with minor modifications to be completed by the three-year review.
Applicant organizations are notified as soon as possible after the decision of the advisory committee. Public announcement of successful applicants is at a time selected by the certified organization. The groups who achieve certification in any one year will be recognized at the following OANO annual conference in Many.
What if the committee disagrees with the peer reviewers? decision?
If the team recommends that an applicant be awarded accreditation, but the advisory committee decides against it, the organization will be notified that it will not be accredited. An OANO staff member will write a brief report outlining the results of the committee meeting to use in communication with the applicant organization.
What is the appeal process if an applicant organization is not certified by the advisory committee?
Applicant organizations have two levels of appeal: appealing the team’s decision to the advisory committee (see above), and appealing the advisory committee’s decision to the OANO board of directors. OANO board members will be bound by confidentiality and conflict-of-interest statements in their review of the application.
Applicants will be given a list of factors which resulted in the recommendation and will be notified that they can apply for reconsideration if it files a written request addressing each factor and provides supporting documentation where requested by the staff. Applicants will be encouraged to meet with the advisory board to present their request before taking the step of appealing to the OANO board. The OANO board has final approval on all accreditation decisions.
Accredited organizations are notified in writing of the award and are licensed to use the Standards for Excellence accreditation seal on their marketing and other materials. OANO staff will also request quotes of support for the Standards for Excellence program from the executive director and board chair of the applicant organization to be used for the public education and program promotion efforts of the Standards for Excellence program. Accredited organizations also receive a public relations packet to help them in their promotion efforts.
OANO staff will follow up at 1 year with interviews and questionnaires for accredited organizations.
At three years, organizations will be asked to undergo the reaccreditation process.
What if something happens to the organization in the interim?
Although the program is not designed to be punitive, OANO retains the right to withdraw accreditation if the advisory committee learns of situations in a accredited organization that would compromise or damage the reputation of the Standards for Excellence program.
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