Organizational sustainability

Core values describe what the members of a nonprofit organization believe in.

They are the fundamental principles that guide everybody’s work inside the NGO as well as their interaction with the outside world.


You will find core values mentioned on many websites of NGOs together with the organization´s mission statement and vision statement.


Shared values of an NGO will determine:

1. On which projects/programs it will work and spend money

2. With whom it will work together           

3. How it will conduct its work                                                               

4. How it will function internally


The World congress of NGOs has defined 12 core values and what they mean in daily practice. These are:

  • Service beyond self
  • Respect for human rights
  • Maintain a vision
  • Responsibility
  • Cooperation beyond borders 
  • Public mindedness
  • Accountability
  • Truthfulness
  • Transparency
  • Nonprofit Integrity
  • Comprehensive viewpoint
  • Voluntarism


Preparing a value statement


Core values are documented in the strategic plan of an organization in form of a value statement.

Preparing a value statement is a 3 step process.


Graphic 1:    Developing a value statement


You can prepare a value statement which describes your organization´s core values within a short period of time as team exercise of staff members.


Examples of existing value statements


World Wildlife Fund

“WWF's core values help describe what makes WWF a unique and special place to work. Results, Integrity, and Respect are core to the way all of us work to achieve WWF's mission and aspirations.”

Amnesty International

“Amnesty International forms a global community of human rights defenders based on the principles of international solidarity, effective action for the individual victim, global coverage, the universality and indivisibility of human rights, impartiality and independence, and democracy and mutual respect.”

Care International

Respect:         We affirm the dignity, potential and contribution of participants, donors, partners and staff.

Integrity:          We act consistently with CARE's mission, being honest and transparent in what we do and say, and accept responsibility for our collective and individual actions.

Commitment: We work together effectively to serve the larger community.

Excellence:     We constantly challenge ourselves to the highest levels of learning and performance to achieve greater impact.


Sources / Guide to further reading (available online)


J.Shapiro, Strategic planning, at: http://www.civicus.org/news-and-resources/toolkits/229-strategic-planning

C.McNamara, Basics of developing visión, misión and value statements, at: http://managementhelp.org/strategicplanning/mission-vision-values.htm

WWF, Who we are, Governance – Core values, at: http://www.worldwildlife.org/who/Governance/corevalues.html

Care International, About Care, at: http://www.care-international.org/About-Care/

Amnesty International, Who are, Accountability – Amnesty International´s Statute, at: http://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/accountability/statute

Wango, World congress of NGOs, Toronto declaration of NGO core values, at: http://www.wango.org/congress2007/declaration.aspx