Core values generally demonstrate the worthy ideals the nonprofit strives to achieve. The nonprofit's mission statement, strategic plan and its guide for interpersonal behavior are all grounded in purposeful core values.Core values are among the originating concepts of a nonprofit and can considerably strengthen it when adhered to on a daily basis. Core values detail the nonprofit's beliefs, symbolizing the elements that exemplify its passion and, thus, what it supports.


A nonprofit requires a set of core values compelling enough to provide vision and purpose to the organization. Core values bolster nonprofit leadership, enabling it to maintain the organization's purpose and make that purpose real to its staff. A nonprofit's values and beliefs also define its purpose to its supporters. Creating core values that declare both vision and purpose is a prerequisite for a thriving nonprofit.


Defining core values requires first determining the concepts for which the organization wants to be known, for example, "integrity" and "excellence." When written down, core values usually include a brief description of what they mean to the organization.

"Integrity. We remain true to our mission and work hard to produce quality products, provide exceptional service to our constituents and maximize the support of our donors."

"Excellence. We strive to provide high-quality content and strategies, basing our insights on experience, knowledge and data."

Once in place, core values may be used in the implementation of the nonprofit's other functional documents, however, they do not describe operating practices, strategies or business competencies. Instead, core values inform the nonprofit's processes and provide guidance in making decisions.

Creating Core Values

Core values can be developed by the board of directors, staff and consultants. Direct input from those expected to uphold the nonprofit's core values can result in a beneficial partnership among the involved parties. Core values should be specific to the nonprofit and to whom or what it serves. They can be brief or lengthy and can range from limitless concepts, like honesty, to demonstrated experience to concepts relating to the nonprofit's constituents. Brief values might be "Leadership, Inspiration, Positive Change. We maintain the authority to lead, the creativity to inspire, and the will to foster positive social change." A longer core value provides additional specific information detailing what the value represents, such as: "Leadership. We champion the importance of effective board leadership and action. It empowers boards with the knowledge of good governance practices. It encourages staff initiative and leadership and strives to be a model nonprofit organization."

Formal and Informal

Written core values represent an intrinsic element of the nonprofit. They can be formal or informal, written with emotion or in a more factual manner. They should denote the fundamental values of the nonprofit and express concepts that the board and staff can demonstrate and support. Core values should be significantly meaningful to board and staff, making them easy to support.