The German term "Selbstverständnis" can be used in the context of (typically) not-for-profit / non-profit organisations to denote the aims they have and the (typically social) changes they try to achieve. It typically describes their ideology and philosophy as well as usually the way the organisation thinks it is best to succeed in reaching their goals. It gives you an impression of how the organisation works and what sort of people their members are.

Is there a word that conveys all these nuances?

2 Answers 2


Selbstverständnis literally means 'self-image' or 'conception of oneself', so I think your own use of ideology fits well:

the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program M-W definition

You might also see this referred to as a Mission, or mission statement, even though it is not really a direct translation.

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    The common usage of Ideology is semantically loaded in a way that does not match well with non-profit organisations, which are usually expected to be non-political beyond their very specific concerns. I'd be wary of using that word unless I was very sure of the audience and context.
    – itsbruce
    Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 22:07
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    @itsbruce - Valid point in some instances, but I have seen any number of political and religious non-profits where ideology (spelled correctly :P) is quite fitting.
    – Lynn
    Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 22:11
  • I like mission statement. I think I heard it before in a similar context but my brain didn't manage to make the connection. Unless somebody comes up with something better, I'm gonna go with that one. Also, I didn't want to use the word "ideology" for the stated reasons.
    – bitmask
    Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 22:36

"Mission statement" is the English phrase for this - the organization's philosophy and goals, and what they do to achieve them. Many companies (both for-profit and nonprofit) feature their mission statement prominently in their promotional materials.


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