The system of categorisation

All of Switzerland’s approximately 13’000 charitable foundations were categorized using the NonproCons System of Categorisation for Classical Foundations (NKS). The NKS includes six categories with a total of over 100 characteristics. These can be combined at will – according to the motto: which foundation does what, for whom, where and how? The NKS thus makes it possible to search within clear and closed structures, independent of individual wordings: e.g. according to the thematic purpose, the target group or the geographical area of impact.

The NKS was developed by NonproCons AG in 2014. StiftungSchweiz has taken over the NKS from NonproCons AG and applies it not only to foundations but to all registered organizations. For the platform’s search system, StiftungSchweiz supplements the NKS with additional criteria, such as the date of foundation. With this search system, StiftungSchweiz is taking on a pioneering role in Swiss philanthropy.

The Application of the NKS

The coding of foundations is based on the legally authoritative, official purpose of the foundation, the coding of associations is based on the purpose according to the statutes. The other organizations are coded using relevant documents, such as the organization’s mission statement. Organizations that wish to be more precise, e.g. because they are only pursuing one of two funding topics listed in the statutes, can indicate this in their profile and also change it there at any time. However, this does not change the coding. If a coding does not fit contentwise, StiftungSchweiz is happy to review it and make relevant changes.

Overview of Topics and Target Groups

The NKS includes six categories. The most important categories are topic (= area of impact) and target groups. The topic is divided into eleven groups with a total of 75 subcategories. The target groups are comprised of 20 categories.

The topics of the groups are based on and reflect the Swiss foundation landscape. They are therefore based on the currently active foundations and their thematic characteristics. Thus, certain topics (e.g. music) are more strongly represented than others (e.g. fashion).

Most of the groups have the subtopics «general» and «miscellaneous». «General» always means that the purpose is not clearly defined, e.g. «We support cultural projects». «Miscellaneous» on the other hand, includes foundations and organizations whose activities are described in more detail but do not fit any NKS subcategory.


The group «Art and Culture» includes subcategories such as «Contemporary Music», «Literature» and «Theater». The scope is relatively broad and therefore includes organizations that belong to the field of architecture or historic preservation. All of the organizations that are active in the museum field are also assigned to this group.


The «Leisure and Sport» group contains subcategories such as «Popular Sports». The area of leisure includes both organizations that promote play and those that are active in recreational activities, e.g., in offerings for children that do not fall within the scope of education. In the area of sports there are activities in popular sports (e.g. a volleyball club) as well as professional sport.


The group «Ethics, Religion, Church» includes subcategories such as «Christian Faith» or «Trans- and interreligious». In addition to organizations that can be assigned to a specific religion, you will also find organizations that are located in the field of ethics. In addition, all church foundations are also listed here.


The «Social» group includes subcategories such as «Assisted Living» or «Social Assistance and Direct Aid». This area thus encompasses all organizations active in the field of social services – from care for the elderly to social assistance and residential homes for people with impairment. Unlike Health (see below), the activities of these organizations focus on social processes or concerns rather than a recovery process.


The «Health» group includes subcategories such as «Inpatient Care and Support» or «Prevention». This area therefore includes all organizations that deal with the recovery process, for example, after an illness or accident. This includes physical and mental illnesses, including addictions. In addition, all health prevention organizations can be found here.


The «Education» group includes subcategories such as «Scholarships» or «Further and Advanced Training». Accordingly, all activities in education for children as well as for adults can be found here. These can be collective educational projects as well as individual scholarships. Projects from research are not included here (see below).


The «Research, Science and Development» group includes any type of research and includes subcategories such as «Medical Research and Development in Cancer» or «Jurisprudential Research and Development». The categories cover the common subject clusters (faculties) of Swiss universities. When an activity involves a research aspect, it is categorized here.


The group «Environmental Protection, Animal Welfare» contains subcategories such as «Environmental and Nature Protection», «Species Protection» or «Climate Protection». It is important here to distinguish between animal welfare and species protection. Animal welfare means the protection of individual animals, e.g. in animal shelters or with street dog projects. Species conservation, on the other hand, focuses on protecting an entire species, such as orangutans in Borneo or snow leopards in the Caucasus.


The group «Development Cooperation (DC), Humanitarian Aid» includes subcategorries such as «DC Health, Hygiene» or «Disaster Relief». Here you will find all organizations that are active in the field of DC. Organizations categorized here, are thus always (and sometimes exclusively) active abroad. The thematic subdivision in this group always refers to development projects. The only exception is disaster relief, which can also take place in Switzerland, e.g. in the event of landslides.


The «Politics, Society, Economy» group includes subcategories such as «Human and Civil Rights» or «Industry Promotion». Accordingly, this group includes a wide variety of very different topics. In addition to socio-political commitments, the list also includes human rights organizations and organizations active in the field of start-ups.


Many foundations and organizations do not define more precisely in which areas they are active. If, for example, a foundation’s purpose merely describes that «charitable projects are promoted», this foundation cannot be assigned to any precise group. This foundation is therefore assigned to the topic group of General Charity.


Like the groups in the topic area, the target groups are also based on the foundation landscape and its orientation. For example, children and adolescents were listed separately to reflect the weighting of this target group. In addition to specific people (such as the elderly or unemployed people), there are also non-human target groups such as animals or organizations/companies.