The 21 Zewo standards at a glance

Clear, compact and concise

The 21 Zewo standards

Non-profit organizations which are assessed by Zewo for compliance with these standards and meet the requirements are awarded the Zewo quality seal. It rewards reputable organizations which use donations economically, effectively and for their designated purpose. They provide transparent information and earn the trust of donors.

Standard 1 | Public benefit status


Charitable activity is defined as an activity by a legal entity based in Switzerland which provides services in the interests of the community. Within the meaning of the Zewo standards, non-profit organizations are classified as charities if they work in one or more of the following areas:

  • social needs
  • humanitarian needs
  • sociocultural needs
  • environmental, nature or animal protection

Organizations which are not classified as charities within the meaning of the Zewo standards are organizations

  • whose primary purpose is to provide financial advantages for a restricted group of members.
  • which restrict the group of beneficiaries to a specific political, religious or ideological affiliation.
  • which are profit-oriented, unless their by-laws state that their profits are used to finance their own organization or to finance charitable organizations with the same or similar aims.
  • which are primarily geared to serving the financial interests of third parties which are not charitable organizations.

If the organization has a political, religious or other ideological orientation, the charitable activity must nevertheless be its main focus.

Service providers specialising in non-profit organizations such as fundraising, event or PR agencies cannot be certified.



Standard 2 | Integrity


The following principles apply to all sectors:

  • Honesty: Charitable organizations act honestly, communicate truthfully and work to retain the trust of the general public.
  • Transparency: Charitable organizations provide transparent information. They make it clear to the general public what type of organization they are and what their background and ideological orientation is. They file fair and timely accounts which provide a comprehensive and truthful view of their structure, activity and use of funds.
  • Integrity: Charitable organizations comply with the law and maintain their integrity.
  • Respect: Charitable organizations act respectfully and are mindful of human dignity. Their actions are consistent with the prevailing social and cultural conditions.
  • Responsibility: Charitable organizations act responsibly and focus their activity firmly on their designated purpose. In particular, they take underlying values into account and protect the interests of donors, clients and the general public.
  • Effectiveness: Charitable organizations act efficiently, effectively and sustainably. They use the funds donated to them for the designated purpose and ensure that honorary boards, volunteers and employees work together effectively.


Standard 3 | Governing bodies


As the supreme governing body of an association, the general meeting of the members or delegates determines the principles of the organization. In the case of foundations, the board of directors determines the principles of the organization in accordance with the foundation charter. This applies analogously to organizations with a different legal form.

The board of directors is normally the board of trustees for foundations and the committee for associations. As the strategic governing and supervisory body, it has a medium- and long-term governing and supervisory function. The board of directors bears overall responsibility for the organization, in particular for its business activity, administration and use of funds, risk management and internal control.

The Chairperson heads the board of directors and ensures that it works efficiently and effectively. The board of directors determines the structures and procedures required for performance of its duties and monitors these on a regular basis.
Under its supervision and responsibility, the board of directors may delegate tasks to the executive management and appoint standing or temporary committees.

The composition, assignment, competence, duration and responsibility of the committees must be defined and in the case of standing committees, recorded in a directive.

The board of directors takes responsibility for tasks that are not explicitly assigned to other bodies.



Standard 4 | Independence


The board of directors comprises at least five members.

None of the members of the board of directors is closely related* or related by marriage or married to another member, or in a long-term partnership with another member.

If the board of directors comprises at least seven members, two of them may be personally related as defined in no. 2 above.

If the board of directors has more than nine members, it must ensure that adequate decision structures are in place.

Members possess the skills required for meeting their responsibilities. Efforts must be made to ensure that the members of the board of directors are suitably diverse.

A regular term of office is four years maximum. Re-election is possible. The board of directors organizes the renewal of its members in good time.

* Closely related: first degree relative (parents/children), second degree relative (siblings/grandparents/grandchildren) and third degree relative (nephews/nieces).



Standard 5 | Vested interests


Members of the board of directors disclose vested interests which are relevant to the activity of the organization in the annual report or on the organization’s website.

If the interests of the organization clash with the interests of members of the board of directors or their associates, these interests are disclosed to the board of directors. In such cases, the member concerned abstains.

Members of the board of directors must abstain if they or an individual or legal entity associated with them is involved in a transaction.

Transactions by the organization with members of the board of directors or their associates must ultimately be concluded on the same terms as those with third parties.

Important transactions with associates* of the organization are disclosed in the notes to the annual financial statement.

* ‘Associates‘ are defined in Swiss GAAP FER 15. In addition, according to the notes on Swiss GAAP FER 21, organizations whose purpose is coordinated with the charitable NPO are also classified as NPO associates. Examples of associates of charitable NPOs are: current and former members of the board of directors (e.g. Committee of the Association, Board of Trustees) and management; organizations controlled by members of the board of directors; organizations over which the charitable non-profit organization exercises a significant influence (e.g. through representation in the board of directors); members, benefactors, founders of the organization who exercise a significant influence; supporters‘ association of the charitable NPO; organizations with which the NPO has a common market presence.



Standard 6 | Separation of powers


A member of the board of directors may not simultaneously be the executive director or a member of executive management.

A member of the board of directors may not be related by birth or marriage or married to the executive director, or be in a long-term partnership with him/her.

The executive director may only have an advisory role on the board of directors.

Employees of the organization, with the exception of the representation of employees, may not be members of the board of directors.

The segregation of duties between the board of directors as a strategic governing and supervisory body and executive management must be stipulated in writing with a clear definition of tasks, competences and responsibilities.

Personal separation of powers may be waived if the organization does not employ any staff and if the operational tasks of the honorary members of the board of directors are performed in such a way that segregation of duties is ensured.



Standard 7 | Internal control


The board of directors takes care of appropriate internal controls and a suitable risk management system as regards

  • achieving the strategic goals of the organization
  • effective and efficient performance
  • transparent and honest reporting, accounting and communication
  • compliance with laws, standards and values of the organization (Compliance)
  • prevention and combating of corruption

The organization applies the following controls in particular:

  • Collective signatory powers generally apply for legally binding transactions.
  • Collective signatory powers generally apply for payment transactions.
  • Single signature exceptions must be set down in writing and suitably restricted.
  • There is an appropriate segregation of duties.


Standard 8 | Remuneration


The following applies to ordinary tasks of members of the board of directors as the strategic governing and supervisory body:

  • Except for any employee representatives, members of the board of directors do not have a paid relationship with the organization as defined by labour law.
  • Moderate remuneration may be paid to members of the board of directors for particularly time-consuming work.
  • Actual expenses may be reimbursed or remunerated by an appropriate flat-rate allowance.
  • The amount of any remuneration must take into account the size and charitable nature of the organization.
  • The total amount of all remuneration is assessed. The form in which this was paid (e.g. hourly, daily or other rates, official, annual, meeting, expense or other flat-rate allowances) is immaterial. Reimbursement of documented expenses which are not covered by flat-rate allowances is not included in remuneration.
  • Any remuneration must be clearly, transparently and objectively defined by decision of the board of directors..

Members of the board of directors may take on paid tasks in the form of a mandate on the following conditions:

  • The board of directors retains its supervisory obligation.
  • The separation of powers between the strategic governing and supervisory body and the operational business is not compromised or the task concerned is an exceptional time-limited task.
  • The task and its duration and remuneration must be defined by decision of the board of directors.
  • Remuneration must not be higher than the normal rate in the mandated sector.

The total remuneration in no. 2) and 3) includes all remuneration paid by the organization. It must be consistent with the size and charitable nature of the organization and the time involved.

The following applies to employees and the executive management: Remuneration must be consistent with requirements, qualifications, responsibility and work performance. Salaries for the members of the executive management must also be in line with the levels in effect in other similar charitable organizations.

The total of the remuneration paid to members of the board of directors and the total of the remuneration paid to members of the executive management must be disclosed in the notes to the annual financial statement in accordance with Swiss GAAP FER 21.

Remuneration paid to the Chairperson must also be shown separately.

Mandates to members of the board of directors must be reported in the notes to the annual financial statement as transactions with associates, in accordance with Swiss GAAP FER 21.

Individual payments to members of the board of directors and payments to the executive director must be disclosed separately to Zewo.



Standard 9 | Efficiency


The percentage of the organization’s total expenses spent on projects and services is within the range for similar organizations and is at least 65%*. In other words, the maximum percentage spent on administration and funding is 35%.

The percentage of the organization’s total expenses spent on fundraising and advertising is within the range for similar organizations and is 25%* at most.

* These limits are based on the Zewo Study 2015: "Key figures and benchmarks for aid organizations". This data is regularly checked by Zewo through follow-up studies, and updated as necessary.



Standard 10 | Impact


The organization continually monitors the effectiveness of its core activity. It defines goals accordingly. These goals are regularly audited. The associated responsibilities are clear.

The following questions are used to check the effectiveness of the organization’s actions:

  • What do we as an organization want to achieve?
  • What strategies should we use to achieve these goals?
  • What resources and skills do we have to implement these strategies?
  • How do we know whether we are making progress?
  • What have we achieved so far and what have we still not achieved?

The organization incorporates the topic of effectiveness in an appropriate form in its public reports.



Standard 11 | Reserves


The organization is not overindebted, the organization’s capital (unrestricted net assets) is positive.

The organization capital (unrestricted net assets) covers the total expenses of the organization for at least three and at most 18 months. If the organization capital (unrestricted net assets) falls outside this range, the organization defines reserve targets which it considers to be appropriate to the situation.

The organization capital (unrestricted net assets) plus fund capital (restricted funds) covers the organization’s total expenses for at least three and at most 24 months. If the organization capital (unrestricted net assets) plus fund capital (restricted funds) falls outside this range, the organization defines reserve targets which it considers to be appropriate to the situation.



Standard 12 | Transparency


The organization provides information on all its whole activity in its annual report. This includes an annual report with a section on services provided as well as an audited annual financial statement in accordance with Swiss GAAP FER 21.

The organization publishes its annual report (annual report and auditor‘s report with audited annual financial statement in accordance with Swiss GAAP FER 21). This is freely accessible on its website.

Deviations from no. 2 are possible in the following cases:

  • If the annual report clearly indicates that the complete audited annual financial statements are available on the website, only the balance sheet and the statement of operations (income statement) from the audited annual financial statement may be included in the annual report.
  • In the context of annual reporting, additional information on performance may also be provided in a further report. In this case, the annual report must include the following: purpose and objective of the organization, summary of services provided as regards activity as a whole, members of the board of directors and members of the executive management.


Standard 13 | Annual financial statement


The organization prepares its annual financial statement in accordance with Swiss GAAP FER accounting standards and applies Swiss GAAP FER 21 – Accounting for charitable non-profit organizations.

Fundraising and general advertising expenses as well as administrative expenses are calculated and reported using the methods published by Zewo.



Standard 14 | Audit


The organization has its annual financial statement audited in accordance with Swiss GAAP FER by independent, professionally qualified auditors:

  • If the organization is legally obliged to perform an audit, it has a limited or ordinary audit carried out on the annual financial statement in accordance with legal requirements.
  • If the organization is not legally obliged to perform an audit, it at least has a review carried out in accordance with Swiss auditing standards by EXPERTSuisse.
  • It appoints a certified auditor or audit expert to perform the audit.
  • Organizations which are not legally obliged to perform an audit and are very small* may also appoint an uncertified auditor, provided said auditor has similar professional qualifications.
  • The auditor must at least meet legal requirements on independence in order to perform a limited audit.

The auditor produces a written report on the results of the audit. Depending on the type of audit, the report contains:

  • the auditor’s opinion on whether the annual financial statement provides a true and fair view of the financial situation, results of operations and cash flows in accordance with Swiss GAAP FER or
  • at the minimum, a statement on whether the auditor has discovered facts indicating that the annual financial statement does not provide a true and fair view of the financial situation, results of operations and cash flows in accordance with Swiss GAAP FER.

*According to Swiss GAAP FER 21, organizations are classified as small if they meet two of the following criteria: balance sheet total < CHF 2 million/turnover < CHF 1 million/FTE <10.



Standard 15 | Investments


If financial investments and the value of any investment property exceed CHF 2 million, the organization puts investment regulations in place.

These regulations consider the risk tolerance and liquidity requirements of the organization, the income objectives of its financial investments and the purpose of the organization. The regulations also address social and ecological factors as well as good governance criteria.



Standard 16 | National networks


If the organization is part of a national network with a nationwide or supra-regional organization (umbrella/parent organization) and legally autonomous, regional or themed sections with a similar name and similar aim (sub-organizations), the following applies::

  • The parent organization works to ensure that sub-organizations comply with the Zewo standards and are assessed accordingly.
  • Parent organizations disclose the names of sub-organizations which are assessed for compliance with the Zewo standards and those which are not.
  • There is a simplified first certification and re-certification procedure for small* sub-organizations. The simplified procedure takes account of the fact that the parent organization promotes and monitors its sub-organizations‘ compliance with the Zewo standards.
  • Parent organizations and sub-organizations which transfer funds to another member of the network take appropriate steps to ensure that such funds are used for their designated purpose.

If a legally autonomous benefactors‘ association or similar belongs to a charitable NPO, it may also obtain the quality seal as a sub-organization, using the simplified procedure.

*a sub-organization which meets towo of the following criteria: total balance sheet < CHF 2 million/turnover < CHF 10 million/turnover < CHF 20 million / < 50 FTE



Standard 17 | International networks


If the organization is part of an international network, it remains responsible for the use of the funds donated to it. Responsibility may not be transferred to head office or to another member of the international network. In particular:

  • It uses the project funds primarily for projects and programmes which it carries out itself or which are carried out, controlled and assessed with partner organizations, under its joint responsibility.
  • It ensures that other funds transferred to the international network are also used for their designated purpose.


Standard 18 | Fundraising campaigns


Fundraising organizations respect the fact that donations are voluntary. The decision to donate is not compromised by pressure, unrealistic exaggerations or understatements, distorted content, force, intimidation or by fuelling fears. In particular, this means:

  • One-off donations should not create an obligation to become a member of an organization.
  • A suitable withdrawal period must be allowed for types of support whereby donors commit to specific amounts and time periods.
  • Fundraising campaigns must not send out unordered goods against invoice.

Fundraising organizations respect the wishes of the donors. They clearly explain the purpose of their collections. Donations made for a designated purpose are recorded and shown separately. If an organization wishes to use the collected donations freely in the context of the organization’s purpose, this must be made clear in the fundraising appeal.

Fundraising organizations respect the rights of the individuals they support, especially children, and protect their dignity. Their fundraising does not use materials or methods which undermine this dignity. To protect children, they do not use sponsorship-based advertising, whereby an individual child is selected and the sponsor is asked to contact the child abroad (individual child sponsorship).

Fundraising organizations communicate honestly and clearly. Their fundraising campaigns use verifiable facts and provide correct and detailed information on the costs of fundraising and advertising, as well as administrative expenses.

Fundraising organizations respect the law. They do not accept cash which they have to assume to be the proceeds of criminal activity.

Fundraising organizations protect their independence. They do not accept money which compromises their freedom of decision or freedom of expression.



Standard 19 | Data protection


Organizations must not sell, lease or exchange collected data and addresses of donors, members, friends and interested parties. They may rent or buy new addresses from address brokers.

Organizations remain subject to data protection regulations at all times; in particular, organizations must respect the wishes of the recipients of their advertising efforts, if the latter prefer to receive fewer or no fundraising appeals.

When initial contact is made, the wishes of individuals who prefer not to be contacted must be respected.

If individuals no longer wish to be contacted or prefer to be contacted less frequently, fundraising organizations must react quickly and without raising obstacles.

In particular, organizations must ensure that fundraising by phone, SMS or email, door-to-door and in public areas is not intrusive and does not make the individual contacted or visited feel compelled to donate. The conversation or visit must be halted immediately if the contacted person makes it clear that they do not wish to continue the conversation.

Fundraising organizations have a clear, visible, easily accessible and up to date data protection statement on their website.



Standard 20 | Fundraising partners


The following rules apply to organizations which collaborate with third parties on fundraising and communication:

  • The charitable organization decides for itself how it wishes to present its activity to the public. Responsibility for a campaign cannot be transferred. The charitable organization is responsible for ensuring that its partners also comply with essential requirements of Zewo concerning fundraising and communication.
  • All relevant data, in particular details of donors‘ addresses, remain the sole property of the charitable organization. They may not be passed on to third parties. This must be explicitly stated in respective agreements.
  • Access rights to the postal or bank accounts used for fundraising must always be held exclusively by the charitable organization.
  • The compensation of mandated fundraisers is based on the work involved. Fundraising organizations do not pay commissions in the form of a percentage of the funds raised. They do not enter into agreements under which third parties retain the donations once the charitable organization’s fundraising target has been reached. If success fees are agreed in connection with large donations, such agreements must be spontaneously disclosed to donors without being asked.
  • The major part of the salary of employees of the partner company must not be performance-related or dependent on success.
  • There is no advance financing by contractors.
  • If contractual partners have access to response data, the external partner must be contractually obliged to process such data only in the context of the order (no marking/“vaccination“).


Standard 21 | Fundraising calendar


The provisions of this standard apply to organizations which regularly undertake national or supra-regional* collections and campaigns to gain new donors, benefactors or members, provided they raise more than CHF 5 million in donations**.

Zewo coordinates the data on these collections each year in the Swiss fundraising calendar, which is divided into the following parts:

  • Calendar 1 | International development cooperation
  • Calendar 2 | National area: Health, addiction and disability
  • Calendar 3 | Social and socio-cultural activities in Switzerland and environmental, animal and nature protection
  • Additional dates

Each organization is entitled to a maximum of three fundraising periods per calendar year. Organizations which fundraise across several themed areas may be represented in several parts of the calendar. They are also entitled to a maximum of three dates in total.

Based on the previous year’s dates, Zewo prepares a draft calendar in which it enters a maximum of two dates per organization. Organizations which require a third fundraising date may then apply for a free slot. Each organization is entitled to a maximum of two dates per quarter in the fundraising calendar.

If only a few dates are still free in a quarter in one part of the calendar, organizations which wish to start fundraising in that quarter may apply for a simultaneous fundraising date. By way of exception, four simultaneous fundraising collections are possible.

If an organization does not agree with the allocation, it is possible to swap with another organization by mutual agreement. If agreement cannot be reached, Zewo’s office stipulates the fundraising period, ensuring that the organization can as far as possible keep their customary fundraising date. The organization has 30 days in which to appeal against the office’s decision to the Board of Trustees on the grounds of arbitrariness. Their appeal must be accompanied by a reasoned submission. The decision of Zewo’s Board of Trustees is final.

A fundraising period normally lasts 2 weeks, with the delivery of addressed and unaddressed fundraising appeals scheduled in the second week. Extensions for the sale of badges, stamps or other items are possible for up a maximum of 6 weeks. Free advertising space for fill ads or surplus posters is not recorded in the fundraising calendar.

Advertising without a collection is possible all year round in all media. A fundraising collection is defined as an appeal for direct financial support for the organization or a specific fundraising campaign.

The following collections are possible outside the fundraising calendar:

  • Collections targeted exclusively at the organization‘s members or existing donors.
  • Collection in kind (e.g. waste paper or clothing).
  • Street or door-to-door collections and stall campaigns at up to 10 locations simultaneously.
  • Regional collections with addressed mailings to a maximum of 150,000 new addresses per quarter.
  • One test per quarter with unaddressed mailings to a maximum of 250,000 households or a test with addressed mailings to a maximum of 100,000 new addresses.
  • Collections for disasters in Switzerland and abroad.

* To determine whether a collection is nationwide, the permanent resident population as at 31.12.2011 in Switzerland’s seven main regions as defined by the Swiss Federal Statistics Office (BFS) can be used as a reference point:

1. Lake Geneva region: Cantons of Geneva, Waadt and Wallis 1.5 million
2. Mittelland area: Cantons of Bern, Solothurn, Freiburg, Neuenburg and Jura 1.77 million
3. Northwest Switzerland: Cantons of Basel, Aargau 1.08 million
4. Zurich: Canton of Zurich 1.39 million
5. Eastern Switzerland: Cantons of St.Gallen, Thurgau, Appenzell, Glarus, Schaffhausen, Graubünden 1.11 million
6. Central Switzerland: Cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Lucerne, Zug 0.76 million
7. Tessin: Canton of Tessin 0.34 million
These areas always include entire cantons and therefore only partially reflect the actual situation. However, they serve as a rough guide. Certain geographic variations are possible.

** According to Zewo donation statistics, the following income is included in donations: individual donations, member and benefactor subscriptions, sponsorships, events, legacies, donations by institutions (e.g. NPOs, companies, churches, cantons, districts) as well as other and non-allocatable donations.
Each individual case is examined as part of the test process.



The 21 Zewo standards came into effect on 1 January 2016.

Charitable Non-Profit Organization with the Zewo quality seal will be assessed for compliance with the 21 Zewo standards using assessment processes due to launch on 1 January 2017, in accordance with the Zewo quality seal regulations.

Charitable Non-Profit Organization without the Zewo quality seal will be assessed for compliance with the 21 Zewo standards from 1 July 2016 in accordance with the Zewo quality seal regulations.