What are NGOs and What Do Non-Governmental Organisations Do?

NGOs are associations and/or organizations aiming social issues independently. These communities engage in activities which involve social areas such as environment, culture, art, legislation, women’s and children’s rights.

  • Release Date: 12 March 2022
  • Update Date: 15 March 2024
  • Author: Speaker Agency
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What are NGOs?

The main purpose of an NGO is to observe the legal rights of the community it represents, to try and support the community economically, to explain the democratic benefits, to offer help in case of a natural disaster (providing the necessary equipment, getting medical assistance and supporting the search and rescue teams).

Formulation of an NGO

An NGO comes to life when a group of people in a community get together under the same purpose and needs, and decide to act as a body working in scheduled and systematic ways. Most NGOs work towards the goal of human rights being recognised and the possibility of a better life for everyone.

Some NGOs operating on a national basis might get government funding but this doesn’t  -or shouldn’t-necessarily affect the rhetoric or the activities of the organisation. NGOs are non-profit organisations and even if they have resources which allow them to get revenues, they still operate within the principles of not making a profit. 

There are international NGOs with quite powerful resources which bring a considerable amount of income. For example The World Bank is an intergovernmental organisation which works in partnership with NGOs.

Having said that, let us see the definition of an NGO according to the World Bank: NGOs are private organisations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development. In fact, any non-profit organisation which is independent from the government can be seen as an NGO.

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The key component here is the fact that NGOs are value-based organisations and they depend on charitable donations (as a whole or in part). Voluntary service is the other aspect that NGOs depend on. In other words, principles of altruism and voluntarism are the key defining characteristics of the NGOs despite the professionalism they have been experiencing over the recent decade.

Categorising NGOs according to their specific activities is difficult as they perform a variety of activities and often shift the balance of their activities they pursue. For example, although The Red Cross acts like an NGO and technically it is one, it holds a different place because it works with the governments and local organisations. The Red Cross receives major government funding. In a similar way, in technical terms political parties are NGOs but how they operate is a whole different story. 

So, it’s not easy to categorise NGOs however, it’s possible to classify them as operational NGOs and campaigning NGOs. Both operational and campaigning NGOs need to engage in fundraising as well as governmental organisations and local community organisations. Both types of NGOs also need to engage in mobilisation of work by supporters, organising special events, and cultivating the media. There are other types of NGOs to promote change: professional bodies, trade unions, recreational groups and association of companies, which provide programme activities for their members.   

Here are some of the NGOs where one can join and get involved in their activities to make a difference:

  • Workers’ unions and associations for workers’ rights
  • Religious societies and/or associations for religious education
  • Think-tanks and societies trying to spread and improve certain ideas/ideologies
  • All non-profit foundations, associations and unions
  • Chambers of commerce and/or artisans where the members are professionals of certain fields. These unions watch the economic rights of the members as well as organise training programmes or social events for them.
  • Political parties
  • Youth associations or societies helping the young to be a part of the community, providing them with a place for their hobbies and social activities

International NGOs and How They Operate

It’s possible for all of us to get involved with an NGO to be a part of a solution which is needed in various different layers of the community. Following are the traits of an NGO and a person who works for one:

  • Some of the social entrepreneurships and some NGOs operate on voluntary principles. Before getting involved in any kind of NGO you might want to get a clear understanding of your stand on volunteerism and your management of your own time.
  • NGOs work on social issues existing in the community where you can offer your services and be a part of the solution.
  • Each individual working for an NGO needs to be willing to cooperate with one another. Helping each other, people work with the warmth of this environment and you can be part of this if you want to make a difference.
  • NGOs finance themselves by the economic contribution of their members so that they can run the projects for the communities.

Purposes of NGOs

Social responsibility is the centre of the mentality behind NGOs and that is why these organisations design and carry out social projects both for the individuals and the community.

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Here are some examples of the activities implemented by NGOs for the benefit of the community:

  • Natural disasters might affect an area where the resources and the capacity of the government become limited due to the size of the area or the gravity of the disaster. In this case NGOs come into the picture working for the safety of people as well as protecting their property.
  • NGOs inform the public about the activities or the situation of the community they represent. They run informative programmes for the public which can be a place for you to share your knowledge with others.
  • There might be active public rallies or protests necessary to make a point where public interests need to be taken into consideration.
  • NGOs operate not only to make today better but also to make sure the future is better. Protecting the environment, working on water consumption, improving sustainable energy sources, cleaning up the oceans, reducing air pollution and educating all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds and ages about protecting the animals and the environment are some of the topics on the agenda of an NGO.
  • Educating the public in health issues, implementing training programmes with the help of professionals are some of the purposes of NGOs in the area of public health and safety. It wouldn't hurt to be involved in an NGO specialising in public health for one’s own well being as well as contributing to public health.

NGOs remain a significant aspect of the community, especially in developing countries, where governmental institutions are flooded with work and the need for extra help is always there. It’s important to mention that NGOs in developed countries bear additional attributes such as having a consultative status.

They help governmental agencies by producing insight and knowledge on certain issues. NGOs depend on charitable donations which are exempt from tax. In other words, when a company makes donations to an NGO, these donations come with tax exemptions. It’s important to understand the role of NGOs, whether they work on an operational or campaigning basis, we need to admit how functional they can be in a community.

In case you’re wondering how civil society and social entrepreneurship work, or you’re interested in volunteering and comprehensive activities related to a non-profit organisation, please have a look at Speaker Agency’s website to meet our global speakers whose expertise will impress you. Contact us for further queries on NGOs and all social entrepreneurship topics and invite remarkable speakers like Dr. Rola Hallam.


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