What’s it: A non-governmental organization (NGO) is an organization legally formed without the participation or representation of any government. So, they are not owned and associated with the government.
NGOs are usually established to provide services to their members and others. They are non-profit organizations and are active in voicing and advocating for humanitarian, social, and environmental issues. They can also become lobby groups and voice their aspirations to governments, corporations, or the public, to push for change. In addition, other roles are counseling and support, legal aid, and microfinance.
Three features of NGOs:
- Not part of the government, bureaucracy, or state.
- Not aiming for profit (non-profit).
- Working in the public interest is not only for members as cooperatives are.
What are the roles of NGOs?
NGOs promote their goals by carrying out activities such as advocacy and campaigns. For example, they campaign and persuade the public to pay more attention to issues they are trying to solve, such as gender inequality and wildlife protection. On the other hand, they also try to convince, persuade or pressure the government to take action on the issues they raise.
In addition to advocacy and awareness-raising, they can also provide services such as legal aid and counseling to assist those who are legally, economically, or socially disadvantaged. They may also provide microfinance or assistance to lift households out of poverty by encouraging them to become small entrepreneurs.
Although independent from the government, some of the work of NGOs can also support government efforts, for example, related to development, education, health, and humanitarian programs. Moreover, they help the government to make these programs a success, at least by providing constructive criticism.
What are the types of non-governmental organizations?
Non-governmental organizations cover various activities. So, there are many types of non-governmental organizations. But, for sure, they are independent of the government.
We can classify their types based on their orientation:
- Charity – for example, helping or meeting the needs of those less fortunate with little or no active participation.
- Empowerment – for example, helping poor people by actively involving them to get out of poverty through designed programs, such as developing a home business.
- Services – provide critical public services such as healthcare and education.
Another classification is based on their operation area, which can be based on:
- Community – serving a specific population in a narrow geographic area within a country.
- National – operates and provides services with coverage throughout a country.
- International – operates internationally, covering more than one country, usually headquartered in developed countries.
Then, based on objectives, non-governmental organizations could be:
- Advocacy NGOs – aim to influence policies or practices to defend or promote a particular cause.
- Operational NGOs – aim to design and implement projects to provide services.
What is an international non-governmental organization (INGO)?
An international non-governmental organization (INGO) is a non-governmental organization with an international scope of operations. They are not established by intergovernmental agreements like other international bodies like the International Labor Organization (ILO). Examples of international non-governmental organizations are:
- Junior Achievement – focuses on education by providing learning programs related to financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and job readiness to students.
- Human Rights Watch – conduct research and advocacy on human rights and speak out for all parties to respect human rights by pressuring governments, businesses, and policymakers to condemn human rights abuses.
- Amnesty International – an international human rights NGO and voice on the rights of women, children, minorities, and indigenous peoples; the end of torture, the abolition of the death penalty, and the rights of refugees. The main target is the government.
- Greenpeace – an international NGO with a focus on environmental issues. It campaigns for environmental issues and develops solutions for the earth’s sustainability, including voice on climate change, biodiversity, environmentally responsible economic activity, and renewable energy.
What about the staff and organizational structure of NGOs?
In many cases, NGOs rely on paid staff, and others rely on volunteers. Where NGO staff come from depends on the scope of their operations. International NGOs usually recruit local employees or volunteers with some international staff or volunteers. International staff work to serve international operations and work outside of their home country. They are usually from developed countries.
Furthermore, for the organizational structure of NGOs, at the top, there is the Board of Directors, General Assembly, and Executive Director. Meanwhile, NGO staff are responsible for day-to-day activities and functions, including program or project implementation.
Where does NGO funding come from?
Donations are usually the main source of funding for NGOs. Other sources are membership fees or the sale of goods and services.
Donors can come from philanthropic foundations, private sector not-for-profit companies, local institutions, international institutions, and private donations. The latter usually take up a significant share of NGO funding. But, then, even though they are referred to as non-governmental organizations, which implies independence from the government, some NGOs also rely on grants from the government, such as Oxfam, an NGO engaged in alleviating inequality to end poverty and injustice.