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Nonprofit Defined 

An ongoing series of informational entries

What are NGOs? - Are they Nonprofits?

Lenora Williams: Posted on Sunday, April 05, 2015 1:53 PM

What is an NGO? Non-governmental organization

NGOs are Nonprofit organizations

The term "non-governmental organization" was first coined in 1945, when the United Nations (UN) was created. NGOs are difficult to define, and the term 'NGO' is rarely used consistently.

A non-governmental organization (NGO) is an organization that is neither a part of a government nor a conventional for-profit business. Usually set up by ordinary citizens, NGOs may be funded by governments, foundations, businesses, or private persons. Some avoid formal funding altogether and are run primarily by volunteers.

NGOs are highly diverse groups of organizations engaged in a wide range of activities, and take different forms in different parts of the world. Some may have charitable status, while others may be registered for tax exemption based on recognition of social purposes; yet others may be fronts for political, religious or other interest groups.

One characteristic these diverse organizations share is that their non-profit status means they are not hindered by short-term financial objectives.

Public surveys reveal that NGOs often enjoy a high degree of public trust and are termed as “civil society organizations” in many jurisdictions. Variations of NGOs include:

BINGO (business-friendly international NGO or big international NGO); the Red Cross is one example of a BINGO.

ENGO (environmental NGO); the World Wildlife Fund is one example of an ENGO.

GONGO (government-operated NGO), by definition not an NGO but an organization created by a government to resemble an NGO to further some agenda.

INGO (international NGO); Oxfam is one example of an INGO.

QUANGO (quasi-autonomous NGO), an NGO which may have some governmental members; the ISO is one example of a QUANGO.

RINGO (religious international NGO); the Catholic Relief Services is one example of a RINGO.

Other NGO acronyms include DONGO (Donor Organized NGO), TANGO (technical assistance NGO) and MANGO (market advocacy NGO).

What is the purpose of an NGO?

NGOs emphasize the core issue related to human cause like sustainable development, developmental aid and other humanitarian issues.

The Number of NGOs:

The number of NGOs in the United States is estimated at 1.5 million

1-2 million NGOs in India

277,000 NGOs in Russia.

In the 20th century, the Globalization makes the people understand the importance of NGOs.

The Top 20 NGOs are:

1. BRAC (formerly the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) "The largest non government development organization on the planet – has claimed this year’s top spot. A member of the era defining 1970s wave of Bangladeshi microcredit and microfinance pioneers alongside the Grameen Bank and ASA, BRAC has since gone on to outpace its old counterparts and assume an unparalleled position in the crowded field of international development." "Ranking criteria – impact, innovation and sustainability – BRAC meets all of the criteria; involved in the microfinance to the tune of approximately $9 billion – the organization has carefully, but steadily, diversified into a wide suite of activities, from agriculture and food security to education, legal aid, climate change risk reduction, livelihoods support and maternal and child health."

2. Wikimedia Foundation "In 11 short years, Wikimedia Foundation’s flagship initiative – ubiquitous online encyclopaedia Wikipedia – has revolutionized the way knowledge is collected and shared. By now, most are familiar with the Wikipedia model, which is based around open access for all Internet users, a commitment to multilingualism and constant edits and updates carried out by an army of approximately 100,000 eager volunteers. Most striking, however, in an age of multi-billion dollar Facebook IPOs, is the organization’s bedrock belief in the notion that information should never represent a profit-driven commodity." "Wikimedia Foundation exists as perhaps the most influential non-government actor in the field of education today. Operating with a shoestring staff of 142, the organization is responsible for managing the platform facilitating the largest collection of shared knowledge in human history – currently 23 million articles and counting. To date, Wikipedia is available in 285 languages and is visited by more than 470 million people per month. Wikimedia Foundation’s future strategy is the continued expansion of Wikipedia in the languages of the developing world, where access to information is seen to represent not only a personal asset, but also an essential dimension in building an engaged citizenry at the societal level."

3 Acumen Fund "In 2011, New York-based Acumen Fund celebrated a decade long experiment in 21st century charitable giving. Conceived with seed capital from the Rockefeller Foundation, Cisco Systems Foundation and three individual philanthropists, the organization has a diverse portfolio of over $81 million in investments in 72 countries worldwide. Acumen Fund focuses on transformation loans or equity-based investments. Partnering in projects estimated to have benefited over 86 million people to date."

4. Danish Refugee Council "Formed after the devastation of World War II and the European refugee crises triggered by the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, has been a constant, trusted presence in the humanitarian sphere for over 50 years. The organization’s activities revolve around the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons from immediate persecution in acute emergency situations, as well as the promotion of lasting solutions for conflict-affected populations (including via targeted international advocacy). Currently operating in over 35 countries in service of more than 1.5 million people.'

5. Partners In Health Often linked in the public mind with the critical voice of high-profile co-founder Paul Farmer, Partners In Health has, since its beginnings as a community-based health project in the mountainous Central Plateau of Haiti, come to be recognized as perhaps the pre-eminent public health NGO globally. The organization is guided by the same passion that drove those young adults responsible for its conception – namely an overwhelming "sense of solidarity, rather than charity, when dealing with the world’s poorest and most underserved populations. In practice, this vision is manifest in Partners in Health’s holistic model of patient care, which emphasizes the need to alleviate the economic and social burdens of poverty that exacerbate diseases like HIV/AIDS and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, Fuelled by a simple credo: “whatever it takes.” In collaboration with longstanding partners Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, are impressive in scope"

6. Ceres "Since 1989, Boston-based NGO Ceres has lead the world in efforts to; tackle climate change, clean energy, water scarcity and supply chain sustainability by leveraging the undeniable power of business and capital markets, the organization has succeeded in influencing corporate governance practices to value the competitive advantage promised by sustainable strategies. Ceres’holds a unique position at the nexus of the business, investment and community advocacy."

7. CARE International "Originally formed in 1945 as a symbol of American empathy for the exhausted populations of war-torn Europe (hence, ‘care packages’), the organization has grown into a diverse confederation of 12 national members working in 84 countries to the benefit of 122 million people. Still a first responder in the event of natural disasters or conflict, CARE International has also shifted its mission to embody a holistic approach to fighting global poverty and enhancing human dignity, with a special focus on female empowerment.""CARE has a long-term presence in many of the world’s most vulnerable countries, CARE International is well placed to implement a comprehensive approach, involving pre-emergency resilience and preparedness projects, immediate relief operations and longer-term recovery and community rehabilitation. A leader in its commitment to international standards of accountability and institutional learning."

8. Médecins Sans Frontières "Launchpad for the now inescapable ‘without borders’ movement, Médecins Sans Frontières has developed, over the course of its 41-year history, provides medical assistance. Founded in 1971 by 13 doctors – including former French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner – the organization is presently active in 68 countries, with operations encompassing close to 32,000 staff. Médecins Sans Frontières takes sometimes controversial ethical stands against governments, a humanitarian NGO predominantly based around private donations rather than institutional grants"

9. Cure Violence "Looks at the enduring cost of ‘everyday’ interpersonal violence globally. Aligned with fellow peacebuilding NGOs in spirit, the groundbreaking Chicago-based organization Cure Violence (formerly CeaseFire) is focused on addressing violence through an innovative model developed by its founder, epidemiologist Gary Slutkin. "Cure Violence achieves this goal by identifying those most at risk and treating this core group via a staff of highly-trained ‘violence interrupters’ – former perpetrators employed to disrupt conflicts before they erupt and educate the community about the consequences of violent behavior. Cure Violence has achieved proven results, with 16-34 percent reductions in shootings and killings directly attributed to its programs, and 41-73 percent overall."

10. Mercy Corps "First established as the Save the Refugees Fund in response to the atrocities of Pol Pot’s Cambodian killing fields to one of the pre-eminent international development NGOs in the world today. Based in Portland but active in over 41 countries, Mercy Corps’ pioneering commitment to using relief and recovery programs to strengthen civil society for the long-term has seen the diversification of its high-impact, cost effective activities across a range of program areas and locations. Focused on entrepreneurial strategies in ‘stable’ operating environments, Mercy Corps works in this way with affected communities as a means to accelerate the process of post-disaster or post-collapse recovery."


WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A NGO AND A NONPROFIT? A NGO is a non-governmental organization.

NGOs do not contrast directly with Nonprofit organizations because they are a category of nonprofit organization. An NGO is independent of government insight, meaning it is not part of a government entity.

NGOs are Nonprofits

NGOs do not have a formal definition, the NGO tag typically is not applied to organizations based in the United States that have a solely domestic mission, though they technically fit the profile.

NGOs most often are referred to as nonprofit organizations with an international reach.


Let's continue with the top 20 NGO's according to The Global Journal

11. APOPO "Based in Morogoro, the humanitarian organization has spent the last 15 years honing its unique approach to training rats as mine detectors, and exported this ‘technology,’ despite initial skepticism, to four countries in Africa and South East Asia. Cheaper, quicker and lighter than conventional de-mining methods, APOPO’s African Giant Pouched Rats – endemic to sub-Saharan Africa – have helped return more than 6 million square meters of suspected minefields to local populations in Mozambique alone." "The organization has also continued to innovate, diversifying into the field of public health by training the same ‘HeroRATs’ to detect tuberculosis in human sputum samples – a faster, more accurate diagnostic method capable of screening thousands of patients every month."

12. Root Capital "As William Foote realized during travels in Mexico, however, small and medium-sized rural businesses in the developing world were often caught in a quandary – considered too small and risky for mainstream banks, and too large for the burgeoning microfinance movement. Returning to Boston, Foote went on to launch Root Capital in 1999 as a non-profit social investment fund targeting grassroots businesses in the “missing middle.”" "In 2012, the organization had disbursed over $460 million in loans to sustainable enterprises in Africa and Latin America, reaching 2.6 million people in poor, environmentally vulnerable rural communities. Beyond managing two innovative investment portfolios, Root Capital has also multiplied its impact by delivering targeted financial advisory services and catalyzing a wider market in rural financing."

13. Handicap International "Founded on the Thai-Cambodian border in 1982 as a response to landmine injuries suffered by refugees fleeing the Khmer Rouge, Handicap International provides crucial assistance to acutely vulnerable people in dire situations of poverty, exclusion, war and disaster, taking action and raising awareness to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights. Active in over 60 countries and a co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines."

14. International Rescue Committee "Founded in 1933 at the request of none other than Albert Einstein, the New York-based International Rescue Committee offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster. Evolving into one of the world’s leading humanitarian agencies providing emergency relief, rehabilitation, protection, resettlement services and advocacy, the organization works in over 40 countries worldwide, as well as managing the Surge Protection Project in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. International Rescue Committee is also committed to laying the groundwork for lasting peace and economic development. The organization has been working with Japanese fishermen in the wake of the devastation left behind by the 2011 tsunami, as well as helping undercapitalized local farmers in Zimbabwe access global markets through the ‘Tabasco’ initiative in partnership with the McIlhenny Company."

15. Barefoot College "Founded by Bunker Roy in 1972 to provide basic services and solutions to problems in rural communities in his native India, Barefoot College has since nurtured a form of grassroots social entrepreneurship, helping participants forge their own path out of poverty. Open only to individuals without a formal education, grounded in practical knowledge, to demystify and decentralize sophisticated technology, in the process training an army of ‘barefoot professionals’: teachers, doctors, midwives, mechanics and architects in the millions."

16. Landesa "Seattle, Washington based Landesa works to secure land rights for the world’s poorest people – those 2.47 billion chiefly rural individuals who live on less than two dollars a day. Of this group, more than a billion lack legal rights over the land they use to survive, causing entrenched poverty cycles to persist over generations. For more than 40 years, the organization has worked to advance durable land rights to achieve transformational change on a large scale. Landesa works with governments and other local organizations to create tailored approaches to expanding land rights to the rural poor. In all, the NGO has helped bring security of tenure to more than 105 million families, representing a beneficiary pool of over 400 million people."

17. Ashoka "In 1981 when a 20 year-old Bill Drayton launched Ashoka as an organization dedicated to supporting the dreams of social innovators worldwide, he was walking a solitary path. Thirty years later, and Ashoka has evolved into an association of over 3,000 fellows in more than 70 countries. Ashoka identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs, engaging communities of entrepreneurs to develop patterns of effective collaboration, and working to deliver necessary infrastructure, such as access to social financing, bridges to business and academia, and the frameworks for partnerships."

18. One Acre Fund "Andrew Young founded One Acre Fund as a means to improve livelihoods amongst farmers using market-based methods as an alternative to traditional food aid. From this innovative idea, the organization has expanded to serve over 130,000 farming families in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi. One Acre Fund program is a ‘market bundle’ of services – including seed and fertilizer, financing, education and market facilitation – that enables farmers to double their income per planted acre in one year. Committed to data-driven program development and donor accountability, the organization has also pioneered a rigorous system of internal and external performance monitoring used to ensure increased scale is not pursued at the cost of quality of impact and sustainability."

19. Clinton Health Access Initiative "In 2002, President Bill Clinton launched the ‘Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative’ under the auspices of his Clinton Foundation to not only bring care and treatment to people living with the disease, but also strengthen health infrastructures in resource-poor countries. The Clinton Health Access Initiative is a willing partner to governments committed to improving in-country health systems, and as an active player in the movement to develop the market for medicines and the efficiency of health resource allocation at the global level. Preferring to focus on organizational and managerial factors – Its headline achievement to date was a successful negotiation with companies to secure lower prices for essential HIV/AIDS retroviral drugs, resulting in more than $1 billion in cost savings shared by over 4 million people."

20. Heifer International "Dan West realized that individuals needed “a cow, not a cup” – the difference between temporary aid and a long-term investment in overcoming poverty and hunger. The organization provides families with a ‘living loan’ – a donation of livestock, accompanied with training in animal husbandry, care and sustainable grazing methods. The receiving family must “pass on the gift” by transferring their knowledge and donating one or more of their animal’s offspring to another family. This practice ensures project sustainability, develops community and enhances self-esteem by allowing project partners to become donors." "A highly-participatory model, Heifer International works with communities to decide what types of animals and production systems they want, and who should receive animals. Since its inception, the organization has helped 15.5 million families in more than 125 countries move toward greater self-reliance, with third-party evaluations confirming a substantive impact on household incomes, assets and family nutrition."

"What do I Want to be When I grow Up?" In the light of these Top 20 NGOs, Domestic Nonprofits need to begin to ask the question - What do I want to be and how many underserved can I impact?

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