kids encyclopedia robot

Non-governmental organization facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Europe in a suitcase - UK
Europe-Georgia Institute head George Melashvili addresses the audience at the launch of the "Europe in a suitcase" project by two NGOs (the EGI and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation), which aims to increase cooperation between European politicians, journalists and representatives of the civic sector and academia with their counterparts in Georgia.

A non-governmental organization (NGO) or organisation non-gouvernemental (ONG) (see spelling differences) is an organization that generally is formed independent from government. They are typically nonprofit entities, and many of them are active in humanitarianism or the social sciences; they can also include clubs and associations that provide services to their members and others. NGOs can also be lobby groups for corporations, such as the World Economic Forum. NGOs are distinguished from international and intergovernmental organizations (IOs) in that the latter are more directly involved with sovereign states and their governments.

The term as it is used today was first introduced in Article 71 of the newly formed United Nations' Charter in 1945. While there is no fixed or formal definition for what NGOs are, they are generally defined as nonprofit entities that are independent of governmental influence—although they may receive government funding.

According to the UN Department of Global Communications, an NGO is "a not-for profit, voluntary citizen's group that is organized on a local, national or international level to address issues in support of the public good". The term NGO is used inconsistently, and is sometimes used synonymously with civil society organization (CSO), which is any association founded by citizens. In some countries, NGOs are known as nonprofit organizations while political parties and trade unions are sometimes considered NGOs as well.

NGOs are classified by (1) orientation- entailing the type of activities an NGO undertakes, such as activities involving human rights, consumer protection, environmentalism, health, or development; and (2) level of operation, which indicates the scale at which an organization works: local, regional, national, or international.

Russia had about 277,000 NGOs in 2008. India is estimated to have had about 2 million NGOs in 2009 (approximately one per 600 Indians), many more than the number of the country's primary schools and health centers. The United States, by comparison, has approximately 1.5 million NGOs.


NGOs further the social goals of their members (or founders): improving the natural environment, encouraging the observance of human rights, improving the welfare of the disadvantaged, or representing a corporate agenda. Their goals cover a wide range of issues. They may fund local NGOs, institutions and projects, and implement projects.

NGOs can be in the following ways;:

  1. orientation, i.e. the type of activities an NGO undertakes, such as activities involving human rights, consumer protection, environmentalism, health, or development.
  2. level of operation, which indicates the scale at which an organization works: local, regional, national, or international.


  • Charity — often a top-down effort, with little participation or input from beneficiaries. They include NGOs directed at meeting the needs of disadvantaged people and groups.
  • Service — includes NGOs that provide healthcare (including family planning) and education.
  • Participatory — self-help projects with local involvement in the form of money, tools, land, materials, or labor
  • Empowerment — aim to help poor people to understand the social, political, and economic factors affecting their lives, and to increase awareness of their power to control their lives. With maximum involvement by the beneficiaries, the NGOs are facilitators.
  • Professional (trade) union (association) – a voluntary association or union of people with common interests including spots, culture, others, i.e. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, FIFA

Level of operation

  • Community-based organizations (CBOs) — popular initiatives which can raise the consciousness of the urban poor, helping them understand their right to services, and providing such services.
  • City-wide organizations — include chambers of commerce and industry, coalitions of business, ethnic or educational groups, and community organizations.
  • State NGOs — include state-level organizations, associations, and groups. Some state NGOs are guided by national and international NGOs.
  • National NGOs — an NGO that exists in only one country; they are rare. These include national organizations such as YMCAs and YWCAs, professional associations, and similar groups. Some have state or city branches, and assist local NGOs.
  • International NGOs (INGOs) — range from secular agencies, such as Save the Children, to religious groups. They may fund local NGOs, institutions and projects, and implement projects.


Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play a vital role in improving the lives of people who have been affected by natural disasters or are facing other challenges. NGOs can act as implementers, catalysts, and partners to provide essential goods and services to those in need. They work to mobilize resources, both financial and human, to ensure that aid is delivered in a timely and effective manner.

NGOs also play a critical role in driving change by advocating for policies and practices that benefit disadvantaged communities. They often work in partnership with other organizations, including government agencies, to address complex challenges that require a collaborative approach. One of the key strengths of NGOs is their ability to work at the grassroots level and to connect with communities directly. This allows them to gain a deep understanding of the issues facing people and to tailor their services to meet the specific needs of each community.

NGOs vary by method; some are primarily advocacy groups, and others conduct programs and activities. Oxfam, concerned with poverty alleviation, may provide needy people with the equipment and skills to obtain food and drinking water; the Forum for Fact-finding Documentation and Advocacy (FFDA) helps provide legal assistance to victims of human-rights abuses. The Afghanistan Information Management Services provide specialized technical products and services to support development activities implemented on the ground by other organizations. Management techniques are crucial to project success.

The World Bank classifies NGO activity into two general categories:

  1. operational NGOs, whose primary function is the design and implementation of development-related projects
  2. advocacy NGOs, whose primary function is to defend or promote a particular cause and who seek to influence the policies and practices of International governmental organisations (IGOs).

NGOs may also conduct both activities: operational NGOs will use campaigning techniques if they face issues in the field, which could be remedied by policy change, and campaigning NGOs (such as human-rights organizations) often have programs which assist individual victims for whom they are trying to advocate.

Public relations

Non-governmental organisations need healthy public relations in order to meet their goals, and use sophisticated public-relations campaigns to raise funds and deal with governments. Interest groups may be politically important, influencing social and political outcomes. A code of ethics was established in 2002 by the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations.


Some NGOs rely on paid staff while others are based on volunteers. Although many NGOs use international staff in developing countries, others rely on local employees or volunteers. Foreign staff may satisfy a donor who wants to see the supported project managed by a person from an industrialized country. The expertise of these employees (or volunteers) may be counterbalanced by several factors, such as ; the cost of foreigners is typically higher, they have no grassroots connections in the country, and local expertise may be undervalued. By the end of 1995, Concern Worldwide (an international anti-poverty NGO) employed 174 foreigners and just over 5,000 local staff in Haiti and ten developing countries in Africa and Asia.

On average, employees in NGOs earn 11-12% less compared to employees of for-profit organizations and government workers with the same number of qualifications . However, in many cases NGOs employees receive more fringe benefits.


NGOs are usually funded by donations, but some avoid formal funding and are run by volunteers. NGOs may have charitable status, or may be tax-exempt in recognition of their social purposes. Others may be fronts for political, religious, or other interests. Since the end of World War II, NGOs have had an increased role in international development, particularly in the fields of humanitarian assistance and poverty alleviation.

Funding sources include membership dues, the sale of goods and services, grants from international institutions or national governments, CSR Funds and private donations. Although the term "non-governmental organization" implies independence from governments, many NGOs depend on government funding; one-fourth of Oxfam's US$162 million 1998 income was donated by the British government and the EU, and World Vision United States collected $55 million worth of goods in 1998 from the American government. Several EU grants provide funds accessible to NGOs.

Government funding of NGOs is controversial, since "the whole point of humanitarian intervention was precise that NGOs and civil society had both a right and an obligation to respond with acts of aid and solidarity to people in need or being subjected to repression or want by the forces that controlled them, whatever the governments concerned might think about the matter." Some NGOs, such as Greenpeace, do not accept funding from governments or intergovernmental organizations. The 1999 budget of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) was over $540 million.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Organización no gubernamental para niños

kids search engine
Non-governmental organization Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.