Thinking of starting an NGO? Advice from NGO executives

Andrew, a survey agent for One Acre Fund, talks on the phone. Starting an NGO requires more than an idea and goodwill, NGO executives say. Photo by: Lukas Bergstrom / CC BY

The number of nongovernmental organizations has grown exponentially over the years. But as new NGOs are being set up, often at the onset of a humanitarian emergency, existing ones are closing down.

Kenya, for instance, deregistered more than 500 development organizations last December after failing to submit their financial reports. The same month, Invisible Children, the group behind the contentious Kony 2012 video campaign, announced it is folding up. A few months prior, two Irish agricultural development organizations finalized a merger to leverage each other’s strengths and efficiencies.

These examples show how starting an NGO needs more than just an idea and goodwill. There is paperwork that needs to be taken care of, as it is vital in mobilizing funds and claiming tax exemptions. There are laws that need to be learned and be familiar with, especially if you will be setting up and NGO in a country with strict rules and procedures for charities.

Beyond logistics, you also need to consider what development challenge you really want to address. You need to be able to define your mission and find your niche, generate funding to fuel your operations, and employ the right set of people to get your organization up and running.

This article is for Devex Members

For full access to the content of the article sign in or join Devex.

About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.