What is an NGO and what does NGO stand for

What is an NGO and what does NGO stand for? How NGOs are working and getting funded, and what are the critical elements involved in their work? What is the role of an NGO in society? How would you define NGO roles in Pakistan? What is the primary mission of an NGO?

Considerable amount of information on NGOs in Pakistan is available online but it is scattered and confusing, here is an attempt to provide clear and concise information on NGO operations and structure.

A non-governmental organization or non-for-profit organization is generally structured by ordinary people and maybe funded by private persons, businesses or governments and usually run by group of volunteers. NGOs engage in diverse range of activities and work on different projects in different areas of the world. The activities might involve improving health, human rights, environmental issues, humanitarian relief, climate change, wildlife, education or development work.



Non-governmental organizations have a history dating back to 18th century and it has been estimated that there were 1080 NGOS working by 1914. International NGOS played a significant role in anti-slavery role and women suffrage during post industrialization and even after that. The term “non-governmental organization” became popular after establishment of United Nations.

Types of NGO (Non-governmental organizations)

  • NGO for education and NGO for children education
  • Children NGO and child protection NGO
  • Humanitarian NGO
  • Peace NGO
  • Environment NGO

By Orientation

Charitable orientation usually involves working towards fulfillment of the poor people.

Service Orientation includes organizations with activities such as providing healthcare, education and family planning where people are encouraged to participate in implementing plans.

Participatory orientation generally involves self-help projects where people are appreciated to get engage in implementing plans by contributing land, tools, equipment, cash or materials etc.

Empowering orientation is characterized by helping people to understand social, economic and political elements affecting their lives and helping them recognize their own exceptional powers to spend their lives.

By level of operation

Community based organizations pop up out people’s own efforts. They are generally responsible for helping people to recognize their rights in acquiring essential services.

City wide organizations may include organizations ethnic or educational groups and associations of community agencies.

National non-governmental organizations professional organizations established and run by state or other groups.

International NGOs include secular organizations such as save the children, red cross, ford foundation, Packard Foundation, WWF and IMF. Local NGOs may get funded by the international organizations.

There are many alternative terms in common use such as civil society organization, grassroots organizations, self-help organizations, third sector organizations, social movement organizations, non-state organizations and non-for-profit organizations.


There are large number of categorization of non-governmental organizations and World Bank divides them into operational and advocacy.


Operational NGOS play their role in small scale change by developing projects. They utilize materials, financial resources and volunteers to develop local projects. Fundraising events are organized and sometimes they request government to contribute financially in the projects. Operational NGOS deals with diverse range of issues such as delivering services, environmental issues, public welfare, human rights and emergency relief.


Campaigning non-governmental organizations play their role in large scale change in society by influencing political system. They need effective and efficient leaders and professionals who are capable to get the supporter engaged and motivated. They seek media attention by hosting events and demonstration and maintain a large number of supporters who can participate in demonstrations. These NGOS commonly deal with matters relating to children’s rights, women rights and human rights and their main purpose is to defend or promote a cause.

Both Operational and Campaigning

Many NGOS get involve in both activities. Sometimes operational NGOs use campaigning methods to achieve their goals. Similarly, campaigning NGOS like women’s rights organizations often have plans that to assist victims they are seeking to help through operational work.

Public Relations

Non-for-profit organizations required healthy and effective relationships with communities or general public to attain their goals. Foundations use complex public relations campaigns to gather funds Groups can be of political importance because of their capacity to influence political and social consequences. An ethics code was founded in2002 by the world association of non-governmental organizations.

Project Management

There is a catalyst in raising awareness about the importance of management techniques in successfully completing projects run by non-governmental organizations. These organizations generally have a community or environmental focus and many issues are addressed such as religion, humanitarian affairs or emergency services. NGOS are accepted as an essential element of international relations.

Corporate Structure


Some non-for-profits are extremely professionalized and only hire paid staff to complete projects effectively and successfully. Others are structured around voluntary workforce and less professionalized. Not all people are volunteers who serve non-for-profit organizations. After all, people have to raise their families and fulfill domestic needs.

A large number of NGOS rely on international staff working in different areas across the world but there are also NGOS who prefer local staff or volunteers. There is a slight dispute on whether to send international staff to developing countries or not. There are many pitfall of international staffing in developing countries such as higher cost of foreigners and they have no connections on grassroots level in the country they are employed in. Local expertise and communication barriers are often underestimated.


All non-governmental organizations need budget to operate and the amount of budget may differ from one non-for-profit organization to the other. Large non-for-profits generally have annual budgets in millions or billions of dollars. NGOS are independent from government although they heavily rely on government funding to achieve goals. Government funding of non-for-profits is controversial and many organizations on rely on public and business donations. Some NGOS do not accept government funding such as greenpeace.

Overhead Costs

Overhead is the total amount of money that is required to spend on running an organization other than on projects. This includes bookkeeping, salaries, banking, rentals and office expenses. The overall money that is spent on overhead should exceed 4% of the annual budget. A high overhead percentage makes it harder to generate and regulate funds and such organizations with high overhead are simply being run to benefit the people who work for them and people who donate funds have not much idea about where their money is being used.

Legal Status

Legal status of non-for-profits is pretty diverse and depends on national and political alterations in each country’s legal system and practices. However, you can find four major categories of non-for-profits found worldwide.

Trusts, charities and foundations

Entities established under special non-governmental organization laws.

Companies not only for profits

Voluntary or unincorporated association

NGOS influencing the world

The most visible is the role of NGO in development and the role of NGO in disaster management. Non-governmental organizations have a big influence in worldwide affairs and they provide services that play a major role in developing countries. They have the ability to modify behaviors through spreading new ideas and promote education. Cultures, structures, development, projects and day to day operations are affected worldwide. They strategically develop messages socially activate people in promoting social, environmental and political changes.


NGOS are established and used for extending the normal foreign policy tools of some western countries. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the NGOS are legally independent but they are intentionally financed for various purposes.

NGOs do not cooperate with other groups

They have been using scientific knowledge to achieve their own interests.

They have lost their efforts in truly be scientific and now more focused on self-interest.

They are accused of using white lies and false information to further their campaigns.

NGOS fragment local health, education and many other national systems and consistently spreading domestic inequality.

They judge every public act by how it affects their own interests

Their overall impact is so harmful for the society.

NGOS are often imperialist

Other Articles related to NGOs

How to look for NGO jobs in Pakistan and NGO internships

How to register an NGO in Pakistan

I am looking for a list of NGOs in Pakistan

Senior Lecturer Asked on September 17, 2015 in Community Service.
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    A non-governmental organization is a non-profit, citizen-based gathering that capacities freely of government. NGO activities incorporate, however, are not constrained to, natural, social, backing and human rights work. They can work to advance social or political change on a wide scale or locally. Assignment land

    Undergraduate Answered on January 1, 2019.
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