The origin of the term NGO
The term NGO first appeared in 1945 in the chapter of the newly established United Nations – although the first NGOs are considered to be the anti-slavery movements in the 18th century. Even before that, religious orders, missionary groups, merchant hanses, and scientific societies operated for years and engaged in activities crossing continents.[ref] Therefore, humanitarian actions have been part of the human DNA since the first organized societies appeared.
Since then, the number of NGOs has skyrocketed. Globalization has led to various social changes, which created a need to address problems arising around the world, making it necessary to create organizations, whose main scope was to better the world around them. In many cases, transnational civil society has become the only way to engage with ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious, or humanitarian issues.
But what is the difference between NGOs and other organizations?
Most of the confusion is between International Organizations (IO) and Non-Governmental Organizations. For example, NGOs can be considered an IO if they operate at an international level, but not all IOs are NGOs.
There are different ways to distinguish these kinds of organizations, but usually, they are defined by the way they operate and their field of work.
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about what a non-governmental organization is. An NGO is a non-governmental, non-profit, and legally registered organization with humanitarian purposes. This means that they are completely independent of any governmental body, but they can still receive funding from the state or be organized by it while the government has no say in the decision-making of the organization. NGOs can be either small or big organizations with a local, national, or international scope, with different missions and purposes, but with the humanitarian ideology as common ground. They often offer on-the-ground support, conflict analysis, emergency relief, professional expertise, and much more, but with a different mishmash of people and operations.[ref]
Acronyms and types of NGOs
|INGOs||international non-governmental organizations|
|IGOs||international governmental organizations|
|BINGOs||business-oriented nongovernmental organizations|
|RINGOs||religious-oriented nongovernmental organizations|
|ENGOs||environmental nongovernmental organizations|
|GONGO||government-operated nongovernmental organization|
|QUANGO||quasi-autonomous nongovernmental organization|
NGOs according to their functions
NGOs can also be categorized according to the way they are organized or the cause they are advocating for. Here are some examples:
- Community-based: target specific communities, small regional groups, ethnic minorities, etc.
- Civil Society: organized by citizens, organizations that work with specific issues in a community, national or international level.
- Environmental: promoting the environmental conversation and working merely with environmental policies and actions regarding endangered species, climate change, etc.
- Voluntary: unregistered organizations working as NGOs
- Business organized: registered as business enterprises but function as NGOs or organizations founded by corporations
- Charity: engage with poverty, hunger, health care, housing and often offer relief during times of crisis
- Government organized: organizations established by state agencies
No matter the operation and size of an NGO, in the end, they all contribute to society by protecting human rights, promoting sustainability and by bringing awareness to various topics. It is then a private responsibility of every individual to decide which NGO can facilitate their contribution to society with their different purposes.
Interested in donation? Check how can you donate to an NGO.
Wish to become a volunteer? Learn how you can volunteer in an NGO.
Written by Eleni Adamopolou