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Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are organisations that are not affiliated with any government and whose primary objectives are social justice and human rights.

The term as it is used today was first introduced in Article 71 of the newly-formed United Nations' Charter in 1945. Later on, the term was used more widely. According to the UN, an NGO is any private organization that is independent of any government administration, as long as it is not for profit and is not a criminal group or a political party (source).

Statistics about the number of NGOs worldwide are incomplete, but according to the United Nations Development Program, there are approximately 40,000 non-governmental organisations in the world in addition to the community-based organisations which number in the hundreds of thousands (source). Both NGOs and community-based organisations (CBOs) work share a common goal – the welfare of society and the people, with CBOs focusing typically on a specific locality. The aim is to improve lives in that locality in general. They are active in a vast variety of activities, like NGOs, such as health, education, food, sports, arts, religions, animal welfare, etc. The overarching term for all non-profit organisations, including NGOs and CBOs, is are Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

The first international NGO was most certainly the Anti-Slavery Society, formed in 1839. Many organizations that came after were inspired by the anti-slavery movement, which peaked at the close of the 18th century. Other early NGOs grew out of wars, including the Red Cross in the 1850s after the Franco–Italian war; Save the Children after World War I; and Oxfam and CARE after World War II (source).

BRAC (The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) is nowadays the world’s largest NGO. Founded in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC’s mission is to alleviate poverty and encourage economic participation by empowering people through social and economic programs.BRAC also sets up and runs schools and universities, The Economist described it as “the largest, fastest-growing non-governmental organization in the world–and one of the most businesslike.”

Civicus is an international non-profit organisation, which describes itself as “a global alliance dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world." Founded in 1993, the organisation today counts more than 8,500 members in more than 175 countries, with its headquarters in Johannesburg and offices in Geneva and New York. Check their website for more.

Eighty percent of citizens agree that nongovernmental organisations make it easy to be involved in positive social change (source). The number of people worldwide donating money to NGOs increases steadily year after year and is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2030 (source).

Do you have any fun or interesting facts to share about your organisation? We would love to hear from you.

We might think that “philanthropy” and “charity” describe the same things, but there are subtle differences between them. While they both involve giving, charity tends to be a “one-off” immediate response to a short-term need (eg. sending a check, texting a donation, etc). Philanthropy is more long-term and strategic and often involves making multiple donations over a number of years (source).

A philanthropist is a person who donates time, money or skills to help create a better world. Anyone can be a philanthropist, regardless of status or net worth. Some philanthropists are known for their good works, such as Mother Teresa, and others for giving away substantial sums to aid society—people like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates (source).

Globally, there are at least 260,000 charitable foundations in 39 countries that hold an accumulated wealth of $1.5 trillion, according to a report by Harvard University.

In USA in 2021 the largest source of charitable giving came from individuals, who gave $326.87 billion, representing 67% of total givings. Corporate and foundations givings represented 22% of total givings (source).

This might seem surprising, as today philanthropy is most often associated with the super wealthy, foundations, and corporations. Most of the time, wealthy individuals channel their wealth through private foundations that carry tax benefits (source). Economist Robert Reichargues goes as far as saying that the foundations through which most wealthy people direct their donations are exquisite forms of tax evasion.

This kind of philanthropy is regularly criticized and presented as fundamentally flawed. The argument there is that if wealth were better distributed then there would be no need for philanthropy, no need for individuals to fund basic human rights like access to food and water.

Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, argues that many philanthropic efforts prevent the systemic causes of poverty, inequities, and injustices from being addressed.

The philanthropic community has repeatedly challenged these criticisms. Phil Buchanan of the Center for Effective Philanthropy argues that philanthropy is an essential part of a healthy civil society. He says that philanthropy complements government work by helping non profit and local organizations and by funding activists who play an important role in the fight against poverty or for social justice.

Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation argues that, by directing philanthropy toward the general good of humanity, the need for philanthropy will ultimately disappear.

“‘Giving back’ is necessary, but not sufficient,” he wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “We should seek to bring about lasting, systemic change, even if that change might adversely affect us. We must bend each act of generosity toward justice.”

Whatever our views or opinions on the subject, philanthropy is definitely an interesting subject and often an absolute necessity for the survival of many organizations.

People volunteer for an array of reasons: because their community matters to them, because they want to make a difference, or they want to meet new people, or just because they believe in a cause and want to champion it… There is no right or wrong way to become a volunteer,, this is not a “one size fits all” path.

First and foremost, volunteering is an essential factor for social transformation. It supports social inclusion, solidarity, active citizenship, the resilience of populations and social commitment, in short: it helps to build our future.

Volunteering is actually also good for the volunteers themselves, including when they are disadvantaged or belong to potentially threatened groups, such as the unemployed, asylum seekers, refugees, migrants, the elderly or the disabled.

“Volunteering contributes to improving the health and well-being of volunteers, and gives them the opportunity to acquire skills and knowledge that can improve their career and employment prospects," said Gabriela Civico, director of the European Center for Volunteering (CEV) (source)

Here are 5 benefits of volunteering that should motivate anyone to give it a try:

  1. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction.

  2. Volunteers are 27% more likely to find a job after being out of work when compared to non-volunteers.(Source)

  3. Volunteers without a high school diploma are 51% more likely to find employment when compared to those who do not volunteer.(Source)Volunteering helps to combat depression. A major contributing factor to depression is isolation and volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, (Source)

  4. According to research, volunteering, especially among older people, can help to reduce mortality rates and help people live more fulfilling, longer lives. Volunteering has also been shown to combat the symptoms of chronic pain, and even heart disease.

So go out there, and give it a go. At NMA, we strongly encourage you to find the right volunteering opportunity for you. Help the elderly, work in an animal shelter or fundraise for a cause close to your heart: you’ll be surprised by how much it brings to you.

You don’t know where to start? Many platforms can help you find a volunteering position that may suit you. Try for example Volunteer Match, Volunteer World or, if you are in Switzerland, Benevol Jobs or Genève Bénévolat.

Let us know if you have any inspiring stories to share with us and others about your volunteering experience, we always love to .ear from you.

Next month we will talk about volunteer management and retention strategies. Stay tuned!

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