How to Start an NGO in Nigeria
Some of us have heard the term nongovernmental organization, otherwise known as NGO, practically all our lives but we have failed to truly understand what an NGO truly means. It has been noticed that most of the time people just assume they know what some term means just because they hear it often. This results in people not taking time to find out the true meanings and just carrying what they believe around and passing it to others. For so many, the idea of a nongovernmental organization is a business that strives to meet needs in the society but is totally independent of the government. That notion is totally wrong, before we go on, please understand that an NGO is not a business.
If an NGO is not a business, then what is it?
Let us take a look at the definition from investopedia, “a nongovernmental organization is a nonprofit, citizen-based group that functions independently of the government.” From this definition it is clear that nongovernmental organizations are not run for profit purpose, anything not run for profit cannot really be labeled as a business. Does money come in when you run a nongovernmental organization? Sure it does, but that does not make it the primary aim of setting up one. The major reason for setting up n NGO is to meet specific needs in the society that might never be looked into by the government, even though you might get some government assistance along the way.
Nongovernmental organizations are also referred to as civil societies and they are organized at different levels, basically the community, national and international levels. They are established with the sole aim of serving specific social and political purposes to ensure change comes to such situations. They are not commercially driven, rather they work on a cooperative based system.
Now that you know what a nongovernmental organization is, it is important to also know the types of nongovernmental organizations that exist. According to the World Bank, there are two broad categories of NGOs and they are:
- Advocacy NGOs. This class of NGOs focus specifically on promoting particular causes. An example is an NGO fighting against sexual harassment or one that works on rehabilitating prison inmates. This kind of NGO is the most common, especially in Nigeria, where an individual or group of people notice a problem and work to solve it through laid down strategies.
- Operational NGOs. This kind of NGOs focus primarily on development projects. An example of this is an NGO that works to provide pipe-borne water to a community or equips a training facility for the less privileged.
According to World Bank statistics, it has been noticed that most NGOs end of falling under both categories. This is because at some point, an advocacy NGO will have to run development projects in a bid to achieve their aim. Once they do this, they have switched into becoming an operational NGO for the time being. Same goes for operational NGOs, they run developmental projects because they are promoting a particular cause.
Some other bodies have gone further to describe nongovernmental organizations as involving private organizations that are nonprofit and noncriminal operating independently of government control. Others have included the fact that the organizations should be nonreligious and nonmilitary as well.
How NGOs are funded
By now you must have gained quite some knowledge about nongovernmental organizations, but one question that begs to be answered is, how do NGOs get their funding? This question has caused quite a number of people to run from the idea of starting NGOs even though they truly have a cause to fight for. It is a cause for concern especially since we have established that they are nonprofit, how then do you as the founder run the organization? Mostly, NGOs are funded via the following means:
- Private donations. These could be seeds from philanthropists, religious bodies, politicians, etc. who might not be able to run for the cause but have interest in that problem being solved.
- Membership dues. The members of the NGOs tax themselves a certain levy either on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual basis. They might also need to make special contributions towards certain projects.
- Sale of goods and services. Now this is one part you should understand. The fact that a nongovernmental organization is nonprofit does not mean it cannot indulge in some form of business. As long as the business is a separate entity from the organization itself, it can be run and certain percentage of accrued profit can be injected into running the NGO.
- Grants. Government has been known to provide funding to many NGOs. This is because most causes run for by the organizations help to alleviate problems in the society thus reducing the government’s headache in that regard. Even though the NGOs are independent of government, they still need funding and as long as they can properly stake their claim, they are most likely going to get it from the government.
Variations of NGOs
There are several variations of NGOs and they include:
- BINGO. This is an acronym for Business-friendly International NGO an example of this is the Red Cross.
- ENGO. This is an acronym for Environmental NGO e.g. World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, etc.
- GONGO. This stands for Government Organized NGO e.g. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- INGO. This stands for International NGO e.g. Oxfam.
- QUANGO. This is an acronym for Quasi Autonomous NGO e.g. International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Functions of NGOs
As stated earlier, nongovernmental organizations are established usually to fight for specific causes and because of this you cannot really state their general functions. However, since they are set up for specific issues we can say that solving those issues are their functions. Some of the issues NGOs center around include:
- Human rights
- Environment or health
- Develop communities
- Encourage social responsibility
- Micro finance
- Promote education
- Agricultural development
- Supporting human welfare
- Support the poor and so many others.
Tips on starting your own NGO in Nigeria
As we have seen, nongovernmental organizations go out of their way to make sacrifices just to see that their aim is being achieved. If you are one with such desire to sacrifice for the betterment of humanity, then you should consider the following steps:
- Understand the terrain. It is best that you equip yourself with sufficient knowledge and experience before starting your NGO. A lot of people have great intentions and daring zeal at the onset but within a few month of operation they just fade away. We should not blame them, most times it is a result of not properly understanding what running such an organization entails. It is advised that you join an existing NGO and gain all the experience that you can in the process. In making a choice of which NGO to join, look for one that works in line with your vision. This way you can figure out if you were truly made for that cause or if your efforts will end up being a waste of time.
- Clearly state the mission and aims of the NGO. By the time you are working with an existing NGO questions will begin to pop up in your head. One of such will be, why do you want to start an NGO in the first place? If your first answer is to make money, you better not get involved at all because that is no longer a quest to solve problems and be nonprofit. However if it is to solve certain issues affecting the society you should clearly write them down and seek out the best strategy to achieve your aims. This process might require a lot of consultation with other experts in the field, do not be too shy or proud to seek advice. Putting your thoughts down in black and white will enable you focus and achieve your goals faster.
- Decide on a name. It becomes very easy to choose a name once your mission and aims are properly identified and documented. This is because your name is usually expected to capture those thoughts, your name is a summary of what you do. When people hear your name, everything you do should be made plain to an extent in their minds. While choosing a name you might need to consult the Corporate Affairs Commission so you do not pick an existing name. Once this is done you should go through the necessary registration processes with the CAC and all the other necessary bodies in the country. This is important as it stamps credibility on your business and gives you the opportunity to raise funds, especially grants from the government.
- Create an action plan. Regardless of the fact the NGO is a nonprofit organization, you still need to plan. A wise man once said, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. It is important that you set up a workable plan of how you will achieve your aims without much stress. Set reasonable and achievable goals, fix the goals with specific timelines and begin work. Decipher how you plan to raise the required funds and start to pursue them immediately. There is little you can achieve without funds when running an NGO.
- Separate yourself from the NGO. Now this can be quite dicey, it does not mean once you set the organization up you leave it and walk away. True leadership entails that the leader grows the organization and its staff to a point that even if he is not present things will run seamlessly. Most NGO founders make the mistake of trying to do everything on their own, try this and you end up not achieving much. You will need to brood trust for your staff, this will give them a sense of belonging as they believe they have a stake in the goals being achieved. This way you will get them to do more and become more responsible. You should also understand that the main aim of any NGO is to eradicate a certain problem, which means once the problem is gone, your NGO becomes obsolete. To this end you must create a plan that will either move you to solving another problem or shutting down finally.
- Grow partnerships. One of the most important aspect of running NGOs and indeed any organization is growing impactful relationships. It might take a while to build these relationships but they will be worth it on the long run. To build these partnerships you will have to attend NGO events, publicize what you do as much as you can, meet up with people who are interested in NGO funding, etc. These partnerships end up helping to lift burdens that you alone cannot afford to bear, especially with respect to outreaches and developmental projects.
- Design a website. The world has become global village, technology has taken over and the web is where everything works now. With a good website you can tell the world what you do, who you are, state your vision and mission statements, show different projects you have worked on or planning to work on, etc. It is your office, just on the internet. You will be shocked how fast and far your NGO will reach out to others. The best way to use your website is to link it to other social media handles and employ a manager to handle its affairs.
Once you have all these in place, you are good to go with your nongovernmental organization. I trust this article has been of help to you in your quest for knowledge on how to start a nongovernmental organization in Nigeria.
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