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Ask before you give!


Illustration by Kate Charlesworth


If you want to support an organization, rather than a specific appeal, have you considered:


More money doesn’t always make for a better NGO. The way funds are raised is critical to its nature.


Most NGOs run public awareness campaigns of some sort. This may be the single most important thing they do.


NGOs have to deal with them. But acting as their allies is another matter altogether.


Many – though not all – NGOs now cultivate links with business and transnational corporations. Some do so more than others.


The ethos of an NGO may be ‘businesslike’. But other things may be more important.


Big may look beefier. But it may also be clumsier.


NGOs – particularly international ones – do not have to run all their own projects. They can work in partnership with others.


All organizations need reserves. But anything more than a year’s running costs is probably excessive and wasteful.


Most – though not all – NGOs are ‘tax-exempt’ or registered charities. This represents a huge financial boon to the organization – but it may come with strings attached.


The vagueness of this is currently a contentious issue. In theory an NGO may be accountable to a ‘board’ or ‘trustees’ – in practice real power usually lies with major donors.


The ‘beneficiaries’ or recipients are usually prohibited by law from participating in charitable decision-making. But that doesn’t mean their views have to be ignored altogether.


Charities are not allowed to intervene directly in ‘party’ politics. But they are clearly involved in political issues and can’t absolve themselves altogether.

Donors or potential donors have real power, which is part of the problem. But that power, and responsibility, can also be used in favour of positive change.

New Internationalist issue 383 magazine cover This article is from the October 2005 issue of New Internationalist.
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