NGOs can make a critical difference in addressing developmental challenges

The Managing Trustee of ANAHA Public Charitable Trust, Shri. C. Balagopal (former Managing Director, Terumo Penpol Limited, and third from left) made a donation of Rs. 80.45 Lakhs to the Director, SCTIMST. For the procurement of essential equipment for the Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Intermediate ICU. On 17th July 2017

How Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) can be an effective tool for socio-political change

Despite governmental controls, NGOs still present a plethora of opportunities for political organizations and corporations to make a difference in a strategic way that supports their overall goals. (Refer *1 for a brief primer on how to set up an NGO in India).

NGOs were an idea that came up in 1945 under article 71 of the United Nations Charter.
NGOs are private sector, voluntary (usually non-profit and non-sectarian) organizations that participate in cooperation projects, education, training, humanitarian, progressive, or even watchdog activities.

Political organizations do not qualify as NGOs though political parties can also work through NGOs that are set up by allied personnel. Some NGOs can also be not for profit corporations.

NGOs in India: 
In 2014, the CBI estimated that there were over 20 lakh NGOs in India. That is one NGO for
every 600 Indians. Kerala led the states with 3.69 lakh NGOs or one NGO for every 93 Keralites. Even allowing for a substantial portion of inactive or defunct NGOs, the numbers
are phenomenal. Interestingly there was at that time only one policeman for every 943

Funding NGOs in India:
NGOs have typically relied on public and corporate donations.

Corporate Responsibility Funding: 
In 2013, the corporate responsibility provisions of the Indian Companies Act came into force requiring companies with any one of the following provisions to set up a Corporate Responsibility program:
- Annual revenues of Rs. 1000 crores or more 
- Assets of Rs 500 crores or more, 
- Net profits of Rs 5 crores or more,

Companies that qualified under one or more of the above criteria were required to spend two percent of their average profits for the year on Corporate Social Responsibility
Programs that were to be supervised by a committee constituted for the purpose.

New Funding Tools for NGOs: 
Crowd-funding sites like are sources of funding for both for profits and not for profits. Funders are typically offered a reward for giving. At one point, companies were offering equity to funders who responded to crowd funding appeals. The Reserve Bank of India has  since clarified that such transactions are not permitted.Gift rewards for donors are still allowed. The leading crowdfunding site "kickstarter" is still not accessible to fundraisers in India.

Governmental Controls on Foreign Funding of NGOs

The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act of 2010 (FCRA) has requirements for registration and re-registration of NGOs who wish to receive funding from abroad. In 2016 11,319 NGO’s who did not renew their registration lost their ability to receive funds. A further 25 lost their licenses based on “field reports” by regulatory authorities who are not required to cite the grounds on which their report was based. Groups like Amnesty International, Greenpeace and the Lawyers Collective who have been critical of the Government have been targeted. (Refer *2 for the provisions of the FCRA Act of 2010)

“In order to be registered under the FCRA, an NGO must be in existence for at least three years and must have undertaken reasonable activity in its field for which the foreign contribution is proposed to be utilized. Further, it must have spent at least INR 1,000,000 over three years preceding the date of its application on its activities. The registration certificate is valid for a period of five years and must be thereafter renewed in the prescribed manner.”

Socio-Political Benefits of Involving NGOs
NGOs are the most effective means for engaging and empowering politically significant groups like women which are relatively inaccessible by conventional political methods. This is particularly relevant in politically opinionated states like Kerala. Any organization seeking to propagate new political ideas is well advised to focus on the populations that do not have entrenched political opinions. In Kerala for example, this would indicate women as being more amenable to new political ideas.

NGOs that emphasize empowerment through training, empowerment and micro-finance programs are suitable ways to engage female populations and thereby introduce them to political workers who run NGO programs.

Specialized Groups that NGOs Should Be Targeting Scheduled Caste Groups:
Overall, it must be noted that India is a complex nation of 121 crore individuals, with some 20 percent of the population belonging to disadvantaged groups like the scheduled caste community. (The census estimates only 16.6% but many experts feel Dalits are under counted). If you add the Scheduled Tribes, (a group which represents at least another 8.6 percent of the population) both groups are still discriminated against and are broadly categorized as “Dalits.” After women, who are also discriminated against (even though many accept their lot), this is India’s second most significant political group.  

The Dalit Foundation, based in Ahmedabad is an example of an NGO that supports the Dalit community with a special emphasis on Dalit Women in North India. They provide funding grants to smaller NGOs as well as individuals. Those applying for grants must attest that they are not office bearers of any political party. Their web address is
There is regrettably still a strong correlation between the scheduled caste community and poverty. NGOs can work effectively in these clearly defined communities. For example, Punjab has the highest scheduled caste population in India (30 percent). Over thirty nine percent of this group for example still live in slums.

Other influential groups that NGOs in India support include broad population segments like women, children, seniors, transgenders, disabled individuals etc. Also, worth noting are more specialized categories such as medically disabled, people suffering from specific conditions such as blindness. Occupational categories such as thee are supported by specialized entities such as the National Association of the Blind). Occupational entities that support Educators, Medical Professionals etc should not be confused with unions who are registered under the Union Act of 1926 and focused on occupational groups that lobby for themselves. 

*4 provides information on the Government Handbook on Social Welfare Statistics.

Types of NGOs: 
There are a wide variety of tools that planners can employ. NGOs can be classified based on their orientation or level of cooperation. Some of the Famous terms used for NGO are mentioned below.

BINGO – It is a short term used for business-friendly international NGO
CITS – It is a type of NGO that basically devoted in helping the scientific community by motivating the young talent towards R & D.
CSO – It is short term for civil society organization
DONGO – It refers to the Donor Organized NGO
ENGO – It is an abbreviated form of environmental NGO
GONGO – It refers to the government-operated NGOs
INGO – It is an abbreviated form of international NGO like Oxfam
QUANGO – It refers to the quasi-autonomous NGO like an ISO non-governmental organizations, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
TANGO – It refers to the technical assistance NGO
GSO – it stands for the Grassroots Support Organization
MANGO – It refers to the market advocacy NGO
CHARDS – It is a short form for Community Health and Rural Development Society

According to the World Bank, NGOs can be classified into Operational and Advocacy NGOs. The purpose of an operational NGO is to design and implement development-related projects. The purpose of an Advocacy NGO is to promote a specific cause. It makes efforts to raise awareness through activities like lobbying, press work and activist events.

Founding and management of NGOs:
The genesis of many NGOs is when a group of individuals or even organizations realize that they need a specialized organizational entity that can address a social problem more effectively than before. While some of the NGOs are founded by corporations or other types of organizations who need to extend their reach into unexplored areas.

A very large number of NGOs are founded by people who retired as senior Managers from large organizations, while determined to bring new enthusiasm and specialized advocacy to age-old problems. One example of this is C. Balagopal who recently retired as the Founder and Head of Terumo Penpol. Bala (as he is known to his friends) and his wife Vinita, set up the Anaha Trust that focuses on health and schools in rural areas. They are innovators because they focus on funding specific functions such as cleaning of primary health centers as part of a Public Private Partnership.

India has a plethora of problems that NGOs can help address. The scope of NGOs can be national or even community-based. Sociopolitical and corporate organizations with honest and helpful intentions can still do a lot of good despite growing attention from governments wary of criticism and interference. A multi-pronged funding strategy, transparent financial reporting, good governance and a little tact will help Indian NGOs function effectively as they help solve the myriad problems faced by India.

Useful information in Greater Detail:
*1 How to set up an NGO in India.

*4: Read the Entire Handbook on Social Welfare Statistics in India at:

Written by Pravin J P Arapurakal, Editor, CitizenzNews.
N. B Mr C. Balagopal who runs the Anaha Foundation (referred to in this article) is also an Advisor and backer of CitizenzNews.

On a related note: Not all Non-Governmental Organizations have the nation's interests at heart. For more read below:


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