Survey: Blogs on How to Start an NGO

NGOs - Tools

We took about 20 students, and had them do searches for the best blogs on how to set up an NGO.  Most students chose to use Google, but some options were tested using other search engines and different search terms.

Most common search term – How to set up an NGO

These were their top choices, with some reviews, and observations.

Top 10 choices (in order of most chosen):

  1. Matador Network
  2. Verge Magazine
  3. Mandint
  4. NGO Café
  5. NGO World
  6. Wango
  7. Humanitarian Forum
  8. Twawki & Blood and Milk (tie)
  9. Charity Village & ImagineCanada (tie)

10. Canadian Revenue Agency (because they know this sort of thing is important)


Reviews and Observations:


Matador Network


Their search bar says “Where do you want to go?” because you can travel through them as part of their travel journalism courses.  The layout is attention catching with picture links that are labelled Human Rights, Activism and Politics. Every time you refresh the page there are picture links for different countries that Matador is helping.  Easy to follow steps and acknowledges the importance of building an NGO that can run independently of your leadership.


Verge Magazine


Their content is dedicated towards the future, be it for people, technology, the environment, and ideas in general.  Their post is outlined with DO’s and DON’T’s- making it less scary to start a complicated organization.




This site is a lot less flashy, but a lot more organized and constructed in a professional manner. They offer definitions so that the readers and bloggers are on the same page. There are many phone numbers, both local to the community and international. The legal topics covered in this blog are definitely something of interest when starting up an NGO.

NGO Café also known as the Global Development Research Centre’s Blog http://www.gdrc.org/ngo/ncafe-ks.html

Though it doesn’t outline the steps necessary to create an NGO in itself, it does however, give ENORMOUS amounts of links and pages to “how to create” an NGO, what policies to look at, bylaws, politics, evaluations, management, networks, building tools, partnerships, and academic resources. The GDRC’s blog is very handy when it comes to information, but the other blogs for creating an NGO could prove more useful if you don’t want to sift through endless links.

NGO World

http://www.ngoworldpk.com/knowledge-bank/understanding-ngo/steps-to-start-ngo.htm No ads, weird celebrity gossip videos, or really strange product advertisements!  It is concise and it outlines everything from styling your NGO, to seeking legal expertise and certain things to look out for, (like those dang tax reports).



Google search for “How to set up a successful NGO” leads to a blog written by Joanna Moshman, for the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations. In her write-up of how to create an NGO she goes into great detail and provides ten steps to follow such as:

  1. Establish Purpose/Vision/Goals.                           6. Draft By-laws.
  2. Establish an initial Board of Directors.                  7. Register the Organization.
  3. Seek legal expertise.                                                8. Hold an initial board of directors meeting
  4. Choose a name.                                                        9. Set up an accounting system.
  5. Write articles of incorporation.                                10. Come up with a fundraising plan.


Humanitarian Forum


This site provided an article titled, “How to Build a Good Small NGO”. It is a manual put together by a group of people who work with NGO’s. The experience of these people spans across different platforms of nations and causes.

Blood and Milk


This is a very cheeky and pessimistic view to setting up an NGO.  If you love dry humor this blog has it!  It is not helpful for a person, who actually intends to set up an NGO, but it does give some advice; the advice is what not do!  Basically it discusses the reasons why one should not decide to set up an NGO.



This blog provides a ten step plan into setting up an NGO and also provides screen shots of other NGO website pages such as the World Wildlife Foundation, and their explanation of how their NGO’s are structured.

Charity Village


There are e-courses on several related topics from Charity Village.  There are courses on grant-writing, event planning, and proposal writing.  And, the job ad section is a place students go to find jobs.

Imagine Canada


See the Nonprofit Library and keep in mind that an NGO can only be called a charity if it meets all the criteria for being a charity (Canada Revenue Agency).


One Website EVERY FUTURE NGO should read:


A Canadian Government website which yields information regarding setting up a charity or NGO and how to apply for the proper tax status for such an organization or charity.  It’s a Canadian government site so the information is trusted and accurate (P.S. I love that my students said this…. J)

NGO, Charity, Nonprofit: The Difference – in layman’s terms.

NGOs - Ideas & Trends


Nonprofit’s are formed for the purpose of providing goods & services under a policy where no individual will share in any profits or losses of the organization.  These can be charitable organizations, advocacy organizations, membership groups, or social/recreational organizations.  These can include NonprofitNGOs, but charities are often also explicitly not allowed to advocate policy positions and sometimes NGOs do this.  Additionally, nonprofit charitable organizations include institutions such as universities, and hospitals, and museums which are affiliated with the government.  So, NGOs and nonprofit’s are, in some ways, different.

  See the March 2nd “Definition of an NGO” blog for the academic version of this explanation.

How to be a Humanitarian

NGOs - Ideas & Trends

Humanitarian organizations, and other NGOs, often specifically take up a neutral position when it comes to politics.  That said, that doesn’t mean not being aware of the issues.  In fact, in means being VERY aware of the issues.

This is why…

You need to be political in order to know how to be apolitical.

You need to be involved and informed in order to appear neutral.

This is where being educated about the issues comes into play.  There are many layers of context.  Just how many layers is enough?


Classroom seats

Alan Fowler said this like 10 years ago…..

NGOs - Education Pathways

Classroom seatsIn 2000, Alan Fowler[1] indicated that there were few links between NGOs and universities.  He went on to indicate that “knowledge about and interest in NGOs or voluntarism is not being nurtured in young people” (177).  This is still true at the university level, and it has been more than a decade since he identified such a gap.  High schools have started filling this gap, and often volunteer work is required at the high school level.  Universities have still not moved in to allow career paths to develop in this direction.  Why?

Definition of an NGO (Academic Version)

NGOs - Ideas & Trends

The sector represented, in part, by NGOs has variously been termed the voluntary sector, nonprofit sector, charitable sector, third sector, civil society sector and can also refer to what are called community-based organizations.  Third sector organizations / NGOs are both non-governmental and non-profit, hence the third sector.

Nonprofit organizations are not-for-profit, but they can also be aligned with the government.[1]  Most significantly, in all statistics related to nonprofits in Canada, universities and hospitals (largely non-profit in Canada) are included in the category.  This greatly skews the numbers when trying to understand both the type of work and the employment demand for this sector.

NGOs are a sub-set of nonprofit organizations that are explicitly concerned with development, human rights and social change.  Hence, the definition: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are generally understood to be not-for-profit or ‘third sector’ organizations concerned with addressing problems of poverty, social justice and/or the environment.[2]

Nonprofit organizations and are, at times, also termed charities.[3]  There are charitable and non-charitable nonprofit and voluntary organizations in Canada.  Charitable organizations are formally registered with the Canada Revenue Agency and the purpose of the organization must be: the relief of poverty, the advancement of education, the advancement of religion, or other purposes beneficial to the community as a whole, including health.  There are also other voluntary organizations, namely social clubs, professional organizations, and recreational associations but they are not eligible for the tax advantages of charitable status.[4]  In Canada, charities can exclude “organizations providing benefits through a focus on the environment, rights groups, or services to ethnocultural groups” and they are expressly limited in “their ability to advocate policy positions.”[5]  Given that NGOs are nonprofit organizations that “address a social and/or political issue or situation, often politically,” these distinctions can be important.[6]

[1] Definition of a Nonprofit:  Group, institution, or corporation formed for the purpose of providing goods & services under a policy where no individual (e.g., stockholder, trustee) will share in any profits or losses of the organization.  Separated into the following categories: CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS. Charitable institutions comprise the bulk of … nonprofit organizations. These include a wide variety of institutions involved in the realms of poverty assistance (soup kitchens, counselling centers, homeless shelters, etc.); religion (churches and their ancillary possessions, such as cemeteries, radio stations, etc.); science (independent research institutions, universities); health (hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, treatment centers); education (libraries, museums, schools, universities, and other institutions); promotion of social welfare; preservation of natural resources; and promotion of theatre, music, and other fine arts / ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS. ‘These groups attempt to influence the legislative process and/or the political process, or otherwise champion particular positions … They may call themselves ‘social welfare organizations’ or perhaps ‘political action committees.’ Not all advocacy is lobbying and not all political activity is political campaign activity. Some of this type of program can be accomplished through a charitable organization, but that outcome is rare where advocacy is the organization’s primary undertaking.’ / MEMBERSHIP GROUPS. This kind of nonprofit organization includes business associations, veterans’ groups, and fraternal organizations. / SOCIAL/RECREATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS. Country clubs, hobby and garden clubs, college and university fraternity and sorority organizations, and sports tournament organizations all can qualify as nonprofit organizations, provided that they adhere to basic guidelines of net earnings distribution, etc. Unlike other tax-exempt organizations, however, their investment income is taxable./ “SATELLITE” ORGANIZATIONS. … Such organizations include cooperatives, retirement and other employee benefit funds, and title-holding companies. / EMPLOYEE BENEFIT FUNDS (See Mark Reed, “Can NGOs, Non-Profits, and Activists Co-operate?: An Exploration of the Feasability of a Forum for Communication, Co-operation, and Collaboration Among Community Non-Government Organizations, Non-Profit Groups, and Activists,” Centre for Co-operative and Community-Based Economy (CCCBE). Victoria, University of Victoria, Fall 2011).

[2] Drawing from: David Lewis, The Management of Non-Governmental Development Organizations, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2007.

[3] NGOs are charities, providing they satisfy certain tax law criteria.  In some other countries, like England, they are more commonly termed charities.  Canadian nonprofit and voluntary organizations can be formally incorporated or unincorporated [unincorporated means that the organization lacks the liability protections] … and can be seen as ‘private’ even though they may receive public sector funding and support.  They are operate within boundaries of government regulation and cannot distribute surpluses. They are self-governed by a board of directors.

[4] For more information, see Michael H. Hall, Cathy W. Barr, M. Easwaramoorthy, S. Wojciech Sokolowski, Lester M. Salamon, The Canadian Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector in Comparative Perspective. Johns Hopkins University / Imagine Canada / Government of Canada, 2005.

[5] Ibid, p. 29

[6] Mark Reed, “Can NGOs, Non-Profits, and Activists Co-operate?: An Exploration of the Feasability of a Forum for Communication, Co-operation, and Collaboration Among Community Non-Government Organizations, Non-Profit Groups, and Activists,” Centre for Co-operative and Community Based Economy (CCCBE). Victoria, University of Victoria, Fall 2011.