What is an NGO and how do you start one?

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Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK

An NGO is a non-profit organisation with a societal, social, or scientific purpose. An NGO operates on a national or international scale and often has one clear goal. Do you want to start an NGO in the Netherlands? Then you must register as a foundation at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK).

What is an NGO?

NGO stands for Non-Governmental Organisation. NGOs do not aim to make a profit and are often committed to the environment, poverty, and human rights. Think, for example, of food parcels during disasters, school supplies for poor children, or refugee care. An NGO is not a government or commercial organisation. NGOs usually work with volunteers and money from donors.

NGOs can also be conversation partners for governments. For example, for advice or mediation in matters like child labour or human rights. Some NGOs focus specifically on developing countries, development cooperation, or development aid.

Well-known examples of NGOs are Greenpeace, Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam Novib, and UNICEF.

How do you start an NGO?

Make sure you have a clear goal. What problem do you want to solve? How do you want to tackle it? And what do you need to do so? Make a business plan for this. Include:

  • why your goal is important
  • your target group
  • the financial plan
  • the feasibility

Register your NGO as a foundation with KVK

The first step in starting an NGO is setting up a foundation. This is the legal structure with which you have to register at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK).

Check if there are suitable subsidies

Doing business with developing countries and emerging markets can offer opportunities to NGOs. There are several government subsidies and funds to boost your activities with a social purpose. For example, for sustainability, innovation, and international cooperation. View all subsidies that may be of interest to your non-profit organisation.

Find donors for your NGO

An NGO is dependent on donors. You can start looking for donors in your own environment. For example, by networking during meetings and events. You can expand your reach via your own website or by being active on social media. You can also get publicity through advertisements or interviews on the radio and TV.

Recruit volunteers

A foundation also needs voluntary workers. You can use all types of media to reach potential volunteers, such as your website or social media. Also consider brochures and advertisements, or word-of-mouth advertising through your board members or donors. Find out what to consider when working with volunteers.

Working with the United Nations

The United Nations (UN) may invite NGOs to offer advice or mediation. For example, for sending supplies or services to disaster areas. The UN is also a conversation partner for development cooperation. Find out if your non-profit organisation is eligible to participate in UN projects.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK