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What is an NGO and how do you start one?

This information is provided by

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. Examples of these purposes are development aid or development cooperation. NGOs usually work with volunteers. Do you want to start a non-profit organisation 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 don’t aim to make a profit and are mostly committed to the environment, poverty and human rights. An NGO is not a governmental, but a not-for-profit organisation that works with volunteers and receives 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, WWF and UNICEF.

How do you start an NGO?

The first step in starting a NGO is setting up a foundation. A foundation is a legal structure which you have to register with the Dutch Business Register (Handelsregister) at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce.

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. Traditional channels, such as brochures and advertisements or word-of-mouth advertising through your board members or donors, can also be an option. Put the word out!

Subsidies for development aid and development cooperation

Doing business with developing countries and emerging markets can offer opportunities to NGOs. There are subsidies and schemes in the Netherlands that can help entrepreneurs contribute to the improvement of products, employment, new technology and general development. For instance, the government provides special funding to NGOs for water projects in developing countries. View all subsidies that may be of interest to your non-profit organisation.

Working with the United Nations

NGOs are often invited by the United Nations (UN) to participate in projects such as development aid or development cooperation. The UN has 17 billion dollars per year to spend on these projects. For example, for sending supplies or services to disaster areas and developing countries. The UN is also a conversation partner for development cooperation in the field of education, agriculture, environment and human rights. Find out if your non-profit organisation is eligible to participate in UN projects.

This information is provided by

Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
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