What is a Non Government Organisation (NGO)

NGOs are a diverse mix of organisations with varied purpose, issues and supporters.

A small number of NGOs pioneered private overseas aid during the colonial period before World War II. A larger number were established in the post-war period, and today over 1.5 million Australians are involved in supporting an overseas aid and development NGO[1]

NGOs play an important role in development. There are over 100 NGOs working towards development in Australia and overseas.  


Different NGOs take different approaches to development work, including grassroots development, humanitarian / emergency relief, advocacy and international volunteering. 

Working with NGOs enables AusAid to benefit from community partnerships and specialised knowledge. 



Practical matters such as fundraising activities have an impact on NGO work – raising issues of financial and political independence and sustainability.

NGOs rely mostly on donations from philanthropic individuals and organisations, rather the government.  In 2008, 1.7 million Australians donated $812 million – 76% of all money raised by NGOs.[2]

Many Australians want to give money and take action when immediate help is needed, but deciding who to donate money to can be a difficult process.


Effectiveness and Accountability 

NGOs have a responsibility to be accountable to the communities in which they work and to effectively support poverty alleviation. These responsibilities may be challenged by:


  • Differences in pay and lifestyles between international and local workers; which can also push up local inflation.
  • Favoring visible short-term results over long-term sustainable outcomes
  • Failing to adequately consult and communicate with communities.


Provision of humanitarian or disaster relief can be particularly problematic unless local communities are actively and meaningfully engaged.  

                                                          Take Action!

Faith-based NGOs have a strong presence in the development sector. It is worth considering whether the religious foundations of an organisation potentially impede their activities  


Want advice about how to make decisions on donating? Click here




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Last updated 16 November 2010


[1]ACFID, 2009, Facts and Figures, http://www.acfid.asn.au/resources/facts-and-figures, last accessed 8/10/10


[2] ACFID, 2009, Facts and Figures, http://www.acfid.asn.au/resources/facts-and-figures, last accessed 8/10/10


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