Starting an NGO:
You may not get it the first time ...

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Starting an NGO
You may not get it the first time ...

Even before you actually set up an NGO, you may simply not know where to start. A number of queries received at the NGO Cafe ask this question - where do I start? How do I know what to do? I am inspired, I want to do something, I want to help the poor ...

Its not easy to get it right the first time. The first project, the first action, is fraught with problems you never anticipated. So, even before you start anything, be prepared:

  • Find an 'excuse': This is the spark, the initial reason for you to start along a path leading you to the setting up of an NGO. Many times it is a tragedy - such as a disastrous flood or a fire - that needs handling. Sometimes a more joyous event, such as a local festival, that brings the community into the streets to enjoy. Look at these initial trigger events as a learning experience, and as a means of building your network of friends and supporters.
  • Involve leaders: People and communities, in general, trust their leaders - not the political party types, but the 'real' leaders - the ones who do the actual work for the community, the ones who are active and care for the community. Involve them at all stages of the project development and implementation, ask their permission to work with the community - it will make your project more easy to implement.
  • Use a local center: Many communities now have centers - some just a meeting hall, where the community comes together for meetings, to hear their leaders, to celebrate a festival, or to discuss something that will affect their lives. These kinds of 'neutral' grounds are best used to explain an idea or a project's components.
  • Bring people together: And of course, bring people together. Don't do it alone - involve everyone, because everyone has something to offer - some skill, knowledge or resource. Recognizing it and providing an opportunity for the people to use that skill, knowledge or resource for the good of the community is a powerful process of 'building local ownership' of the project you want to implement.
And don't stop doing these things even after you start your NGO - that is why it is called 'continual' learning. To stop learning is to die!!
Note: Not all of the ideas mentioned above will work and they are not complete as well. Different places need different approaches, at different times, for different purposes. The objective is to list out as many ideas as possible, which you can pick and choose depending on your specific need! Therefore suggestions are definitely welcome to add to the above ideas. Send an email to:

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Hari Srinivas -