NGO Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

A NGO is one of the most important kinds of organizations in the world. This is what it is and how to use it in a sentence when writing or talking.

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Understanding how different organizations operate and are structured can be confusing. There are for-profit organizations, non-profit organizations, government-based organizations, sole proprietorships, and more. It can be hard to distinguish between these sometimes. This can often result in confusion and frustration for businesses and people who have to work with them. 

To clear up that confusion on what an NGO is, what it does, and how it’s different from other kinds of organizations, we’ve made this concise article for you. Read on to find everything you need to know about NGOs and what they do. Especially when it comes to tax situations and working with volunteers, knowing what an NGO is can have a lot of impacts on your life and business. 

What Is an NGO? 

The NGO acronym stands for the phrase “non-governmental organization.” It is one of the kinds of nonprofit organizations globally, and its most distinctive factor is that it operates independently of any government system.

The primary purpose of an NGO is to work to serve communities on a national or international level and benefit a social or political goal. Most NGO activities are based around a specific cause, like an environmental NGO, NGOs based on coalitions, or various advocacy NGOs. 

These kinds of organizations are also sometimes called civil society organizations since they are based on serving the world’s citizens at large. Because these are community organizations that operate independently of the support of a government, they work based on the income of private donations and membership dues. This allows these specific non-profit corporations to function without the help of a government system. 

Whether it is a prominent international NGO or a small locally-run NGO, these organizations almost always serve a social, political, or humanitarian goal. Some familiar NGOs today include the Red Cross, the World Bank, and Greenpeace, which are characterized by their independent operation and focus on international benefit for people around the world. 

What Are the Different Kinds of NGOs? 

While an NGO is already a particular organization, many different types of NGOs today serve other purposes. 

Operational NGOs are focused on designing and implementing projects that serve to develop various parts of the world. They enhance and make sure that people can live healthy lives, have a sustainable infrastructure, and/or have access to the things they need.

Advocacy NGOs are non-government organizations that defend or promote a specific cause, focusing on altering public policy. They serve to protect the freedoms, rights, and lives of people who may not be able to really defend themselves in a lot of ways. 

Some NGOs actually fall under both of these categories due to the different activities they participate in. This allows them to have consultative status and offer social council in a broader variety of different ways. Their status as an organization with no direct structural influence from a government system gives them more freedom to operate in ways that generally provide a reasonably subjective opinion. 

How Do NGOs Run? 

Since the oversight and monetary contributions of an NGO all come from either volunteers or within, it’s essential to understand how NGOs make their money. 

First, since they are a private voluntary organization, most organizations that fall under the term NGO source all of their work and labor from volunteers or non-profit staff. The orientation and sector organization of these organizations focuses on having a high level of operation and efficiency compared to many other kinds of organizations. 

Another way that NGOs make money to operate is by selling goods and services. These can help these organizations run and self-sustain without needing funding from biased governmental organizations. 

Despite having independence from government systems, NGOs are also commonly known to take funding from governments to fund themselves and their operations. It doesn’t happen all the time, but due to the fact that NGOs tend to positively impact the world at large, many governments will give them funding and support anyways. 

Variations of NGOs

A few different types of NGOs tend to operate in similar ways but still have some critical differences in how they are structured, run, and managed.

Here are some of the most popular kinds of NGO variations: 

  • INGO — International Non-Government Organization. These are NGOs that operate worldwide and tend not to be tied down to a specific country. 
  • GONGO — Government Organized NGO. This is often a derogatory term for a government-backed organization that operates negatively and typically has associations with harmful regimes. 
  • QUANGO — Quasi-Autonomous NGO: This is an NGO whose non-government status tends to be useless and doesn’t operate in the same way as how an NGO likely should, in most people’s opinions. 
  • NGO — Environmental NGO — This is an NGO that serves to benefit the environmental health of the world and advocate for positive changes in these areas of the world and government operations. 


NGOs have a big part to play in the world today. They often fight for causes and people groups that most government systems either don’t have the resources or desire to fight for, and they make a massive difference in the lives of countless people. If you ever get the opportunity to donate money, time, or resources to an NGO you believe in, don’t hesitate to do so! 

If you are looking for ways to improve your communication and ability to reach out to people in the world in a better way, come on over to The Word Counter. Our blog has countless articles that can help you interact with people in an incredibly beneficial and powerful way.

This can enable you to succeed in many more areas in your daily and professional life and bring you much more satisfaction in your ability to use the English Language to your benefit. 

The Word Counter blog is here to make your life better! Take a look around — we’re sure you’ll learn something important real quickly!


  1. What is an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization)? | Investopedia
  2. nongovernmental organization | Britannica
  3. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the United States |