Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) serve as critical players in the modern societal framework, often filling gaps that government bodies and private sectors are unable to address effectively. The role of an NGO in society encompasses a wide range of activities that contribute to social change, community development, and the promotion of civic engagement.

In this article, we will explore the multifaceted functions that NGOs perform and how to find NGOs in your area.

What is an NGO?

Non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, were first called such in Article 71 in the Charter of the newly formed United Nations in 1945. While NGOs have no fixed or formal definition, they are generally defined as nonprofit entities independent of governmental influence (although they may receive government funding).

As one can tell from the basic definition above, the difference between nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and NGOs is slim. However, the term "NGO" is not typically applied to U.S.-based nonprofit organizations. Generally, the NGO label is given to organizations operating on an international level although some countries classify their own civil society groups as NGOs.

What is the role of an NGO in society?

One of the primary roles of an NGO is to act as an advocate for social change. NGOs often work towards influencing policies and legislation that affect the communities they serve. By engaging in advocacy work, NGOs raise awareness on critical issues such as human rights, environmental protection, and social justice, striving to bring about systemic change that can improve the lives of people on a larger scale.

Grassroots mobilization

NGOs play a crucial role in mobilizing communities at the grassroots level. They empower individuals by providing them with the knowledge and tools necessary to advocate for their rights and interests. This bottom-up approach ensures that the voices of the marginalized and underrepresented are heard, fostering a society that values inclusivity and diversity.

Humanitarian assistance

In times of crisis, such as natural disasters or conflicts, NGOs are often among the first to respond with humanitarian assistance. They provide essential services including food, shelter, medical care, and psychological support to those affected. NGOs' flexibility and ability to act quickly often make them more efficient than larger, more bureaucratic institutions in delivering aid to those in need.

Community development and empowerment

NGOs are instrumental in community development projects that aim to improve the quality of life for individuals and groups. These projects may include building schools, improving healthcare facilities, and providing vocational training to enhance employment opportunities. By focusing on empowerment, NGOs help communities to become self-reliant and sustainable in the long term.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

NGOs contribute significantly to the achievement of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 goals aim to address global challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change, and peace. NGOs often tailor their projects and initiatives to align with one or more of these goals, thereby contributing to a global effort towards sustainable development.

Education and capacity building

Education is a cornerstone of NGO activities. Many organizations focus on providing educational opportunities to children and adults alike, helping to reduce illiteracy rates and equipping individuals with the skills needed to participate fully in society. Through capacity-building workshops, NGOs also strengthen the abilities of other civil society organizations, enhancing their impact and efficiency.

How can I find an NGO in my area?

Navigating the vast landscape of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can be a daunting task. Enter Candid, the world's largest source of comprehensive information on NGOs. Whether you're a philanthropist, a researcher, or simply interested in the nonprofit sector, Candid is your first stop to accessing NGO's in your area.

Initiating your nonprofit search

To start your nonprofit search, navigate to the Candid's nonprofit search. From there, you can search for NGOs by name, location, cause area, or other criteria. The search function includes filters to refine results by organization size, revenue, and geographic area.

Here are simple steps to initiate your search:

  1. Visit the Candid's nonprofit search.
  2. Enter your search criteria in the search bar.
  3. Click on the search button.
  4. Use filters to refine your results.


Refining your foundation search with filters

Candid's nonprofit search function offers a variety of filters. These filters help you narrow down your search results. You can filter NGOs by size, revenue, and geographic area.

Here's how to use the filters:

  1. After initiating your search, look for the 'Filter' option.
  2. Click on it to reveal the available filters.
  3. Select the filters that match your search criteria.
  4. Apply the filters to refine your search results.


Analyzing Candid nonprofit profiles for informed decisions

Once you've narrowed down your search, it's time to analyze the NGO's Candid nonprofit profile. Each nonprofit profile on Candid provides a wealth of information. You'll find mission statements, program descriptions, financial data, and leadership details. This information is crucial for making informed decisions.

Whether you're considering a donation, partnership, or research, Candid's nonprofit profiles offer the insights you need.


The role of an NGO in society is complex and far-reaching. These organizations are vital for driving social change, providing humanitarian aid, developing communities, and advocating for the rights and welfare of populations worldwide. As agents of progress, NGOs contribute to a more informed, empowered, and equitable society, making them indispensable partners in the quest for a better future.

Understanding the role of NGOs is just the beginning. To truly appreciate their impact, one must look at the tangible differences they have made in the lives of countless individuals around the globe.


Have a question about this topic? Ask us!

Candid's Online Librarian service will answer your questions within two business days.

Ask us

Explore resources curated by our staff for this topic: