NGOs essentially play four roles in the community: service providers, support providers, funders, and advocacy organizations. Some NGOs play multiple roles.

i. Service providers. As service providers, they offer direct services to their constituents. Direct service can take many forms such as education, counselling, medical care, and outreach. These organizations represent the bulk of NGOs and include schools, orphanages, and hospitals.

ii. Support providers. They offer assistance to other NGOs. For example, Idealist.org helps organizations find qualified candidates for job openings. Others offer resources to support internal NGO operations such as capacity development service providers.

iii. Funders. Also referred to as donor NGOs, they provide financial resources for NGOs. These generally fall under two categories: foundations such as Vodafone Foundation, and funding intermediaries, who raise funds from individual or corporate donors for disbursement to NGOs to fund their programmes and projects.

iv. Advocacy organizations. Unlike service providers, they shape public policy around specific causes. These organizations represent views or interests and then, through issue advocacy, lobbying, or political activity, work to change public opinion or policy. Examples of advocacy organizations are Transparency International, Child Rights International, etc. Organizations that engage in advocacy need to follow strict guide¬lines regarding how much time and money they devote to lobbying and how they engage in political advocacy.

These categorizations are not strict. NGOs can perform several or all of these roles simultaneously.

Which role(s) is your NGO playing or you will like your NGO startup to play?

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