NGOs Making A Difference

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How do NGOs make a difference to the lives of people?

NGOs work in a variety of ways to improve the lives of people and communities all around the world. This underlying motivation is what attracts people to an NGO career and to find work with purpose.

But what difference do NGOs really make and how is the impact of their work felt by individuals and communities?

NGO work can be grouped into 5 main areas:


NGOs have a powerful knack of bringing people together to call for change. As individuals we may feel that we haven’t got the time, money, energy or knowledge to make a difference in the world but NGOs allow us all to get involved. Using donor money, NGOs can invest in knowledgeable staff to inspire and lead willing volunteers.

Bringing people together enables campaigns to gather momentum and catch the eye of media and governments. NGOs might connect people together by holding mass centralised events like marches or they might connect local people who all want to fundraise for the same cause. NGOs also host online communities to bring people together, for example hosting Facebook Live events with speakers from around the world or mobilising remote fundraising through new apps.

Staff and volunteers benefit greatly from a shared sense of purpose which has a positive impact on mental health.


NGOs campaign on issues such as climate change, access to education for everyone, tax dodging, human rights or migration. Using skilled staff and access to government, NGOs can produce viable alternative proposals that can be put before governments leading to policy change. For example a successful campaign on climate change might lead to an increase in cycle lanes and a reduction in air pollution.


Some NGOs position themselves as a “Voice for the Voiceless”, prioritising projects that help everybody have their say.

This might involve

  • Supporting rural communities to know their rights in a land dispute - meaning they can hold onto their land for farming
  • Training women to take up first time roles in local or national government – leading to better representation and understanding of women’s issues
  • Speaking on behalf of people who have been wrongly imprisoned


NGOs play a major role in offering advice to people in need. Skilled staff members may be working with newly arrived refugees and migrants, advising them on housing, employment or access to healthcare or elderly people needing support to access online services.

NGOs also make a difference by offering training to build local capacity. For example, training a bike mechanic/hand pump technician to ensure that a village can make their own repairs.

Providing practical help

This is probably the area in which it is easiest to see the impact that NGOs make:

  • Health
  • Water and Sanitation
  • Food and nutrition
  • Mental health
  • Education
  • Shelter/housing
  • Livelihood’s support

In situations when governments cannot, or will not, provide these essential services, NGOs are stepping up to fill the gaps and support communities all over the world.

NGO Services