There are endless NGOs in developing countries that are working on worthy causes who badly need assistance. Unfortunately, the number of people offering support does not match the amount needed. Thus, it is vital when deciding where to invest your time and money that you chose a NGO, where you can make the greatest difference.
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Thinking with Your Heart is the Key to Helping a NGO
While most people will chose the most established organization with the finest volunteer program.If you really want to make an impact, it may involve selecting a smaller NGO that is starving for support and not forgetting about them when you return home.
My experience from working in international development NGOs in several countries has showed me that as a result of trying to do too much with too little, they all have dysfunctional elements. This means that you will inevitably face frustrations with the organization of any NGO and the best option is to simply embrace these faults by finding a way to improve them.
The best option is to simply embrace these faults by finding a way to improve them.
Ultimately, a volunteer with their heart in the right place can do as much good with a dysfunctional smaller NGO than a larger more highly organized one.
Big vs. small
Chances are working with a large NGO will not maximize your individual skills, because they will probably already have someone covering your field of expertise. On the other hand, smaller NGOs need help in pretty much every aspect of their organization including: legalization, communication, teaching, translating, recruiting, coordinating, organizing, human resources, photography and grant writing.
Smaller NGOs are similar to people living in poverty as they lack access to larger institutional tools and networks that can help them succeed.
Plus, they are always in dire need of leaders or people who will take charge, which makes working for them a much better opportunity to have a larger more influential role. Smaller NGOs are similar to people living in poverty as they lack access to larger institutional tools and networks that can help them succeed.
A small NGO struggles because it has a small network, which means limited resources, including less money, volunteers, legal organization and general infrastructure. However they are actually easier to help grow with the right expertise and inspiration as your voice counts more, since they have less bureaucracy and fewer people pulling the strings at the top of the organization.
The bottom line is that a smaller NGO can offer you the best opportunity to make a true impact.
Nurture, care and lots of dedication
The question then becomes how can you maximize that impact? The reality is that most people are more interested in having the best personal travel experience, instead of actually making a true impact. Too many times volunteers believe because they are donating their time without pay that they do not need to work hard. With this attitude someone is not very useful to a NGO as they are not reliable, and end up using valuable training time of the NGOs coordinators.
Too many times volunteers believe because they are donating their time without pay that they do not need to work hard.
A good volunteer will treat it as an opportunity to help the less fortunate, while also building up some valuable work experience for their resume/CV. The truth is that volunteers come and go and unless they stay long term they really have a minimal impact.
For example, if you volunteer with children short‐term it can actually do more harm than good. This is because the children you work with have suffered through many atrocities, such as war, abuse or loss of their parents and they will likely become attached to you because of your kindness, only to be heartbroken when you go home.
Don’t ask, what the project can do for you…
Ultimately your impact with a NGO will depend less on your time spent there (especially if its under a few months) but more on the work you do for them when you return home. Thus, the best way to give back to a NGO and their cause, is not to forget them when you return home.
This means raising awareness by organizing a small fundraiser, recruiting new volunteers, promoting the NGO on social
media, writing a blog or even getting something published in a local newspaper. In closing, to live a fulfilled life, help the poor with all your heart and expect nothing in return.