Founding and sustaining a green NGO
Equality and sustainability are two important challenges we need to face. The need to contribute to a more environmentally friendly future, regardless of our class, career, geographical location or educational background has come. Recognising the connection of these two issues and creating a solution which can tackle both is of the utmost importance if we are to successfully manage the refugee crises and restore our environment.
Engaging migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in, not only, meaningful occupations, but also in ways they can get involved with NGOs and create one is important. Public and private range of organisations including voluntary and community-based are referred to as the third sector in the UK.
The charity sector includes community groups, religious organisations, societies of different sorts and others. There are many to get involved in, but there are always issues that will still need to be covered. In that case, there could be a need to set up something new for such a cause.
In Scotland, for example, a charity must pass a “charity test” which has specific criteria. The criteria are:
• An organisation must only have charitable purposes.
• Provide a public benefit
• Use their funds and property only for charitable purposes
• Allow fair access to the benefit they provide
• Not be, or exist to advance, a political party.
In other countries, the criteria may vary slightly but the essence is the same – an organisation with a charitable purpose.
When considering setting up a new voluntary sector organisation, the objectives must be clear, for example, is another organisation already meeting these needs? If you feel that another organisation is doing something similar, you could contact them to campaign on the specific issues you would like to address. In addition, you will need to check there’s sufficient demand and the right resources to support the services you are planning to deliver.
You will need to build a team to form a committee who have the time, skills, knowledge, and ideas that are necessary to set up and run an organisation successfully. It is important to establish aims and purposes on why the organisation exists and who it will benefit from, which will identify the focus and support needed. To develop the vision, careful planning needs to be done to create a clear focus for the organisation and how it will operate. The activities that your organisation will be undertaking, such as buying premises, employing staff, raising large-scale finance, entering into contracts; need to be considered when deciding to become unincorporated (individuals with no separate legal identity) or incorporated (organisation with legal identity of its own).
There are different legal structures that need to be considered when setting up an organisation, depending on what the organisation will do. In Scotland, for example, these include SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation), Voluntary Association, Company Limited by Guarantee, Trust, and others (comparisons between these can be found at: https://www.oscr.org.uk/media/2506/legal-forms-factsheet.pdf). Once the legal structure has been decided, the constitution can be drafted, adjusted, and finalised for the voluntary organisation which can also be done with the help of legal advice.
Setting up and supporting organisations will vary across different countries. There will be different legal requirements etc. Before setting up, this needs to be thoroughly researched.
How will a charity receive funds?
There are ways charities are able to receive income and raise money. Some examples include:
• Receiving grants from public bodies or other charities.
• Given a legacy in someone’s will.
• Donations by individuals at money-raising events, on the doorstep, or in workplaces.
• Donated goods or sent appeals for funds through the post and email.
In the UK, there are many charities that raise money for different causes such as researching cancer (e.g., Cancer Research UK), supporting the homeless (e.g., Bethany Christian Trust, promoting equality (e.g., Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council (ELREC)) and others.
Charities may also raise money for other charities. For example, in 2017, ELREC raised £1000 for The Refugee Survival Trust (RST). The event consisted of a six-mile cycle ride in Edinburgh as a fun family event. Participants were encouraged to get a sponsorship for cycling at the event to raise money (Figure 2).
This section (including the quotes) is based on “The NGO Handbook” by IPP (2012).
As mentioned previously, the mission is extremely important when setting up an NGO. The group of people wishing to set up an NGO will need a clear objective and a passion for the cause.
“It is necessary that you put your vision and mission into writing. When the leaders of an NGO share a powerful vision and a clear mission, the NGO has a much better chance to be successful. Without a vision, your NGO will find it hard to inspire others to join your cause. An ill-defined mission leaves an NGO without focus and direction. NGOs with unclear missions often dissipate their energy in many unrelated projects or activities, leaving a little impact.”
When the NGO is first set up, it’s likely it will not be perfect. There will always be ways it can manage things better. It will also be likely that the mission will be refined as time passes and the NGO gains experience. This is because, for example, the NGO will come upon additional support it needs to address. This leads to the need of weekly, monthly, or yearly reports. This is a common practice for most NGOs. In many cases, an NGO (especially larger ones) will produce a thorough annual report where they break down the funding and where it has been used and the impact made on the community that year. For example, ELREC produces an annual report.
(These can be found at: https://www.elrec.org.uk/annual-accounts/; https://www.elrec.org.uk/annual-report/).
The mission of an NGO needs to be translated into different projects and activities that will be useful to the community. Projects that benefit a community are highly likely to receive funding, either from the government or other NGOs.
“NGOs must regularly evaluate how well their projects and activities meet the community’s needs and interests. You need to end programs that are no longer relevant or effective and focus on those that are, especially when money is scarce. When your NGO can show that it is meeting community needs and producing measurable results, you will stand a good chance of securing the resources and support to be sustainable.”
NGOs that work on the same issues often form NGO networks. Relationships between different stakeholders will include different NGOs, associations, institutions, and others. Stakeholders will often provide resources and financial support. Relationships with different stakeholders will help the sustainability of your NGO (in a sense of being able to thrive).
Some NGOs will be solely focused on environmental issues; however, all NGOs will now have to have some focus on sustainability.
A green NGO will deal with environmental issues, spread awareness on climate change and promote sustainability. ENGOs have a crucial role in helping to fill the gap by conducting research to facilitate policy development, build institutional capacity, and raise issues for civil society to help people live more sustainable lifestyles.
Other NGOs often include green practices such as recycling and encourage their staff, volunteers, and supporters to do the same.
Green NGOs are usually a popular candidates for corporates and businesses to partner up with which can be an advantage in terms of securing funds and support. There are many examples of partnerships between medium and large companies and green NGOs, such as Unilever and WWF, FedEx, Environmental Defence, Total and ProNatural, and many more. Don’t let the big names put you off! Those NGOs all started small and grew big! Are you ready to start?!
Bureau of International Information Programs United States Department of State (IPP) (2012). The NGO Handbook. Available at: https://static.america.gov/uploads/sites/8/2016/05/The-NGO-Handbook_Handbook-Series_English_508.pdf [accessed: 15/11/2021].