Without non-profit organizations, many functions in society would come to a standstill. They serve as the safety net in many areas of life for many people and provide a critical lifeline. These organizations, also called non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, are pivotal in the delivery of services ranging from basic necessities, like food and shelter, to providing legal assistance in cases of environmental protection or women’s rights.
If you think about your own community, you can probably identify at least one non-profit organization. Perhaps you can think of several, and there are probably many that you have never heard of who are helping to rescue wild animals or that support students going to college by providing scholarships. Religious and secular non-profits work both locally and around the world to provide people with the vital services they need to thrive in the world.
NGO Objectives, Visions, and Missions
Non-profit organizations may provide a wide range of services, or they may offer just one or two. However, they all have something in common: they create objectives, visions, and missions to help them to carry out their work in a clear and organized way. They each play an important role in helping the organizations to carry out their tasks in a driven, motivated way, and they keep them on track and moving forward. They serve as a roadmap of how to reach their end goals and to identify what those end goals are.
• Vision – The vision of an organization is the “big picture of what you want to achieve,” according to the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach office.
• Mission – A mission is a “general statement of how [the organization] will achieve the vision.”
• Objectives – When an organization creates its vision and mission, it needs objectives, or “specific milestones with a specific timeline for achieving a goal.”
Visions are basically what an organization hopes to achieve. For example, the Salvation Army’s vision is “As disciples of Jesus Christ, we will be a Spirit-filled, radical, growing movement, with a burning desire to lead people into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, actively serve the community, and fight for social justice.”
Part of Greenpeace’s vision is “By 2020 we will have charted courses that take Greenpeace global headlong into the world’s greatest social, ecological and security storms. We will be in the places where change happens. We will be in a position to influence the outcomes. We will do so with our largest ‘people powered’ crews ever. By 2020 we will have played our part in ensuring power systems will have passed the points of no return.”
Visions may be shorter or longer, depending on the goals of an organization. They are broad and focused on the larger outcomes the organization hopes to achieve.
A mission lays out how an organization plans to achieve its mission. It’s a general blueprint of how it thinks it will achieve its vision.
The International Rescue Committee helps individuals around the world with a variety of humanitarian services. To accomplish its vision to “lead the humanitarian field by implementing high-impact, cost effective programs for people affected by crisis, and shape global policy and practice by sharing our learning and experience with others,” the organization has laid out its mission: “to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.”
Without a mission, and organization doesn’t have a clear idea of how it will achieve its desired aims, and it is not as focused or impactful as it could be.
Now, let’s move on to objectives. Objectives can be thought of as specific actions that an organization will take to achieve its mission and vision, and they are time-bound. For example, one of Oxfam’s 2019 objectives is “to increase [the voice of more poor and marginalized people] by understanding and being better able to exercise their rights to organize, to information, to public participation and to equal justice.”
This is a very specific statement about what Oxfam hopes to achieve in 2019. When an organization creates its objectives, it is being very specific and intentional about how it plans to achieve its mission and vision within a certain time frame.
Common Areas of Work in NGOs
NGOs typically have similar areas of work within their organizations to ensure that they are able to achieve their objectives and fulfill their missions and vision. They often work in the area of research, advocacy, campaigning, fundraising, and providing aid.
• Research – Many organizations conduct careful research to help them guide their objectives and programs. They also do research to spread the word to the public about the work that they do and to raise awareness about the importance of their work.
For example, the International Rescue Committee’s research arm states that it:
seek[s] to generate robust and actionable evidence across different crisis-affected contexts to increase the effectiveness of humanitarian prevention and response efforts. The IRC conducts research with the greatest potential to i) positively, meaningfully, and sustainably impact the largest number of people; and ii) influence the adoption and scale-up of high-impact, cost-effective programs and policies in humanitarian settings.
Research is critical so that policies, campaigns, program delivery are relevant and impactful.
• Advocacy – NGOs work to advocate for different groups of individuals or causes. For instance, Amnesty International, an international human rights organization states that its team “interacts with US policy makers on issues pertaining to Refugees and Asylum Seekers, Human Rights Defenders, Military and Security, and violations of International Law.
Advocacy can take a number of forms from working on Capitol Hill to defending a client in a court room. Non-profits work to support and advocate for their clients and their causes to achieve their missions and fulfill their visions.
• Campaigning – Non-profits carry out a variety of campaigning efforts to spread the word about the work they do. They may participate in protests, send letters to government officials, write press releases, or conduct email or social media campaigns. Through their work in raising awareness, they are able to help achieve their objectives. An NGO called Charity: Water, for example asks its supporters pledge their birthdays to clean water. So, on their birthdays, friends and family can donation to Charity: Water online, and the birthday person can track how much money is raised in their name.
• Fundraising – Campaigning and Fundraising often go hand-in-hand. An NGO has to fundraise to survive. Its staff members write grants, do social media fundraising campaigns, encourage volunteers to host fundraising events independently in their communities, and a variety of other activities to ensure that the organization can carry out its work well into the future. They also seek large donations from individuals and corporations and invest them to help them to make a larger impact over the long-term.
Nonprofits need fundraising officers to ensure that they can continue their work. Fundraising responsibilities include creating corporate fundraising programs, checking the progress of fundraisers, gathering data for grants, handling social media contact lists, find new ways to get more money from contributors, recruit helpers and sponsors, and get promises of participation from individuals or corporate donors.
• Providing Aid – Nonprofits do all of these activities in order to provide aid to their clients and to support their causes. For instance, the Brazos Valley Food Bank in Bryan, Texas offers a variety of programs to provide aid, including a benefits assistance program, nutrition education, children’s programs, a mobile food pantry, a senior outreach program, and more. As you can see, even a very localized nonprofit can offer many types of aid to support those it serves.
Nonprofit careers can be incredibly rewarding. There are careers paths in them that you might not have considered before, and the areas of program delivery, fundraising, campaigning, advocating, and researching need professionals to fill their ranks to help make the world a better place to live.