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How to Start an NGO in India – Complete Guide

Are you passionate about making a positive impact in your community? Starting a non-governmental organization (NGO) in India can be a fulfilling way to address social issues, advocate for change, and contribute to the welfare of society. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of establishing an NGO in India, from initial planning to registration and beyond

What is an NGO?

An NGO, or Non-Governmental Organization, is a legally constituted organization that operates independently of government control. NGOs are typically formed by individuals or groups of individuals who come together to address social, economic, environmental, or humanitarian issues. Unlike government agencies, NGOs are not part of the government and do not seek to make a profit.

NGOs can vary widely in terms of size, structure, and focus areas. They may operate at the local, national, or international level and work on a wide range of issues, including human rights, environmental conservation, healthcare, education, poverty alleviation, disaster relief, and more. NGOs often rely on donations, grants, and volunteer support to carry out their activities.

Types of NGOs in India

In India, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) can be classified into various types based on their legal structure, focus areas, and operational models. Here are some common types of NGOs in India:

a) Trusts

NGOs registered as trusts are governed by the Indian Trusts Act, of 1882. Trusts are established for charitable purposes and operate with trustees who manage the organization’s affairs. Trusts have flexibility in their operations and can focus on a wide range of social causes.

b) Societies

Societies are registered under the Societies Registration Act, of 1860. They are typically formed by a group of individuals coming together for a common social, cultural, educational, or charitable purpose. Societies have a governing body or managing committee responsible for the organization’s management and administration.

Read: Online Society Registration Process in India

c) Section 8 Companies

NGOs registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013, are known as Section 8 companies. These companies are formed to promote art, science, commerce, sports, education, research, social welfare, religion, charity, protection of the environment, or any other charitable purpose. Section 8 companies enjoy certain privileges and exemptions under the Companies Act.

d) Non-Profit Companies

Non-profit companies operate on a non-profit basis and are registered under the Companies Act, 2013. These companies are formed to promote commerce, art, science, sports, education, research, social welfare, religion, charity, protection of the environment, or any other charitable purpose. Non-profit companies must apply their profits or other income towards promoting their objectives.

e) Cooperatives

Cooperatives are formed by individuals coming together voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations. Cooperatives are registered under the respective state cooperative laws and operate in sectors such as agriculture, housing, consumer goods, credit, and healthcare.

f) Public Charitable Trusts

Public charitable trusts are established for charitable purposes such as relief of poverty, advancement of education, promotion of health, and other charitable activities. These trusts are governed by the Indian Trusts Act, of 1882, and are administered by trustees who hold and manage the trust property for the benefit of beneficiaries.

g) Foundations

Foundations are established by individuals, families, or organizations to support specific charitable, educational, cultural, or social causes. Foundations typically operate by providing grants and funding to NGOs and other charitable organizations working in their focus areas.

h) Voluntary Organizations

Voluntary organizations, also known as voluntary agencies or voluntary groups, are grassroots-level organizations formed by individuals or communities to address local social, economic, or environmental issues. These organizations operate voluntarily and rely on the participation and support of volunteers and community members.

Here are the 13 Steps to Start an NGO in India

1. Define Your Mission and Objectives

The first step in starting an NGO is to clearly define your mission and objectives. Identify the social issue or cause you are passionate about addressing, whether it’s education, healthcare, environmental conservation, women’s empowerment, or any other area of need. Develop a mission statement that succinctly communicates the purpose and goals of your organization.

2. Conduct Research and Needs Assessment

Conduct thorough research and needs assessment to understand the specific challenges and needs related to your chosen cause. Identify target beneficiaries, existing initiatives, potential collaborators, and resources available in the community. This information will help you tailor your programs and activities to effectively address the identified needs.

3. Develop a Strategic Plan

Create a strategic plan outlining the goals, objectives, activities, and timelines for your NGO. Define the target outcomes you aim to achieve and the strategies you will employ to accomplish them. Consider factors such as fundraising, volunteer recruitment, advocacy efforts, partnerships, and sustainability measures in your plan.

4. Choose a Legal Structure

Select a suitable legal structure for your NGO. In India, NGOs can be registered as trusts, societies, or Section 8 companies (under the Companies Act, 2013). Each legal structure has its own set of requirements, advantages, and limitations, so choose the one that best aligns with your organizational goals and operational needs.

Read: How to Register a Company/ Startup in India

5. Select an NGO Name

It is extremely important to choose a relatable and catchy name for your NGO. The selected name should be able to manifest your area of social activities as much as possible so that people can remember your NGO whenever in need.

6. Register Your NGO

Once you have chosen a legal structure, proceed with the registration process. This typically involves drafting a memorandum of association and articles of association (for companies), or a trust deed or memorandum of association (for trusts and societies), and submitting the required documents to the appropriate authority for registration. Be sure to comply with all regulatory requirements and guidelines.

7. Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permissions

Depending on the nature of your NGO’s activities, you may need to obtain additional licenses and permissions from relevant government authorities.

For example, if your NGO plans to work in specific sectors such as education, healthcare, or environment, you may need to seek approvals from respective ministries or departments.

8. Establish Governance Structures

Set up governance structures for your NGO, including a board of directors or governing body, and define their roles and responsibilities. These appointed members will be the first governing body upon registration. They will be responsible for all NGO activities and decisions until the new body is formed by the rules, as and when applicable. Furthermore, this governing body will be involved in all strategic matters, such as strategic planning, financial management, human resources, and networking. Develop policies and procedures for decision-making, financial management, human resources, and program implementation.

9. Fundraising and Resource Mobilization

Develop a fundraising strategy to secure financial resources for your NGO’s operations and programs. Explore various fundraising avenues such as grants, donations, corporate sponsorships, crowdfunding, events, and partnerships with philanthropic organizations. Diversify your funding sources to ensure sustainability and resilience.

Read: How to Raise Funds for Small Business

10. Build Partnerships and Collaborations

Forge partnerships and collaborations with other NGOs, government agencies, businesses, academic institutions, community groups, and international organizations working in related fields. Collaborative efforts can amplify the impact of your initiatives, leverage resources, and facilitate knowledge sharing and capacity building.

11. Launch and Implement Programs

With your organizational structure in place and resources secured, launch and implement your NGO’s programs and activities. Monitor progress, evaluate outcomes, and adapt strategies as needed to achieve your objectives effectively. Engage stakeholders, volunteers, and beneficiaries in the implementation process to foster ownership and participation.

12. Monitor and Evaluate the Impact

Regularly monitor and evaluate the impact of your NGO’s programs and initiatives. Collect data, measure outcomes, and assess the effectiveness of interventions in achieving desired results. Use this information to inform decision-making, improve program design, and demonstrate accountability to stakeholders and donors.

13. Ensure Compliance and Sustainability

Maintain compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, including filing annual reports, financial statements, and tax returns as per applicable laws. Implement robust financial management practices, transparency mechanisms, and internal controls to ensure accountability and sustainability of your NGO’s operations.

Cost of Starting an NGO in India

The cost of starting an NGO in India can vary depending on various factors such as the type of NGO, its size, scope of operations, and location. Here are some key expenses to consider when estimating the cost of starting an NGO in India:

⇒ Registration Fees

The primary expense involved in starting an NGO is the registration fee. In India, NGOs can be registered under various legal structures such as Trust, Society, or Section 8 Company (under the Companies Act, 2013). Each legal structure has its registration requirements and associated fees. For example, registering a Trust typically incurs stamp duty and legal fees, while registering a Section 8 Company involves registration fees with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

⇒ Office Space

Depending on the nature of the NGO’s activities, office space may be required for administrative purposes, meetings, and conducting programs. The cost of office space will vary based on factors such as location, size, and amenities.

⇒ Staff Salaries

If the NGO plans to hire staff, salaries and benefits will be a significant part of the budget. This includes salaries for administrative staff, program managers, field workers, and any other personnel required to carry out the NGO’s activities.

⇒ Program Expenses

NGOs often incur expenses related to implementing their programs and projects. This may include costs for conducting workshops, training sessions, awareness campaigns, research studies, and providing direct services to beneficiaries.

⇒ Legal and Compliance Costs

Apart from registration fees, NGOs may need to incur additional legal and compliance costs such as obtaining licenses, permits, and certifications required to operate legally. This also includes ongoing compliance with regulatory requirements and filing of annual reports.

⇒ Technology and Equipment

NGOs may require computers, software, communication tools, and other equipment necessary for office operations, program delivery, and communication with stakeholders.

⇒ Marketing and Fundraising

Marketing and fundraising activities are essential for raising awareness about the NGO’s mission, attracting donors and supporters, and generating funds for its programs. This may involve costs related to website development, printing materials, advertising, and organizing fundraising events.

⇒ Miscellaneous Expenses

There may be various other expenses such as utilities, transportation, travel, professional services (like accounting and auditing), insurance, and contingency funds.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I register an NGO in India?

To register an NGO in India, you need to choose a suitable legal structure such as a Trust, Society, or Section 8 Company. Each structure has its own set of rules and requirements for registration. You must then prepare the necessary documents, including the Memorandum of Association, Articles of Association, and other supporting documents, and submit them to the relevant authority for registration.

What are the key requirements for starting an NGO?

The key requirements for starting an NGO in India include having a clear mission and objectives, forming a governing body or board of trustees, preparing a detailed project plan or proposal, obtaining necessary permissions and licenses, and ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory frameworks.

How long does it take to register an NGO in India?

The time taken to register an NGO in India can vary depending on the chosen legal structure and the efficiency of the registration process. Typically, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to complete the registration process.

Can foreign nationals start an NGO in India?

Yes, foreign nationals can start an NGO in India by following the same registration procedures as Indian citizens. However, there are certain restrictions and regulations governing the involvement of foreign nationals in NGOs, including obtaining prior approval from the government authorities.

What funding sources are available for NGOs in India?

NGOs in India can receive funding from various sources, including government grants, corporate donations, international aid agencies, philanthropic organizations, and individual donors. Additionally, NGOs can generate income through fundraising activities, social enterprises, and fee-based services.

About Next What Business Research Team

The Editorial Staffs at NextWhatBusiness is a team of Business Consultants with years of experience in small and medium-scale manufacturing and service-based businesses.