NGO Development
last updated August 31, 2003

Organizational development is an important part of ensuring the longevity, sustainability and capability of an organization. Yet in the face of pressing demands for needed services and advocacy, organizational development may—often quite justifiably—be given a lower priority. At the same time, however, building organizational capacity can significantly enhance an organization's long-term provision of programs and services.

As USAID has noted in its report, 2002 NGO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, NGOs throughout the region face a number of challenges in furthering their organizational capacity. Many NGOs have "weak links to their constitutents" and "volunteerism also tends to remain underdeveloped." Although NGOs are increasingly focusing on organizational development and fundraising, few are using the strategic planning process "to guide the long-term development of their organizations" and many struggle with defining the role of their boards of directors. At the same time, NGOs in the region are becoming extremely savvy about the use of the internet; in addition, the skills and abilities of NGO professionals are increasingly being recognized in the commercial sector. From USAID, 2002 NGO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia 4 (2002).

This section describes the developmental stages of an NGO. Although some aspects of these stages may be common to many different organizations, the specific needs of an NGO, and the speed and ease with which an organization moves between developmental stages, will vary by organization, legal environment, and geographic region. While some NGOs may find it useful to engage in strategic planning early on, others may want to conduct strategic planning later in time and focus in the beginning on development of a simple mission statement and a budget.

Useful sites that provide links to pages on a variety of NGO development topics, from boards to volunteers to strategic planning, include Management Help and the Nonprofit Resource Center.