I just wanted to make a quick clarification of the difference between a non-governmental organization (NGO) and a non-profit. After an exhaustive google search, I would like to present my findings (I really just wanted to make sure I wasn’t imagining this all up in my head).

First off, the distinction is not as clear in the UK so I will be writing from an American point of view, but delineating the two is helpful at least conceptually. I have found that NGO is the most common term used to describe both in the UK.

Non-profits

The term non-profit is generally used to refer to domestic organizations. The fundamental idea of a non-profit is to benefit the public. You can definitely make an argument that this doesn’t always happen, but that is the idea. The non-profit part comes from the fact that non-profits must return all of their revenues that are not associated with operating costs, e.g. salaries, maintenance, back into the organization. In the United States, non profits can apply for a tax-exempt status. 

 It should also be noted that the term non-profits is a more general term under which NGO falls.

NGOs

Generally, NGO’s do not have primarily domestic objectives but instead focus on international issues.  Examples of NGO’s would be the Red Cross or Oxfam. Despite the designation of “non-governmental,” they often influence governments and may even receive funding from them through grant programs or other means.

Hopefully this helps.

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