Challenges of Humanitarian NGOs


Nongovernmental organizations are institutions within a society that serve to supplement the roles that ought to be played by the government. The founding of the nongovernmental organization is premised in the delivery of services to a populace or society with no intention of earning profits. As such, maintaining the operations of a nongovernmental organization presents a set of challenges and opportunities that one needs to focus on with the objective of sustainability. Unlike the governmental institutions that have budgetary allocation and taxes as their source of income, NGO have to fundraise for their projects to be accomplished within the stipulated time besides realizing the targeted objectives (Barnett & Weiss, 2008). This paper aims to discuss the challenges that are faced by the nongovernmental organizations. 


Financial Challenges Facing Humanitarian Organizations

According to Barnett & Weiss (2008) many international nongovernmental organizations focus their work in humanitarian aid. Humanitarian aid refers to the quest by the nongovernmental institutions to uplift the living conditions of those who are suffering and those who are downtrodden. As such, the major challenge that is posed to the nongovernmental organizations is the need to generate money to fund their humanitarian activities. In the wake of the financial doldrums, many NGO are not able to raise enough money that enables them to run all the programs that they set out to do or to accomplish (Barnett & Weiss, 2008). As a result, there are many programs that have a benevolent objective that has to be shelved owing to a limited cash supply to the NGOs. The challenge in having limited financing of the NGOs emanates from the dwindling fortunes of the companies and the donors who offer the financial aid that is used by the various NGOs (Barnett & Weiss, 2008).  In the United States of America, many corporate and business moguls have the liberty to either pay their corporate taxes or to offer a significant percentage of their profits to charity. The beneficiaries of the charity money often are the NGOs. As a result, many donors opt to give to charity since giving to charity results in tax exemptions, therefore, enabling the organizations to maximize on the profit margins that they set out to realize. With worsening global economic conditions, the purchasing power or many consumers has been reported to be down leading to apathy in buying of items that are not basic (Barnett & Weiss, 2008). As a result, the profits of many organizations plummet making the taxable pay for the corporate to reduce. The resultant effect is that the organizations would now opt to pay the corporate taxes to the government instead of reemitting a proportion of the revenue that they earn to charity. Limiting the amount of money that results in charity means that the amount of money that each NGO is set to get becomes smaller thereby curtailing the delivery of the various programs that they set out to do (Hollenbach, 2008). The issue of finances and limited amount of money is also on issues for the NGOs based on the priorities that many NGOs set to achieve. The spending behavior of many NGOs is not prudent, therefore, leading to a shortage in the amount of money that is available for the accomplishment of the various programs that are set. Financially, it is prudent for organizations to use a maximum of a third of the income that they receive from donors to meet their staff costs and the operational costs. The remaining two thirds of all the money that they receive should be channeled to the realization of the program objectives. However, bad spending habits and poor spending patterns that is evident in many nongovernmental organizations has a vice versa process (Moke, 2010). When the organization focus their expenditure on personal gains, then the NGO fail to realize their mandate leading to a conflict of interests. 

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Power struggles facing the NGOs

The power struggles that poses the challenge to many NGOs is driven from the fear factor that is developed by the government authorities. Many government institutions view the NGOs as competitors in the delivery of services to the electorate thereby undermining their power over the electorate. However, many organizations operate as noble institutions whose main goal is to ensure that there is adequate service delivery to the citizenry (Christopher & Tatham, 2011). The power struggles that culminates to the legislative war many a times leads to the development of legislation that seem to undermine the ability of the organizations to operate. Many governments compel the NGOs to be answerable to them besides dictating the means through which the various NGOs ought to use the resources that are within their disposal. The power struggles that hit the non governmental institutions are stringent an chocking to the continuity of the operations of various non governmental institutions in the global arena (Christopher & Tatham, 2011).

Humanitarian needs as a challenge to the Humanitarian NGOs

Humanitarian aid is also a challenge to the NGOs. Often, NGOs have the challenge in determining the areas that need to receive the humanitarian aid and the areas that do not deserve receiving the aid. Humanitarian aid is the support that the NGO offer to the areas and the geographical locations where the poverty levels and there is inability of the population to continue with their survival without the support of the well-wishers (Christopher & Tatham, 2011). Determining the regions that deserve over the regions that are slightly sufficient creates a conflict amongst many NGOs leading to negative perception of the NGOs by those who are not able to receive the aid. 

Sustainability Challenges to the Humanitarian NGOs

Sustainability is also a challenge that many NGO struggle with. Sustainability demands that the projects that the NGOs initiative needs to have a permanent lifeline even if the non governmental institutions pull out of the communities where the implementation of the project is set to take place (Gibbons & Heintze, 2015). However, the end of financing from the donors often leads to the collapse of the various programs that are initiated within the society by the nongovernmental organizations. 

Security Challenges to the Humanitarian Challenges

Humanitarian organization also experiences the challenge of having to cope with the insecurities that pertain to the duties that they have to make. The work of providing humanitarian aid requires the humanitarian organizations to send their staff in geographical locations that are highly volatile (Heintze & ThielboĢˆrger, 2015). The highly volatile geographical locations mean that the conditions of life within the regions are extreme for normal and desirable living. The characteristics of the volatile geographical regions include outbreak of diseases, occurrence of the natural phenomena such as typhoons, floods and earthquakes and the presence of war within a country (Heintze & ThielboĢˆrger, 2015). The humanitarian staff that have to work in the zones or region that are highly volatile have the same probability of succumbing to the extreme conditions within the environment as is the case of the locals. As such, the humanitarian NGOs have the challenge of exposing their staff to the geographical regions and location that could result in death of the staff. 

Politics as a challenge to the Humanitarian NGOs

The interplay of politics and principle also asserts the challenges that often befall the humanitarian organizations. Politics is a governance concept that the political class of a country employ in the governance of a country (Schneiker, 2015). Principle is an ethical code that prescribes what ought to be done to humanity to ensure that human enjoys a good quality of life and ensuring equity in the living conditions of the human kind. The challenge of politics and principle is evidently seeable in the context of Rwanda and Somalia. The genocide that rocked Rwanda in 1994 is a case at hand that details the risk factors that the humanitarian organization has to undergo to serve all the humanity equally (Schneiker, 2015). The case of Somalia explains the reason as to why lack of a stable government could lead to an increased pressure on the humanitarian organization to step up and meet the needs that are present. The countries that have no stable political leadership pile more pressure on the humanitarian organizations to take over the basic roles that needs to be conducted by the organization. The basic roles that the humanitarian organizations have to grapple with are the need to ensure that the populace has access to clean drinking water, sanitation and adequate hygiene standards (Ronalds, 2010). Other additional roles that the humanitarian organization has to offer to the populace are proper healthcare and education. The four roles that are mentioned above are expensive to effect within one society. The limited funds and staff that the NGOs often face are the choice of the population group that need to be served by the few available resources within the disposal of the humanitarian organizations. 

Inability of the NGOs to collaborate

The other challenge that the NGOs experience is collaboration with each other. The NGOs at times need to have the ability to collaborate and join together the efforts of the NGOs in effective changes within the society where they operate. Different NGOs have different contractual agreements with the donors who finance their activities (Ronalds, 2010). As such, collaboration of the NGOs is many a time not possible. As a result, the work of the NGO s is not highly manifest as is the case of the government institutions. 

Ethical challenges to the Humanitarian NGOs

Inter country ethical considerations are also challenges that the humanitarian NGOs face. Many international NGOs receive their findings from foreign countries (Ronalds, 2010). For example, the major source of funding for USAID is the United States of America. The influence of the NGOs in the other countries, therefore, is taken out to be promotion of the agenda of the country that of financing the activities of the nongovernmental organizations. On the other hand the NGOs that receive money and other forms of aid have the obligation not to cause a clash with the societal members (Ronalds, 2010). In its view, the humanitarian organizations have to ensure that they master the ethical principle of the donor country, thereby creating a conflict of interest between the NGO and the donors. 

Internal challenges facing the humanitarian NGOs

The other challenge that affects most of the humanitarian NGOs is the ability to afford to employ the quality staff that can effect the activities of the organization with much ease. Nongovernmental organizations such as Medicines sans Frontiers have a high reliance on the volunteers who the organization has to recruit to facilitate the various activities and programs of the NGO (Fonjong, 2007). As a result, the proportion of the volunteers that the NGO hires is higher than the number of the technical staff owing to the high cost of labor that the organization is not able to afford. Reliance on the volunteers creates a complexity in the management of the staff as the volunteers only serve to offer their services for free and, therefore, having no obligation to the management of the NGO. 

The other challenge that the humanitarian organizations face is the lack of, or inadequate funds that the organizations are able to diversify and use in research. The work of the nongovernmental organizations, in many incidences, involves the development of new programs and activities that are foreign within the geographical location where the project has to implemented (Fonjong, 2007). As is the case of hard science, research is what informs the intervention plans that the NGOs need to have in the designing of the policies and programs that they seek to promote within the society in which they operate. The issue of research emanates from the reluctance of many donors in releasing the funds that needs to be geared towards developing the relevant baseline data to aid the implementation process of the various programs that the humanitarian NGOs seek to establish.

Finally, the reporting procedure and the technique of reporting to the donors adds up to the challenge that the organization has to face in regard to research (Fonjong, 2007). Though the donors have the reluctance to fund the needed research activities for the humanitarian NGOs, the donors rate the prudency on financial management by the NGOs in terms of the previous research. As such, there is a discordance that is highly evident in the accounting and accountability procedure that the humanitarian NGOs and the donors have to abide by. 


Concisely, there are various challenges that face the humanitarian NGOs in effecting their work. The notable challenges are the political issues, the power plays in the global arena and the need to adhere to the ethical codes and principles in ensuring diligence in the work of the nongovernmental organizations. From the three main challenges that affect the humanitarian NGOs, there are a series of challenges that also emanate. The challenges include financial uncertainty, inadequate funds to roll out baseline research and global security. The inability of the NGOs to ensure that the programs that they formulate are sustainable and can easily operate after the financing period also proves to be the overall challenge that lowers the morale of the humanitarian organization in effecting their work.

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