Posted by: Pinky Pradhan | October 29, 2009

Noble values diminishing in the NGO sector

THE NGO sector and network of Washington D.C of U.S.A is as vibrant as that of my home country. The need to know more about this dynamic sector, took me to researching the various aspects of it. And one such aspect that caught my attention is the issue of transparency and integrity of NGOs. We talk about the integrity of the government and the corporate sector, but become lenient when it comes to the NGO sector, may be because of the nobility of the profession and the need and purpose we serve.

 During this period of research, I came across a campaign on Facebook on the rising incidence of plagiarism in the NGO sector in India and that caught my attention. I began to probe more and in the process started questioning myself and the profession that I am wedded to. I have been working with the non governmental or non-profit organizations for quite some time. Defined as the ‘third sector’ or the ‘people sector’ with an estimated population of 1.2 million, the profession has its own professional hazards and merits. It is a profession synonymous with ‘ kurta, jhola and  chappal ’ and for those crazy people, who want to change and save the world, end poverty , bring social justice to the most unwanted or the bottom of the population and  fight corruption.

 People, who have their heart and soul in it are often described as ‘no-gooders’ and  even as losers. Ironically, I was also a party to those kinds who saw this NGO business as nothing else but an extended act of minting money by exploiting the poverty or misery of somebody. But, I changed and I have deep and profound respect for my vocation and also those of my peers, who bring hope to the despair, food to the hungry and shelter to the homeless. There are many passionate people who gave up their comfort, social security to pursue this hopeless dream.

 However, not everything is good about this sector. Much as I would like to deny it and have an optimistic and positive attitude, the fact is that this profession too is slowly emerging as a profit venture. There are many stories of how corrupt the sector is and how it is becoming corporatized riddled with ‘corporate culture’. It is a ‘me-first’ scenario where the one who is the fittest and the smartest gets all the funds. And also, who can steal others ideas and concepts, add a comma or two, shift sentences here and there and do a jazzy power points. There is also the sadistic trend of ‘showcasing or exhibiting’ crying and malnourished children, anemic men and women, in front of the prospective funders or existing donors.

 Referring back to the campaign on Facebook, Jeroninio (Jerry) Almeida, Founder and Volunteer with iCONGO (Indian Confederation of NGOs) pensively says that his idea ‘Joy of Giving where everybody in India observes a philanthropic day/week was stolen and is being executed by some other organization as I write this piece.

 “As a part of our policy for benefiting the sector we are happy to let people use/ adapt/ borrow our ideas for their fundraising and campaigning and any person or organization may feel free to copy, print, forward any material on this website. Website and the ideas we generate are open for adaptation by any charities and organizations, people as long as it benefits a cause. But what hurt us most this time was that we were not even credited or acknowledged.” There are many who have voiced their stories but do not wish to be named.

 Within the NGO sector, we often get to hear about stories linked with an NGOs funder being ambushed by other, proposal and concept ideas being stolen and in some places even the benefactors or communities being manipulated for some interim benefits. The other issue that plagues us is the issue of commission. It is a known fact that most of the NGOs have to pay a percentage of the total funds received as a ‘facilitator cost’ to the person who helped broker the deal from within the donor organization.

 It is indeed time that we question ourselves and stop turning a blind eye to it. We have no right to be in this profession if we cannot raise our voice about the corrupt practices that is inflicting it from within. This is a matter of personal and professional ethics.

 Let us take a moment and question our system: How fair and honest are we? Where are those values which stood a testimony to this profession? How can some executives of NGOs easily afford to send their children to foreign universities, engage in a lavish lifestyle — fancy cars and bungalows? 

As the infallible custodians of the development of our society, we have been vested with immense power and trust. The line gets blurred when this power is exploited for the benefit of few. I read somewhere that as the “the conscience of the world” we must be beyond reproach so that we remain the keepers of the public trust” and with that I rest my case.



  1. Hi Pinki,
    Great to see you are writing on the recent issues especially about the Northeast.
    Keep continue to do so.
    At present where are you ?

    Am your old college mate. Hope you remember me….

    Raju Gogoi

    • hey to connect with you. Sorry for taking such a long time to reply to you, was totally pre-occupied and forgot to reply to this.I am currently in Washington DC and will be returning to delhi in September. I came here in august 2009 to pursue a fellowship programme. How are you?

  2. Hi,
    This is an absolutely perfect analysis of the social sector of which my boyfriend has been breaking his butt for the past few years inspite having been a media guy for a number of years.It breaks my heart at the guy’s passion and the agony that he piles on himself looking at the follies of the sector and the people who run it.You have really hit the nail on the head and bang in the centre. The sector is riddled with corruption, nepotism and illness not only in the funding agencies, middlemen and government but also people who head the NGOs posing as the torch bearers of their ilk, the sector is riddled with such people.At times I used to wonder if he is just disillusioned but I chanced on your article today, now whatever lingering doubts I had about the veracity of his accounts have just disappeared.Thanks a ton, you have two great fans in us.

  3. Hey Divya,

    Sorry for this late reply..I was on a hibernation mode for a while. Your boyfriend is doing a great job…keep him motivated, it is an uphill task.And he is not alone at feeling so, we all have at some point or the other gone through it.

    You take care and I will be much more active from henceforth.

  4. this is just to let you know that jerry almeida is the biggest thief of the NGO sector. he has always stolen ideas and money. please ask actionaid people where he paid money to his friends in goa. even the concept of the joy of giving which he is claiming as his own was the fundraising campaign of actionaid executed by Ogilvy.

    Trust me for this, this ICONGO was developed by actionaid but hijacked by this backbiter as his own. He is one idiot who brings bad name to the entire sector. you look at icongo website and you will notice all prominent people put their as board members. They are not his board members but for other organizations to whom he has brought on board and promised funds. its a diffrent matter that only raises funds for himself

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: