If you’re thinking of starting an NGO, then it’s good to ask yourself the following questions:

What is my reason for starting the NGO?
If you see an NGO as a way to make a profit for yourself, DON’T DO IT! It is fraud to use grants and funding intended to assist others, to enrich yourself.

Are you passionate about the issue you want to address?
NGO work is sometimes lonely and hard work, and usually involves sacrifices. Change is sometimes slow to come, so you need to be prepared to be in it for a while. If you’re likely to get bored, or tired, DON’T DO IT! If there’s an NGO in your area, consider volunteering there to get some experience of NGO life.

Have you done your homework?
You might have all the right reasons for starting an NGO, and be passionate about the social issue you’re hoping to target – but that still may not be enough. It helps to spend some time on the ground, finding out more about the issue you are hoping to address. It is helpful to speak to all the stakeholders: the potential beneficiaries, people you might want to join you to run your NGO and community members. You need to test your ideas, and it’s essential to get community buy-in.

Are you doing unnecessary work?
Although NGOs doing similar things may not always want to work together, it makes sense to try and join another NGO that is already working to address the issue you want to address. Personal pride and refusal to accept leadership from another can sometimes be an obstacle that stops organisations from effective collaboration. You are all working towards the same goal, which is to address a particular social issue, so try your best to work together.

Good people?
If you are hoping to start the NGO with others, consider the following: (1) are they honest and trustworthy?; (2) are they diligent – can they, and do they want to, work hard?; (3) are their motives right – if they think that they will benefit themselves by getting rich – run! You do not want this kind of person around; (4) are they passionate about the cause?; (4) have you seen that they are capable and trustworthy in the way they approach other things?; (5) do they bring good skills and/or knowledge to the table?

Who will support you?
Do you have a group of passionate people around you (or even one or two friends) whom you trust, and can go to for sound advice? Will they check your motives and ask you hard questions? Will they tell you when you need to take a break and look after yourself? As mentioned before, NGO work is often hard work, so it is good to have people around you who will support you.

How will you fund your NGO?
This is a big question. More and more, people are making the mistake of thinking that NGOs are get-rich-quick schemes. Fraud amongst NGOs is a thing, and there are a huge number of NGOs in South Africa all competing for funding. This has caused donors to apply strict funding criteria. This means that you cannot rely on funding from an external party. It is becoming more common for NGOs to find ways to support themselves, so that they are more sustainable. For example, they might charge their beneficiaries a small, reduced cost for the services they provide; they may sell items for an income (crafts, produce from their vegetable garden, donated secondhand items etc.) or they may render certain services to the market, for an income.

How are your administrative skills?
If you register a non-profit organisation with the Department of Social Development, or a Non-profit Company, with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), you will need to submit certain information on an annual basis. You will also need to keep records of money coming into, and leaving, your NGO.

These are just a few pointers that we thought may be helpful. We would love to hear from you if you have any advice you would like to share.

45 responses to “So You Want To Start An NGO?”

  • 22

    Colette Symanowitz :

    Hi Simone,
    Great article. Very helpful, thanks!
    On the CIPC website,when registering our NPC, it asks us to choose to be one of the following:
    1. NPC without members, standard MoI
    2. NPC without members, customised MoI
    3. NPC with members
    Which should we choose and why? What are the pros and cons of each?

    Also, can our for-profit company (https://FraudCracker.com) have a foundation that is a NPC that carries out public benefit activities? If yes, how do we go about setting up this NPC? I assume it must be a completely separate company from the for-profit, with a separate bank account, etc.?


    • SimoneG replied :

      Hi Collette, thank you! I’m glad you found it helpful. The simplest and quickest is to opt for an NPC without members, with a standard MOI – you can always customise the MOI at a later stage. Here’s another article that should answer your questions on this: https://eluminationsa.wixsite.com/learn/post/how-to-register-a-non-profit-company-npc

      Then, yes, a for profit company may have a philanthropic NPC associated with it, but the two will be two completely separate legal entities, that are separately registered and have separate bank accounts. The process is simply to register an NPC with the CIPC, as it seems you are already in the process of doing. Depending on what the tax status of the NPC is (PBO only, or PBO and section 18A status), your for profit will be able to donate to the NPC and receive certain tax benefits. Please consult a qualified tax practitioner for more on this.

      All the best!

      • Colette Symanowitz replied :

        Thanks Simone, you’ve been a big help. Any tax practitioners you can recommend in JHB area that are reasonable and have NPC expertise, or would any tax practitioner be able to help with this?

        • SimoneG replied :

          Hi Colette, glad to hear that! I haven’t worked with any tax practitioners with an NPC focus, and I do think it may be beneficial to consult someone who has a bit more of a focus on that. Perhaps have a look at this (google search, not a personal recommendation, but SANGONET is reputable): http://www.ngopulse.org/article/abcs-taxes-nonprofit-sector All the best.

  • 15

    stephinaR :

    i wish to look after our boy child because it looks like they are a forgotten nation i stay in an area whereby boy children are just rooming the streets without anything to do, and i think they can be of help to themselves and look after other people and they have lost their moral .

  • 4

    Sim Manamela :

    Hi there. I am based in Gauteng and would like to register an NPO to help rural communities as they are underprivileged. In terms of registration with department social development, should I register with Gauteng or Limpopo province?

    • SimoneG replied :

      Hi Sim, good to hear from you – thank you for getting in touch. I think the best way would be to confirm with the Department of Social Development themselves: https://www.dsd.gov.za/index.php/contact-us But there are some NPOs registered in Gauteng, who serve communities in other provinces. All the best.

  • 16

    J C CLASS OF 1977 :

    We hope that community ngo will address the challenges faced by many who are in need of government assistance

  • 17

    Nothando :

    Good day, I would like to know what is the minimum number of members required to register an NGO because a friend told me that it should not be less than 5 people

  • 12

    SimoneG :

    For anyone working in the early education space (literacy and numeracy), here are some wonderful free teaching resources in a number of different languages:
    – workbooks, lesson plans and vocabulary posters: https://fundawande.org/learning-resources
    – practical teaching aid videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdbzR2fVsW5AtaQY_WYbvHw/videos

    Please share with those you know who may find this helpful, and let’s work on improving our children’s education.

  • 10

    Loyiso :

    I’d like to shed some light on how to register an NGO. Please go to CIPC and open an NPC (nonprofit company). Minimum 3 members and a constitution in place. This costs R420.

    Once this is done the NPC must register as an NGO with the DSD (Department of Social Development). This process takes 3 months and is free of charge.

    • SimoneG replied :

      Thank you very much for the helpful input, Loyiso. Just to add: the constitution document required to be submitted to the CIPC is called a “memorandum of incorporation” (MOI, for short), and this is an auto-generated document during the registration, that can be updated at a later stage.

  • 24

    Ntomby :

    I wish to help those kids need special attention.This dream came when I was struggling to get the school for my low vision son near by my home and there are many kids and parents experiencing the same situation in my community I am NOngoma

  • 13

    chris :

    I saw the need to help among the youth and wants to introduce gospel singing groups in my area at high schools to enhance their singing talent

  • 5

    Sunelia Schreuder :

    Need assistance and guidance to register NPO want to open a rescue shelter for animals.

  • 24

    Joyce :

    I have registered an NPO in Pretoria East but during my practicals I identified lots of ECD practitioners did not understand how to help in the development of Autistic, the owners simply told me that they dont know what to do with these kids. I would like to assist in training as I have the skills and knowledge of the spectrum disorder. Would really like to meet people who want to work with me to get this off the ground and organize a support structure for the parents

    • SimoneG replied :

      Hi Joyce. This is so necessary and we really hope that it goes well, Joyce. Perhaps you can reach out to http://aut2know.co.za/ and ask them for guidance? All the best!

    • bonus replied :

      I am ateacher and parent of 21 yrs son living with autism from limpopo Lebowakgomo and have npo the building of the center of autism is above the roof i need trainers to can help me with staff

      • SimoneG replied :

        Hi, thank you so much for your message. It may be helpful for you to get in touch with Autism South Africa, who can provide you with specific advice: https://aut2know.co.za/ All the best!

  • 18

    Thabo :

    Is it possible to register NGO with my as executive member?

  • 15

    Joy :

    Good day, I will like more info on how to start an NGO, I would like to assist my community as I see everyday in my area, there are many social problems and many children who are living their grannies and they lack support

  • 23

    Ntomboxolo :

    I’m HIV positive, would like to open a home for HIV young adult to find themselves & teach them how live with this virus. Also to give them support groups and councelling .

  • 7

    Catherine :

    I wanted to registered NGO since four years back but unfortunately i couldn’t because i don’t know the requirements pls can you help me out on what and what

  • 10

    loxion hustlers :

    thank u very much for your information,now i know what i want. i will keep in touch for more information

  • 8

    Ben Marais :


  • 4

    Petunia :

    Good day, I would like more info on how to start an NGO, I would like to assist my community as there are many social problems e.g drugs& alcohol , HIV and a need to assist special needs children

  • 19

    Boitumelo Mthethwa :

    hi, I am an ECD practitioner and owns a day care center in Mangaung, I have seen that theirs a gap for schools of children who have difficulties in learning, and that’s where I will like to assist.

  • 18

    Teboho :

    How do I register an NGO? Do I need forms, and where do I find the relevant documentation ?

  • 23

    Nomcebo Sikhosana :

    im the young lady who wish to start an NPO in her area due many disadvantage people i see everyday in my area and many children who are living with their grannies and they lack support.

  • 13

    Mmathabang Molefe :

    I am a 21 years old girl staying in a rural area called Magaliesburg,I want to open up an Orphanage as there are many orphans around here,and as a young person who wanna make this place a better one…please assist me on how to start

    • Alpheus Bopape replied :

      Same applies to me, but i managed to join other organizations that help disadvantage communities. i think you should just at least start small by joining different organization that are helping the community, because it is not easy to implement that, but it is possible only if you believe in yourself.

    • Nontutuzelo replied :

      I am a Married Woman with three Boys i stay in King Williams Town i would love to open an Orphanage Home here in Berlin next to King Williams Town can you please assist me on were to start

  • 6

    Nadeem :

    Hope you well.. It is not good for me to eat and an innocent child to starve.
    It’s not good for me to have clothes and an innocent child is naked.
    It is not good for me to have a home and an innocent child to have jus a box.
    It’s not good for innocent kids not to have an education. They are the future. My dream is to open an orphanage jus to please God and to be a human

    • Thantaswa replied :

      We have the same dream, i just dont know where to start.

    • Caron replied :

      Hey all

      I have the same dream, it literally breaks my heart to see people in my community and beyond starve and suffer. I do what I can however it just doesn’t feel like enough, I need to help more people while I’m still on this earth. I’m not sure where to start, if you from Cape Town and want to collaborate let me know. Thank you – Namaste

  • 14

    Lorraine :

    I am a teacher by profession and have identified a huge gap within the structures of special needs education as a whole which i still argue that if that gab has not been covered or rather made an initiative to be filled and accommodated, the concept of inclusion as a whole either in education, health, ect will never be accomplished in our societies. I feel like I could be doing so much to cover up that identified gab especially within my working hours. I owe the world an integrity for my obsession to help in changing other people’s lives too, inclusion in particular.

    • Shafeeqah replied :

      Hi Lorraine
      I have a similar background story that has brought me to this site in search of info to start an initiative that addresses the issues of special needs education in South Africa, I have partnered with an existing NGO but unfortunately the partners lacked a few of the reasons listed above to go into this venture. However if you’d like to chat, that would be great

      • Fikile A Zulu replied :

        The community of Lot 14 in Stanger is poverty stricken.l started teaching Sunday school in 2004.have served lunch to my learners and members of the church out of my pocket since lm the only member who is employed.l have watched learners resolting to prostitution…dropping out of school trying to make a leaving. I haven’t left this place because l feel the need of making a difference in this community.Feeding people,assisting learners some of whom walking 14km to and from school.l am surrounded by teachers, a nurse, a nutritionist and a group of sober minded unemployed ladies. Drug abuse, alcoholism,prostitution’ malnutrition are the social ills that an NGO can intervene and bring solutions

    • TSHEPO replied :

      I am a varsity student and i want to start an NGO that will help our society in terms of academics ..more especially for leaners that get qualifications that cant them to varsities .so i was hoping i would some few pointers from you.

      • Xhamla replied :

        I am also a fellow student and I am working towards starting an NGO that will focus on providing skill-sets for those in my community who struggle with academics and therefore do not go to University or finish high school. If you have any guidance or pointers you would like to bounce off one another please do so.

  • 25

    Thobile :

    Please advise on how do I protect the idea for my NGO before it starts functioning and who do I share it with without them being able to steal it?

  • 6

    Carol :

    This blog has helped me a lot.I can’t thank you enough Simone.Our communities need us,we are the ones to make the world a better place for future generations.It starts with you.

    God Bless

    • Jo Cooper replied :

      i am Currentlly not registered as an Npo,but has been working in the community for a while
      looking after almost 400 famliies,feeding them from my own pocket,and sometimes gets donations from the community,this community and its surrounding areas are really living in poverty,and this si my passion and my Ministry to help

      • Boikgantsho. L replied :

        Hi ,i hope you are all well .I’m a grade 11 learner ,my friend and i want to start an NPO organisation .The main idea behind us starting an organisation is to help less privileged girl with their needs as girl child .We want to give them toiletries and sanitary pads .Perhaps you can give us advice on how one could register for an Organisation in Pretoria and get funding.

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