Why Small Nonprofits Will Save the World

Smaller nonprofits and NGO’s may not have the same name recognition and financial might as the big guys, but that does not mean they play a minor role in making the world a better place. There are countless tiny grassroots organizations supporting causes you may have never heard of, but are nonetheless making a huge difference in people’s lives. Here are just a few good reasons to root for the little guy (aka small nonprofits!):

Teacher and students organizing donated books

1. Small nonprofits engage the community directly in local projects.

Larger NGO’s have the resources to study and assess the needs of disadvantaged communities, but they are still often on the outside looking in. Those who are directly impacted by the problems that big NGO’s intend to solve may just hold the key to implementing solutions.

When the local people are engaged in grassroots projects, they are no longer passive recipients of aid; they become active agents of positive change in their own communities. While larger NGO’s may struggle to get full community involvement, local nonprofits are woven into the fabric of the communities they serve. And when the local people are empowered, they can mobilize a movement for real and lasting change.

Sadly, without larger NGO support many smaller nonprofit organizations lack the funding to offer competitive wages to their staff. The best and brightest local talent may choose to leave their communities when a better job offer comes along from a larger international organization. Nevertheless, the opportunity to make an impact remains in the community, regardless of the financial incentive.

2. Local nonprofit organizations are the first responders, and the long-term supporters.

When they are well equipped with the resources to operate effectively, grassroots organizations can start mobilizing the community and helping people in distress long before foreign aid and international volunteers start pouring in after a disaster.

Issues affecting vulnerable populations can be very complicated, and have grown in number over time creating layers of disadvantage. It is no wonder it sometimes takes multiple generations before real transformative change can happen. Many big international organizations can only invest in a specific project for a few years; without being fully engaged with the local community, their well intended efforts may (and often do) fizzle out.

Small, local nonprofits are in it to win it, for as long as it takes!

Volunteers handing out food to kids

3. Grassroot nonprofit organizations address issues that are easily overlooked by big international players.

Larger organizations can be very effective in tackling huge problems, like sending relief after a natural disaster or supporting communities in periods of dramatic food insecurity. But, there are countless other problems that effect locals’ lives, yet remain largely unknown to the global community. You can bet there is a small grassroots organization out there on the front lines of a fight you may not even know is going on, and they can surely use your support!

While having a well-known brand gives large aid organizations more sway when it comes to fundraising, it can also make them more risk averse. Bigger organizations are often swayed by concerns about pleasing donors, and therefore avoid taking-on “messy” social problems without a clear cut solution. They opt to avoid making waves with their donor network, since the potential for issues is much larger, and instead focus on shorter-term projects with measurable outcomes. These messy social problems consequently remain unsolved, unless a smaller NGO with local insight can step in to bring in and implement an effective solution.

4. Small nonprofits put their funding to good (frequently tangible) use.

Some people are hesitant to support smaller organizations, because they have never heard of them and don’t want to waste their well intended donations. While supporting a large, well established organization may seem like a safe bet that will allow you to create the most good with your hard earned dollars, it may not make the real impact you hoped for. Your donation could go toward ad space to promote a fundraiser, for example, rather than actually feeding a child for a month or providing a life saving vaccine. Even worse, it could get lost in the red tape of bureaucracy before finally trickling down to someone who urgently needs it!

On the other hand, smaller organizations can utilize funds to address issues they personally witness in their communities, without being stalled by complicated procedures and internal gridlock. Their process for program implementation is often tangible, direct, and instantly alters the lives of community members.

Kids watching a movie in a community center

5. The underdog always saves the day in the end.

With so many complex problems in the world, we can’t afford to let grassroots organizations fade out of existence. The diversity of issues in each community requires a diversity of solutions, and it would be unwise to rely solely on a handful of the mightiest organizations to save the world. It has been estimated that less than 2 % of humanitarian aid funding goes straight to smaller, local nonprofits based right in the communities they serve. This is an issue we must address, and we can begin by supporting small nonprofits, instead of the big wigs. With the right support and recognition, the underdog can overcome any obstacles!

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This blog was contributed by Jenni Bills:

Jenni BillsJenni is a travel agent and freelance blogger. From studying abroad in London to traveling around Europe and Japan, her passion for learning about the world seems to be endless.