How to Start an NGO in Nigeria: Four Things to Consider

An NGO (Non Government Organization) is a non-state, non-market organization that is autonomous, non-profit making, and is focused on mainly development assistance. This resource explains what changemakers like you should be thinking about, if you are considering starting an NGO. This list is not exhaustive, but we have considered this important for early-stage changemakers in Nigeria.

1. Is it a good fit for me? 

Do you have a passion for creating change in your society? Do you think you can start an entity that can feed five million less-privileged children? What about creating a safe space for the female child to express herself? These are some characteristics of those that think starting an NGO is the best fit for them. But there is more to this than just having the passion,however, it’s a good place to start. The recent trend in Nigeria is that NGOs are founded by young people mostly using the model of a social enterprise.That means you need to be strong, deterrent, and large willed not to succumb to the toxic Nigerian enterprise environment. For example, are you ready to go two years supporting your cause with your funds? Or do you think that getting a job and having an income is best for you? In three out of every five clients we have worked with, the former happens most times!

2. Legal implications

According to the Company and Allied Matters Act 1990, to operate as a legal entity, in this case an NGO, you must register, as an incorporated trustee with the CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission), to have a legal name for your NGO. If your NGO is to be established in Nigeria, you can find steps to register online with the CAC by CLICKING HERE. Four out of every five clients we have worked with affirmed that it took them two months on the average to get their certificate. But that’s not all, you need to register your organization with SCUML (Special Control Unit on Money Laundering) before your organization can have an official bank account. The EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) through SCUML ensures that NGOs (also other businesses) are not involved in money laundering and terrorist sponsored  activities. All our clients have mentioned that this process can take a month before finally landing your SCUML certificate and that all commercial banks now have it as a requirement before you can open a bank account with the name of your registered NGO. After you have registered at the CAC, do not forget that you are required to submit the annual financial report of your NGO back to the CAC. This part is interesting to us as we found out that 3% of our past client knew they were supposed to submit an annual financial report of their NGO to CAC, while only 1% of them submitted their financial report to the CAC.

3. Funds to run the NGO

Every enterprise needs money to run its day to day activities. This is the same for NGOs. If you are planning to start an NGO, also design your funding strategy. A funding strategy is a plan on how the NGO will secure funding to run its day to day activities at the present and in the future. This requires financial intelligence. Four out of every five clients we have worked with confirmed they did not know they can have other income streams aside grants from donor organizations. If you are planning to start an NGO, also plan to have 60 – 70% of your income from self generated income sources other than donor funding. You can plan to be providing paid services to other organization. For example, Save a Book, has 80% of its income from selling books, renting its space, providing advisory services to kindergarten schools, creating online and offline events. If you think about the metamorphosis of donor funds, you will find out that most donor funds emanate from income from other sources such as business transactions. So, why can’t you start having that as a plan in your NGO? At times, it’s called being financially sustainable.

4. Available Community Assets 

Do not wait till you get an office space before you start. Do not wait till you get funding before you start. You can partner with other organizations to deliver the mission of your organization. That reduces the cost of overhead. If you have one of the most sorted skills in the development sector e.g research, data mining, you can partner with an organization that already has space by informing them you can trade your skills for a desk space in their office. Consider speaking or meeting with already established NGOs and explore possible ways of sharing your skills with them in exchange for an asset you require for propagating your mission. This is also referred to as in-kind contributions. In place of cash support, you can request for resources that established NGOs can share with your new NGO. Such resources may include budget templates, organization policies, responsibility matrix and other documents that can support the growth of your new NGO.

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