The Corporatization of the NGOs and How It Impacts Funders, Beneficiaries, and Others

The Corporatization of NGOs and the Opinions of Experts

In recent years, the NGOs or the Non Governmental Organizations have been corporatized as far as their mode of operation and processes are concerned.

This is especially the case with those NGOs that rely on Big Ticket funding as well as are run by extremely wealthy individuals such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Azim Premji, and NR Narayana Murthy, to take some examples.

Moreover, even those corporate philanthropic foundations and trusts that were hitherto running in the manner of old era charitable institutions are now professionally managed and run. This has implications for the way in which such NGOs interact with funders, donors, beneficiaries, and other societal and governmental as well as private sector stakeholders.

While some experts believe that corporatization of the NGOs would lead to greater accountability, transparency, and efficiency, others worry that this trend would make them mechanical and robotic in their funding and beneficiary assistance giving where everything is so process bound that the very purpose of running an NGO is defeated which is to reach out to the marginalized and the underprivileged.

Indeed, if NGOs become like corporates, there is a possibility that the humanitarian and the humane impulses that drive them and are the reason for their existence are negated.

The Example of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Having said that, there are enough reasons to believe that the corporatization of NGOs is long overdue considering the humungous funds and the sheer scale of operations that they undertake.

For instance, the most well known philanthropic foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation operates on a scale of Millions and even Billions of Dollars which means that there is a necessity to follow a prescribed set of processes and procedures that would impose a structure and a method to its approach to philanthropy.

In other words, when one is dealing with such large amounts of money, it makes sense for such foundations to be professionally run and managed in the interests of transparency and accountability.

Moreover, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation interacts with heads of state and other dignitaries which mean that unless it is run like a corporate, credibility and respectability issues might crop up.

In other words, such big foundations need a set process to be followed as after all, amateurish approaches do not work when they regularly meet with Prime Ministers and Presidents as a routine affair.

Corporatization of NGOs is Long Overdue for Transparency and Accountability

The rise to prominence of the NGOs which were always present even in earlier decades but the importance of which was enhanced in the last two to three decades means that they are now responsible stakeholders of society and public governance which means that they need to put fair operations and transparent processes as well as accountable professionals in the forefront of their modus operandi.

Further, there are several dubious NGOs that either exist on paper only or are fly by night operators wherein they and their promoters vanish without a trace once they have secured the necessary funding from wealthy and governmental stakeholders.

Indeed, this is the reason why many experts and the NGOs themselves have become corporatized lest the tag of dubious and shady dealings stick to them and tarnish theirs and that of the eminent citizens who are behind them.

Moreover, the fact remains that funders and donors are more comfortable when dealing with procedural and professional individuals who staff the NGOs so that they are all “on the same page”.

It is very common for the foundations mentioned above and similar others to have graduates and post graduates in social work and who have earlier worked with other NGOs as staff so that their credibility is enhanced.

The Impact of Corporatization of the NGOs

As for the impact of corporatization on the beneficiaries, one has to be a bit circumspect here as there are conflicting opinions on what this would do to them. While the big foundations insist that the beneficiaries are better off when corporatized NGOs reach out to them, some activists feel otherwise.

This is because of the rise of the so-called Celebrity Donor where wealthy individuals who are celebrities in their own right often treat their contributions to such NGOs as an exercise in personal branding and more for Photo Ops rather than out of genuine concerns for the underprivileged.

Moreover, the corporatization of the NGOs has revived the age old debate about whether professionals can really understand the needs and the wants of the underprivileged that more than anything else needs a heartfelt approach to their problems.

In other words, the worry in some sections is that there would be lip service paid to the beneficiaries when corporate NGOs take up their causes. Of course, it is our view based on experience in interacting with corporate NGOs that as long as there is genuine intent behind their operations, corporatization would indeed do everyone a lot of good.


Lastly, it is also the case that the corporatization of NGOs is a necessary stage in their evolution from the background into the foreground of societal discourse.

We have indeed come a long way from Bleeding Heart Symbolic Philanthropy to a stage where the nuts and bolts are as important as the headline grabbing funds and the people that are behind such NGOs.

In other words, as long as the processes and the procedures are followed with a sense of mission and purpose, they complement the vision and the thoughtfulness that underlie their founders approach and this can certainly help all stakeholders.

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