Building Sustainable Legacies: New Expectations for NGOs

Zachary Stanley, Guest Writer

We hear about their initiatives around the world and the great work and services they offer communities in need – nongovernmental organizations are everywhere these days and their missions are as diverse as the people that they serve. Traditionally, non-profits have relied on tugging on the heartstrings of the general public to fuel their projects. With so many choices in great organizations, combined with the economic downturn, it is increasingly important for donors to make informed decisions about where their money goes.

Not all NGO’s are made the same. Some have projects that are aimed at short-term or immediate relief to a specific need in a given community or region. Others are looking to create and implement long term solutions to global problems. No one organizational vision is better than the other. They all fill a need and seek to make the world a better place for people facing circumstances that are outside of their control. In the age of sustainability, however, those non-profits that are geared towards intertwining their mission with plans for future independence are poised to provide lasting change.

There are many examples of NGOs with outstanding results that have been founded on a sustainable platform. An example of one such organization is Operation Smile. This international children’s charity not only sends trained medical professionals to sites around the globe to give free surgeries to children born with facial deformities, but each mission has a co-educational focus that works hand in hand with the surgical goals. Local medical care providers, be it nurses, surgeons, or dentists, are taught throughout the mission on how to provide proper care to these children. This kind of education equips and empowers communities to care for their own. It also allows the charity to focus on other projects and depend less on international volunteers.

This philosophy is what has helped Operation Smile gain supporters around the globe, with foundations in over forty countries. Morag Cromey-Hawke, Executive Director of Operation Smile in the United Arab Emirates admitted that the sustainability plan and educational focus of the charity since its establishment in the United States in the eighties were huge factors in its patronage in the UAE, selected over other charities targeting similar needs.

Individual and corporate donors alike are drawn to charitable organizations that will produce a lasting or memorable impact. Organizations that are moving to a more sustainable model are not only convincing donors of the organization’s commitment to making the most of its funds, but are also ensuring that its organizational goals are reached thanks to increased accountability on the ground.

If you plan on donating to a charitable organization in the near future, make sure you do your research on the organization’s mission and structure and ensure that your good will is wisely placed.

Zach Stanley is a senior at NYU’s campus in Abu Dhabi, UAE where he studies biology and cognitive science. He has worked with several NGO’s throughout his undergraduate career and hopes to apply this passion to see lives changed for the better to a career in the medical field. In his free time he loves to catch a feel good movie or play a game of tennis. Contact him at:


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