A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a non-profit, citizen-based group that functions independently of government. NGOs are organized on local, national and international levels to serve specific social or political purposes. Despite their independence from government, many NGOs receive significant funding from government entities.
While an NGO can be funded entirely or in part by government funding, it may keep its non-governmental status by prohibiting government representatives from membership. In the United States, about 1.5 million NGOs are in operation, representing a wide variety of causes. Many of those receive funding from local, state and federal government entities. The funding often comes as a result of a grant award. However, other forms of funding, such as product donations, can occur. Examples of NGOs that currently receive government funding, or that have received government funding in the past, include:
- American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
- Doctors Without Borders
- World Vision United States
- World Wildlife Fund
Government funding of NGOs is sometimes viewed as controversial, because the funding may support certain political goals rather than a nation's development goals. As such, certain NGOs will not accept funding from the government or any intergovernmental association. For example, the environmental NGO Greenpeace does not take any funding from government , corporations or political parties. Greenpeace has this policy in order to maintain "absolute independence." (For related reading, see "How do NGOs get funding?")