Woman in Kenya waiting to have eye patch removed after surgery by The Fred Hollows Foundation
Mark Maina, The Fred Hollows Foundation | Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

5 pros and cons of working for a small NGO

Bond members share what they find most rewarding and most challenging about working for a small international NGO.

5 benefits

Developing a diverse skillset

“Staff at small NGOs often have a more extensive remit of responsibilities and there is a higher degree of flexibility in job roles. I have found that whilst one day I may be writing a big funding application, the next I might be developing a new strategy or re-designing the website”.
Emma Crump, Dhaka Ahsania Mission UK

Being flexible and efficient

“Responding to real needs as they develop without being hampered by complex layers of management structure for decision making or approval. Small NGOs are very efficient (indeed we have to be!). All impact can be closely monitored and our funds are spent effectively, ensuring excellent value for money across all our projects.”
Emma Judge, Sound Seekers

Small size aids communications

“I am the primary contact for all of our overseas partners; they know that they can reach me directly whenever necessary, which means that we can react quickly and often nip issues in the bud.”
– Brad French, COCO

Being creative and responsive

“The ability to work directly with the marginalised and disempowered to create new and flexible responses to the issues they face in their lives without the pressure of immense corporate structure behind us.”
– Martin Keat, Bishop Simeon Trust

A flexible workload

“Great flexibility to work on a wide variety of things from small applications to community groups, including talks at coffee mornings, to working on multi-annual funding applications with detailed logframe and technical inputs. There is also flexibility in steering your own workload, for example, establishing your own “database” and writing your own fundraising plan which plays to your strengths.”
– Kate Akhtar, AIDS Orphan Trust UK

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5 challenges

Funding and sustainability risks

“The difficulty in having our voice heard and our good work recognised in a competitive funding environment ever dominated by the larger NGOs, which leaves us managing constant funding and sustainability risks, which impact on the commitments we can make to the communities we serve.”
– Martin Keat, Bishop Simeon Trust

Applying for institutional funding

“Applying for restricted funds places unwarranted pressure on the team and is cumbersome, time-consuming and often weighted towards the large NGOs simply because of the large volume of work required to complete a project proposal for which there is no guarantee of success.”
Emma Judge, Sound Seekers

Disruptions have a large impact on work

“Any disruption, whether it be a lack of electricity, internet, staff turnover or illness has a much more severe impact to a small workforce.”
– Brad French, COCO

Managing limited time and resources smartly

“Knowing where to place my limited time and resources. There is need for constant reflection to make sure staff energy is being used in the right way to maximise income and learning driving the organisation forward.”
Emma Crump, Dhaka Ahsania Mission UK

Having to do it all yourself

“Not having access to peers easily to bounce ideas around, not having budgetary support in the form of finance personnel to support financial aspects of proposal/report writing.”
– Kate Akhtar, AIDS Orphan Trust UK

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