Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are growing in popularity every year. In the United States alone there are more than 1.5 million registered NGOs. Many of those NGOs have staff all over the world, including third world countries, so it’s no wonder most of them struggle with internal communication NGOs. There are many things to keep in mind while running an NGO, and internal communication is crucial one that’s often overlooked.
1. Lack of Communication Between Headquarters and Field Workers:
According to a report prepared by faculty of the University of Washington, many NGOs have a unique decentralized structure. Local field offices often maintain a strong sense of autonomy and are minimally supervised by the NGO headquarters. While this is useful since local offices can better understand the culture and environment they are in, it creates problems when the NGO itself tries to implement systems across the entire organization.
In the book, Inside NGOs: Managing Conflicts Between Headquarters and Field Offices, Naoki Suzuki shares some of the challenges of developing systems that both provide some consistency among different parts of the organization while maintaining some flexibility for the local staff, and part of that problem is the disparity between those in the NGO headquarters and those in the field. One way to avoid this problem is to allow those who work in the NGO headquarters to spend time in field offices, giving them a chance to experience what it’s like.
2. Technology and Logistical Problems:
Even if NGO headquarters understand the issues facing field offices, the decentralized structure of the NGO can cause logistical challenges when trying to implement improved communication systems. Much of the staff, especially in developing countries, lack access to the same level of technology as those based in the NGO headquarters.
Even if everyone understands the issue, it can be difficult to overcome it with traditional communication systems. Some NGOs, like World Vision, have begun developing their own systems to solve the logistical issues they face when communicating with their field offices.
3. Budget Constraints:
Unlike World Vision, many NGOs simply do not have the budget to develop their own proprietary communication systems. Because NGOs are non-profits, they rely on outside sources for funding which typically requires some sort of oversight board or committee and the need for transparency when it comes to their spending. Whether they are funded by individual donors, foundations, or governments, resources are usually tight and closely monitored. This doesn’t allow for proprietary communications systems to be built specifically for the organization.
As technology and software improves, the cost to implement communication solutions has declined as well. NGOs now have the ability address these challenges and improve their internal communication. Enterprise messaging solutions like Beekeeper have taken these challenges to heart, giving NGOs the ability to communicate with all staff effectively and affordably.