Spring 2012 - 61853 - PA188G - Topics in Global Policy Studies
Creation & Operation of International NGOs
|Instructor(s):|| Spelman, Niyanta
|Day & Time:||T 6:00 - 9:00 pm|
|Waitlist Information:||For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information|
This course is taught by Niyanta Spelman, founder and exectuive director of Rainforest Partnership. It will meet beginning April 3 through May 1.
The purpose of this class
It’s easy to start an NGO. Get online and find the right state agency, type in answers to a few easy questions, charge your credit card a few hundred dollars, and you are incorporated as a nonprofit organization in most states. It takes a little more time to get tax-deductible status from the IRS, but it’s no less certain: A 2008 study showed that 98 % of those applying for 501(c)(3) status eventually obtained it. (Some even succeeded on their first try; they filled out the paperwork correctly.) For $19.98, you can even buy a book that will walk you through not only incorporation and IRS Form 1023, but also corporate bylaws, staff procedure manuals, meeting minutes – everything you need to form an NGO.
If it’s that easy to start an NGO, why hold a class on it?
Because it’s only easy to start and maintain an NGO if it doesn’t do anything. The hard part is making your NGO effective, relevant, and successful – and that’s what this class is for. Specifically, we’ll discuss how some of the most significant work begins well before the first piece of “official” paperwork is prepared or filed. We’ll outline the principles underlying the creation of an effective and successful NGO, and some of the ongoing work needed to sustain success.
We’ll focus on international NGOs (iNGO) with multiple projects, significant revenues, and paid staff. Each of these characteristics adds layers of complexity to planning, resource development, and ongoing administration beyond those of smaller, domestic, all-volunteer NGOs. Nothing wrong with those, mind you; they do a lot of good work. But the hardest part of administering them might very well be filling out Form 1023 correctly.
Contrary to common thinking, running a successful and an effective NGO can be more difficult than running a for-profit business: handling diverse elements including the not-for-profit aspect; sewing together diverse sources of funding; ensuring the transparency required from the Internal Revenue Service, the public, media, and donors; juggling the varying needs of the various stakeholders that are the recipients of services or benefits of the NGO. All of these elements results in high complexity that meets or exceeds that required of many for-profit entities.
This class will address what is classically called a “non-profit,” albeit an international nonprofit. That said, the work you want to do shouldn't be defined by the venture's tax status. Reframing the focus to the intent of the enterprise—the social good it would be designed to accomplish—should help you think about it in the right way. The key questions and challenges surrounding creating, building and sustaining such an enterprise cut way across the limited issue of tax status.