Growing Social Impact by Reaching over a Million NGOs Worldwide

Originally published by TechSoup at https://blog.techsoup.org on October 16, 2020.

Over years of building our impact and refining our expertise, TechSoup has established one of the largest databases of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the world. Call them what you will — nonprofits, charities, civil society organizations — these are groups that pursue public benefit activities on a nonprofit basis. We are the sector’s advocate, enabler, and bridge to the resources it needs most, facilitating over $13.5 billion in support (cash and products) to more than 1.2 million organizations.

Working with many of the world’s top companies and foundations, we enable philanthropy and social impact programs to connect with validated nonprofits across the globe. Every day, organizations use these resources to advance their missions. Vetting international donees is complex, but validation by TechSoup helps target the right organizations with an enhanced level of trust. Throughout the process, donors are in charge. We provide the framework, research, and expertise, allowing donors to target their activities by region or mission. You tell us whom you want to serve, setting filters based on preferences and risk tolerance, and we do the rest.

How have we achieved this? A cornerstone of TechSoup’s validation services and donation programs is our jurisdiction-specific eligibility criteria. Building on years of expertise, our in-house Global Eligibility team has established a global standard for vetting nonprofits — a standard built on research and analysis of the legal frameworks governing civil society in 236 countries and territories worldwide. The result is a continually updated set of localized eligibility definitions (LEDs) that capture the nonprofit sector in detail and enable us to validate public benefit organizations, wherever they may be.

Here’s how it works.

Developing and Implementing a Global NGO Standard

What do we mean by “NGOs”? This can be a slippery concept, and it’s the subject of much debate and little consensus. Yet, to effectively vet something, you must first determine what it is. In collaboration with a range of experts and stakeholders, TechSoup has established our own standard to identify, capture, and serve these organizations.

Our research team began with a comprehensive landscape analysis and discussions with some of our longest-serving donors. Informed by this, we established a global standard for identifying and verifying what we consider to be an NGO: organizations operating on a nonprofit basis for the public benefit. This baseline reflects a nexus of two things:

  1. The general state of the sector — that is, the realities we have identified in the laws and on the ground
  2. The specific preferences and risk tolerance of our long-term partners and donors

Both factors continue to guide our research and in-depth analysis of tax, charity, and corporate laws in jurisdictions around the world.

The detailed research underpinning our LEDs is the core of TechSoup’s validation services and corporate donation programs. Having mapped the sector, we are uniquely positioned to evaluate organizations according to our global standard.

Note: TechSoup’s LEDs are based on an analysis of local laws in each country and jurisdiction. TechSoup’s NGOsource provides 501(c)(3) equivalency determinations (EDs) for U.S. grantmakers to give internationally, applying standards set by U.S. tax law.

Key Takeaways About the Sector

In addition to defining nonprofits worldwide, here are some key takeaways from our work:

  • The international nonprofit sector is complex. Legal frameworks vary considerably across jurisdictions, making it important to understand local concepts, definitions, and requirements in each country.
  • A global perspective can identify patterns. Even across diverse legal systems, certain trends emerge: charitable recognition, formal public benefit status, tax exemption, charitable deductions, and more. We’ve learned to capture these nuances and, wherever relevant, incorporate them into our eligibility criteria.
  • Not all nonprofits are the same. Civil society comes in many legal forms and statuses. Some organizations are subject to strict regulation. Others operate less formally. Some are restricted from certain activities. Even within the same country, different organization types may be subject to varying requirements or levels of oversight. Our LEDs capture these details so donors can act with confidence.
  • The sector is dynamic. Regulatory environments shift, laws change, and organizational forms come and go. Our research team continually updates and maintains LEDs for all of the jurisdictions we serve. We keep our fingers on the pulse of the sector through continuous legal research and analysis, consultations with local officials, and ongoing collaboration with TechSoup Global Network partners.

We are proud of the rigorous framework we have built, and even more pleased with its impact to date. More than 100 corporations and institutional funders rely on our expertise to vet prospective beneficiaries. And that number is growing.

Join us — in the impact we are making now, and as we prepare to make an even bigger splash in the future.

New Frontiers and the Road Ahead

So, what’s next?

Our LEDs are evolving. We are now working to challenge the traditional boundaries of NGOs to serve new slices of the social sector worldwide.

In years of research, we’ve uncovered new layers, complexities, and a host of worthy beneficiaries that might otherwise go unnoticed. Civil society comes in many flavors and spans many categories, formal and informal, organizations and individuals. Having identified these nuances, we are no longer content to serve only a restrictive slice of the sector: that is, organizations with the most traditional charitable, legal, or tax statuses.

Moving forward, our mission is to help donors serve the precise slice of civil society — in all its nuances — that best meets their goals and risk tolerance.

As we move into new frontiers, we invite our donors and partners to embark on this innovation with us. The need of the sector is real. Beyond traditional NGOs, we are actively working to capture new organization types:

  • Fiscally sponsored projects (FSPs)
  • Indigenous organizations
  • Social enterprises
  • Educational organizations
  • Cooperatives
  • Movements
  • Activist groups
  • And more

Our goal is to capture, define, and serve a broader slice of this dynamic thing we call civil society. We understand its complexities and barriers and are working to overcome them. This “frontier” work is also integral to the upcoming launch of TechSoup’s new nonprofit marketplace. Initial phases of LED expansion are being funded by philanthropic and corporate partners, and the interest is growing.

Especially in these times of global unrest and uncertainty, we strive to be an even stronger bridge between critical resources and the organizations that need them. Help us grow our impact.

Additional Resources

60+ organizations with kindred missions working together to get critical tech know-how and resources to changemakers around the world. meet.techsoup.org