Corporate social responsibility relies on the nonprofit ecosystem of our nation to implement initiatives. NGOs (or non governmental organisations) play a key role in this field, implementing CSR strategy and executing a range of welfare projects. CSR rules developed by the MCA (Ministry of Corporate Affairs) gives special significance to the role of an NGO as an implementation partner in corporate citizenship.
Top NGOs in India
NGOs have been playing a crucial role in independent India, bridging the gap between government schemes and beneficiaries in remote areas. Their advocacy has also contributed to path-breaking laws including the Right to Education Act and the Right to Information Act. They were pivotal in establishing Self Help Groups that are now an essential feature of CSR for rural development. During the COVID-19 crisis, they have emerged as the first line of protection and relief for the poor.
Here are the top NGOs in India that are bringing about sustainable development and a green recovery, one step at a time. This list, in no particular order of ranking, was drawn after careful deliberation from the editorial team at The CSR Journal, observing past impact, resilience, scale, reports and feedback on the nonprofit organisations in our country.
The acronym SEEDS stands for Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society. This 26-year-old organisation is active across India and in Nepal. This NGO works to create a safer and more sustainable Asia. The goal of SEEDS is simple yet powerful – protect the people exposed to disasters. Their dedicated team partners up with local and central governments, companies and other nonprofits to reach out to families affected by earthquakes, floods, cyclones, climate emergencies and pandemics.
SEEDS specialises in disaster preparedness, disaster response and rehabilitating homes and community infrastructure. The core team and volunteers are also involved in policy advocacy and skill development so that communities at risk of disasters can become resilient.
This multi-award-winning nonprofit headquartered in Delhi uses local resources and traditional wisdom to give dignity to the poor. Founder Anshu Gupta is a Magsaysay Award winner and was dubbed one of the most powerful rural entrepreneurs by Forbes. Under his leadership, Goonj has been around for more than two decades, galvanising mass civic participation in issues like rural infrastructure, water scarcity, education and disaster relief.
The secret sauce of its success is that everyone is considered an equal stakeholder. Goonj has multiple long-running programmes including rural development Dignity for Work (formerly Cloth for Work), disaster relief and rehabilitation initiative Rahat, educational programme School to School and menstrual hygiene initiative Not Just A Piece Of Cloth.
This is one of the largest NGOs in India and focuses on quality education through innovative learning. Pratham was founded back in 1995 yet continues to find new ways to ensure that children learn and stay strong. What started off as an education initiative for kids from a slum in Mumbai, Pratham has scaled up its reach and strength. It works directly with children and young people in 22 states and union territories of India.
The NGO’s TaRL approach (Teaching at the Right Level) was so impactful on learning outcomes of school kids here that it is being adapted for schools in other countries. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, this nonprofit organisation is enabling learning for kids at home through free digital content that can be downloaded on the PraDigi App or Pratham’s website.
Established more than four decades ago, HelpAge is a pioneer among charitable organisations in the nation. The NGO primarily works for the elderly in partnership with various Senior Citizens Associations. HelpAge advocates for causes like Universal Pension, Elder Abuse and elder-friendly policies.
Over the years, the focus of this nonprofit has moved to Development. Mobile Healthcare Units offering free healthcare services to destitute seniors is one of the biggest mobile health programmes in India. Elder-Self-Help Groups empowers seniors to earn a livelihood with dignity. Support-a-Gran programme allows donors to take care of their basic needs. The NGO worked in overdrive during the COVID-19 pandemic, alleviating the health issues and loneliness of the disadvantaged elderly population, which was most at-risk on infection and also suffered greatly due to social isolation.
Magic Bus India
Another two-decade-old NGO is Magic Bus, which manages to retain a sense of newness in its functioning. The leadership of founder Matthew Spacie and Global CEO Jayant Rastogi and a young team of activists and volunteers is probably the reason. Magic Bus India tries to lift up children and teens from poverty into a life of meaning and joy.
The Childhood to Livelihood programme has transformed the lives of more than a million such persons. Many of them grow up to become young leaders in their own communities who then go on to mentor other kids in sports and learning. Magic Bus has a network of 5,500 young leaders and 42 livelihood centres.
YUVA Unstoppable is an NGO aimed at mobilizing the power and energy of the youth to bring about social change in India. Founded in 2005 by Amitabh Shah, YUVA Unstoppable is now a movement aiming to make a difference in the lives of children at the bottom of the pyramid.
YUVA Unstoppable works to provide underprivileged children with access to education, sanitation, drinking water, youth affairs, cleanliness and various non-curricular activities. It helps them provide a level playing field with the children belonging to the economically privileged class, to do well in their careers and lives. With support from its 1.5 lakh volunteers and 100 corporate partners, the organization is impacting the lives of over 6 lac children across 1500 government schools in about 14 states of the country.
Myna Mahila Foundation
Founded in 2015, Myna Mahila Foundation is working to empowering women by encouraging discussion of taboo subjects such as menstruation, and by setting up workshops to produce low-cost sanitary protection to enable girls to stay in school. The organisation is a non-profit social enterprise that works to tackle the period-poverty amongst women and girls.
Myna Mahila Foundation works towards achieving its goals by employing local women to manufacture sanitary pads and selling them door to door in Mumbai’s slums. Not only are these pads affordable, but they are also effective in improving menstrual hygiene. On a monthly basis, the foundation reaches over 10,000 women across Mumbai’s slums and redeveloped areas. The organisation employs, builds women’s networks and improves menstrual health and hygiene. Myna has created a safe space within the community for women to speak about issues they face openly.
Sakshi-a rights-based capacity-building NGO established in 1992. It is the pioneer in working against Sexual Harassment and Child Sexual Abuse in India. Sakshi has been the force behind The Vishaka Guidelines 1997 which led to the formation of POSH (2013) and has fought extensively to bring about reforms in the law and child-friendly measures in courts.
Sakshi’s work has led to the development of a Sexual Harassment law, drafting of a reformative sexual assault law, design of special procedures for women and children in sexual violence cases, creative resource development and a sustainable Asia Pacific Advisory Forum on Judicial Education on Equality Issues, selected as a ‘Best Practice’ programme in 2001 by UN Women and has also become a credible model for judicial education on human rights in emerging International Courts.
SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF) is an independent, non-profit, NGO focused on improving road safety and emergency medical care across India. Founded in 2008, the foundation combines evidence-based research with policy advocacy, communication, and on-ground execution of projects in the two areas of crash prevention as well as post-crash response.
Over the past few years, SLF has facilitated the enactment of the Good Samaritan Law in India, which insulates lay rescuers of injured victims from ensuing legal and procedural hassles, adopted the Mumbai Pune Expressway- to transform it into a zero-fatality corridor, trained several thousand of Police personnel and citizens in basic life-saving techniques, and built technology platforms to assist road uses and those interested in road safety.
World Wildlife Fund for Nature
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961 that works in the field of wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment. The NGO aims to “stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.”
WWF is the world’s largest conservation organization, with over five million supporters worldwide, working in more than 100 countries and supporting around 3,000 conservation and environmental projects. They have invested over $1 billion in more than 12,000 conservation initiatives since 1995. WWF is a foundation with 55% of funding from individuals and bequests, 19% from government sources (such as the World Bank, DFID, and USAID) and 8% from corporations in 2014.
Child Rights and You
Child Rights and You (CRY) was established in 1979 with an aim to work towards ensuring happier childhoods for all children. The NGO was started by Rippan Kapur with 6 friends and just Rs. 50. Today over 4 decades later, CRY works with 102 grassroots NGOs across 19 states in India and has impacted the lives of over 3 million children.
CRY addresses children’s critical needs by working with parents, teachers, Anganwadi workers, communities, district and state level governments as well as the children themselves. The organization focuses on changing behaviours and practices at the grassroots level and influencing public policy at a systemic level, thus creating an ecosystem where children are made the nation’s priority.
Sightsavers is an international non-governmental organisation that works with partners in developing countries to treat and prevent avoidable blindness and promote equality for people with visual impairments and other disabilities. It is based in Haywards Heath in the United Kingdom, with branches in Sweden, Norway, India, Italy, the Republic of Ireland, the United Arab Emirates, and the USA.
Founded in 1950, Sightsavers has distributed over 1 billion treatments to prevent potentially debilitating diseases and supported 7.3 million sight-restoring cataract operations. In 2019, Sightsavers India won the Indian edition of the Mahatma Award for Social Good for its work in the field of eye health.
Narayan Seva Sansthan
Narayan Seva Sansthan, established in 1985, is a non-profit charitable organisation based in Udaipur, Rajasthan. It is known for providing philanthropic services in the field of treatment and rehabilitation of polio-affected people without discrimination of religion, region, caste, or gender.
The NGO at present runs 13 hospitals for polio patients, as well as an international hospital for the treatment of the disabled by birth, where disabled persons from every corner of the world are being treated for free. It also runs a home named ‘Apna Ghar’, where about 200 orphans, many deaf or disabled, reside. The NGO also takes care of Apna Ghar children’s education.
Sportz Village Foundation
Sportz Village Foundation is was established in 2003 with a commitment to transforming the lives of children, belonging to underprivileged communities, through the magic of sports. The foundation works with corporates and governments to incorporate our structured curriculum in public schools.
Sportz Village’s pioneering ‘Sport for Change’ program uses physical activity and sports to drive change in schools in terms of health, education and empowerment of children. The program is scientifically researched, highly tested and well-integrated into the core education process of the schools. The highly awarded ‘Sport for Change’ program has helped improve the educational outcomes of over 30,000 children in more than 900 public schools.
Rouble Nagi Art Foundation
Established in 1980, Rouble Nagi Art Foundation is a Mumbai-based NGO, set up with the vision to make sure that all children get an education that helps them become caring, responsible and productive citizens. It currently runs five programs focusing mainly on Women Empowerment, Education and children welfare, “Learn to Earn” which focuses on Education. They are also running courses for Government schools all across Maharashtra.
Rouble Nagi Art Foundation has various programmes which aim at providing quality education for underprivileged children by introducing a low cost and sustainable educational model. Their latest initiative ‘Misaal Mumbai’ is the first slum transformation initiative in India via Art. The main aim is to connect to people through Art, bring a positive change in their mindset. Educating through art about the importance of Children’s Education, empowering Women, creating Job opportunities for Youth, Cleanliness, Hygiene, Sanitation, and Waste Management- say No to Plastic & Children health in Slums & Villages. They have painted and repaired more than 1, 50,000 plus homes to date and are currently working in over 163 slums and villages across India.
Inspirational activist Chetna Gala Sinha is at the helm of affairs at Mann Deshi. The foundation has a clear vision – to empower women so they can make their own choices while simultaneously being equal members of their family units as well as communities where they bring value. Mann Deshi follows this vision with a multi-pronged approach that includes women micro-entrepreneurs, water conservation for small farmers, rural banking and community radio. This NGO works organically with rural women and continuously adapts their programmes to suit their needs rather than having a one-size-fits-all standard. Headquartered in a drought-prone region of Maharashtra, it works with the local community in the areas of agricultural water supply, financial literacy and sports. Mann Deshi’s unique bank creates customised financial products for women in villages while the mobile business schools run courses for women entrepreneurs.
Salaam Baalak Trust
Salaam Baalak Trust was born in 1989 with a portion of the proceeds from the film ‘Salaam Bombay!’ directed by Mira Nair. The Trust began its work with an aim to give street children more choices in life. In the last 27 years, Salaam Baalak Trust in Mumbai has helped thousands of children come off the streets and into a safe and nurturing environment. Today they provide an integrated safety net of services catering to the individual needs of street children in Mumbai.
The NGO has three Day Care Centres in Mumbai (Chowpatty, Andheri and Kalyan) and a Balwadi at the Chowpaty centre. There is also a Careers Project that gives direct training and subsequent employment opportunities to street kids in partnership with CSR and other NGOs.
Founded by Ketan Deshpande, FUEL stands for Friends Union for Energizing Lives. The NGO was the result of the struggles the founder himself and his friends faced after appearing for his 12th grade exams. Neither did they have the knowledge of entrance exams to appear for nor was there any guidance. He took matters into his own hands, doing endless research on avenues for higher education and released the book Students FUEL which found many takers. The book spurred him and his friends to conduct special sessions guiding Class 12 students on every facet of entrance exams. And so, NGO FUEL was born. This nonprofit has a mission to create a supporting community for youth in India. It has skilled more than 35,000 youth so far. FUEL recently has signed an MOU with Niti Aayog to work for the development of 117 Aspirational districts of India. Ketan Deshpande and Santosh Huralikoppi from FUEL were awarded as “Champions of Change.”