Difference Between NGO and NPO


All over the world, the abbreviation NGO has become synonymous with community service and charitable work that is carried out in a selfless manner by a few members of the society without any association or interference of the government. Non-Governmental Organization (or NGO) has become a much-needed hand of the government, as it is a reality that despite the best of intentions, government cannot reach to the grassroots level, look after all the problems, and solve them in a meaningful manner. In this regard, NGOs fill in the gaps and are helpful to governments in all parts of the world. There is another abbreviation NPO that confuses many as it is similar in nature and objective to an NGO. This article attempts to find out the differences between an NGO and an NPO.


Groups of individuals not affiliated with the government in any manner carrying out services in the interest of the society are called NGOs or non-governmental organizations. The most famous international NGO’s are the Rotary International and the Red Cross Society. Most NGOs are also non-profit organizations. By sheer nomenclature, all political parties are not NGOs. Government cannot interfere and give directions to any NGO as to how it should work and what should be the mode of selection of office bearers. This is despite the fact that NGOs sustain and survive on grants and donations made by governmental agencies and ministries. The most common areas of function of non-governmental organizations are health, poverty eradication, human rights, population control, environment protection, relief works in disaster hit areas, and so on. An NGO may be limited to the area where it is registered or may spread to the national level. It may even become an international NGO. NGOs are free to receive private donations also.


NPO stands for non-profit organization, and it is an acronym used in some countries of the world, though, in India, NGO is the acronym that is more common and all NGOs are also treated as NPOs as they do not distribute any surplus income between their office bearers or members. This is the main criteria of an NPO. Any profits or surplus income gets reinvested in development programs rather than being distributed among members of the organization. Non profit is a phrase that describes the nature of the group though there is no legal standing of this acronym. South Africa is one country where an NGO has to apply to be registered as an NPO to remain outside the purview of income tax. NPOs deliberately choose a domain name other than .com, to differentiate from other organizations known for profit making. NPOs have a domain name ending in .org and .us, to signify their nature of association.


What is the difference between NGO and NPO?

• NGO stands for non-governmental organization whereas NPO stands for non-profit organization.

• NGO, though it mostly runs with governmental assistance and grants take a non-governmental stance. It is never affiliated with the government though it is the government’s biggest help by performing many of developmental programs that the government intends to perform.

• Most NGOs are non-profit though some may be for profit paying income tax.

• In South Africa, NGOs have to register for the status of NPO, for tax exemptions and to have a distinct identity.