“NGO” stands for “nongovernmental organization.” The United Nations Charter, written in 1945, was the first document to include the term. While vague, the text established NGOs as nonprofit groups independent from governments. Today, the term NGO has an even more flexible meaning, but nongovernmental organizations play a vital role in today’s world. They’re dedicated to causes like fighting poverty, achieving gender equality, preserving natural habitats and much more. In this article, we’ll describe 15 of the biggest NGOs in the UK, which is home to some of the world’s oldest and largest charities.
|British Heart Foundation
|British Red Cross
|Equal Rights Trust
|Macmillan Cancer Support
|National Alliance of Women’s Organisations
|Save the Children
|The Aegis Trust
|The Refugee Council
|The World Wide Fund for Nature
Headquartered in London, Amnesty International is a global nongovernmental advocacy organization. It was founded in 1961 to support political prisoners, but it has since expanded to promote awareness of all human rights. Areas of focus include armed conflict, child rights, the death penalty, torture and police brutality. The NGO works through research, advocacy and lobbying, and campaigns and action. As an international organization, Amnesty International works in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa. Information on current campaigns, donations, volunteer opportunities and careers can be found on the website.
Founded in 1839, Anti-Slavery International (then called the Anti-Slavery Society) was the project of abolitionists committed to ending slavery worldwide. While the Transatlantic slave trade is over, modern slavery remains a persistent problem. Anti-Slavery International works to free everyone from slavery by raising awareness, acting as an ally to survivors and those at risk of slavery, and working on laws, policies and practices that keep everyone safe from slavery. Its 5-year priority areas include ending child and youth slavery, responsible business, migration and trafficking, and slavery and the environment. The NGO focuses on capacity building, collaboration, learning and influencing. You can find more information on impact, accountability and ways to take action on the website.
The British Heart Foundation is a cardiovascular research charity. It funds around £100 million in research every year, making it the largest independent funder of research in this field. Its goal is to reduce deaths caused by heart and circulatory diseases by more than half. By 2030, the NGO hopes to see advances across diseases, including better prevention and better, longer lives for those with existing conditions. To learn more about the foundation’s work, visit its website for resources on donations, careers and other ways to take action.
NGOs address issues like poverty, gender inequality, climate change and more. Here are 15 examples of the social issues facing the UK.
The British Red Cross Society is the UK’s branch of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. In the UK, the NGO offers mobility support, cost of living support, refugee services, UK emergencies and international services. It also conducts research, advocacy and education. The Red Cross also operates charity shops and an online store. Visit the NGO’s website to learn more about donations, fundraising, volunteering and jobs.
Established in 1989, ChildHope works toward a world where children are free from abuse and injustice. Priorities include street-connected children, child labor, modern slavery, early marriage, gender equality and so on. Its projects focus on improving math education, harnessing community action to fight against trafficking, and providing water sanitation and hygiene. The NGO’s approach is based in local partnerships and collaboration. To learn more about ChildHope’s work, leadership and finances, visit the website.
Established in 2007, The Equal Rights Trust fights discrimination and promotes equality as a basic human right and principle of social justice. In 2008, the NGO worked with 128 experts from over 40 countries to launch the Declaration of Principles on Equality. Since then, the NGO has conducted research and established projects that support civil society movements. According to its website, the Equal Rights Trust is the only international organization focused exclusively on the right to equality. It has identified four gaps in protection, implementation, application and practice that must be addressed. You can find information on donations, partners and opportunities on the NGO’s website, as well as reports and a copy of the Declaration of Principles on Equality.
Check out our article on 10 online courses on fighting inequality and discrimination.
In 1911, after his father died of cancer, Douglas Macmillan founded the Society for the Prevention and Relief of Cancer. The organization has changed its name a few times – it became Macmillan Cancer Support in 2006 – but its mission has remained consistent. It provides practical, emotional, physical and financial support, raises money, runs advocacy campaigns, performs research and much more. In 2022, the NGO reached around 2 million people living with cancer and raised more than £221. The website offers reports, resources and information on jobs.
The National Alliance of Women’s Organisatons (NAWO) was founded in 1989. It’s an umbrella organization under which 100 organizations and individuals work to ensure women’s access to their human rights. Membership includes specialist organizations, faith groups, health centers, arts organizations and more. The group uses a Four Nations approach, performs research on the best strategies, builds alliances and works with young women to develop a Young Women’s Alliance. Information on the group’s members, campaigns and reports can be found on the website.
#9. Oxfam UK
Established in 1942, Oxfam is a British-founded confederation of 21 independent charities focused on ending global poverty. Priority areas include climate change, women’s rights, water, food and emergencies. Oxfam UK was also home to many charity shops, though many have closed following a sexual abuse scandal. The shops have traditionally offered a variety of goods like clothing and books. Its current campaigns focus on climate justice, a call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict, and equality. Information on donations, Oxfam’s work and impact can be found on the charity’s website.
Check out our article in 5 essays about poverty.
#10. Save the Children
Established in 1919, the UK-founded Save the Children Fund works to improve the lives of children around the world. It operates around the world on priorities like education, health, hunger, children’s rights and emergencies. Through its programs and over 600,000 supporters, it’s helped 45 million kids across the 115 countries it works in. The organization also has general consultative status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council. You can visit the website to learn more about the NGO’s impact, finances and donation opportunities.
Founded in 2006, SolarAid is a London-based international charity working to fight poverty and climate change. Through its social enterprise, SunnyMoney, it provides access to solar lights in Zambia and Malawi. The charity also has partner organizations in Uganda and Senegal. Because of this approach, the money is reinvested back into SolarAid’s work and the local economy. Agents reach rural communities with safe, affordable, and clean solar lights, which can replace candles and kerosene lamps. SolarAid has distributed 2.3 million worldwide, reached 12 million people with light and averted 2.4M tonnes of C02 from the atmosphere. Learn more about the charity’s impact, partnerships and careers on the website.
#12. The Aegis Trust
The Aegis Trust campaigns to prevent genocides around the world. It’s based at the UK’s National Holocaust Centre but has its largest presence in Rwanda, where it established the Kigali Genocide Memorial. In the UK, the trust provides the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Genocide Prevention. Other activities include research, evidence-based policy and advocacy, genocide remembrance, education and more. Its website offers educational resources and ways to get involved.
#13. The Refugee Council
The UK-based Refugee Council works with asylum seekers and refugees. Every year, the NGO works with over 13,000 women, men and children seeking safety in the UK. Its services include crisis advice, mental health counseling and practical support. The Refugee Council also advocates on behalf of asylum seekers and refugees. Its research examines emerging issues, provides evidence for change and works with decision-makers to influence policy. Supporters can participate in campaigns, donate money, organize fundraisers and so on. The charity’s website also offers information for those seeking assistance.
Established in 1981, WaterAid is a UK-based international nonprofit working to make clean water, good toilets and good hygiene accessible to everyone. With supporters and partners, the NGO has reached almost 30 million people with clean water, 30 million with decent toilets, and over 20 million with good hygiene. Water, sanitation and hygiene affect – and are affected by – issues like climate change and gender inequality, so WaterAid also works on climate justice and empowering women and girls. Visit WaterAid’s website to learn more about how to get involved.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which is a Swiss-based environmental charity, works to preserve nature and reduce the human impact on the environment. For more than 60 years, WWF has worked with communities, governments, companies and individuals to tackle climate change, create a sustainable food system and restore threatened habitats. In the UK, the WWF has the Living Planet Centre, which its website says is one of the greenest buildings in the nation. You can learn more about the charity’s work, impact, leadership and careers on its website.
Interested in learning more about environmental issues? Here’s our article on 20 of the most important ones.