Starting an NGO in India lets you trigger positive change and solve pressing social problems that you've planned to take up. Registering an NGO can be a tricky process, involving a variety of legal procedures, but it does not necessarily have to be troublesome.
Here in this detailed guide, we will share with you the step-by-step process to register an NGO in India. From understanding the legal structure to addressing common challenges, our aim is to help you with the right resources to successfully prepare you for the road ahead.
Understanding the legal structure of NGOs
Before we get to the how to register an NGO part, it is essential to choose the most fitting legal structure for your NGO. In India, there are 3 main options to consider:
Trusts, societies and section 8 companies. Each one boasts of its unique set of characteristics.
Trusts are best suited for charitable causes. Trusts exist for the interests of specific beneficiaries. A 'trustee' will be responsible for procurement, holding and effective management of the trust assets, always holding in place the best interest of the beneficiaries.
Societies perfectly suit cultural, educational, or charitable activities and need a governing body that can manage NGO affairs. Often societies can be seen to be formed when like minded individuals come together for a non-profit venture that intends to facilitate social, educational and other philanthropic aims. A democratic decision making process is a crucial aspect of a society.
Company under Section 8:
These were largely designed to facilitate social welfare. These societies are restricted from distributing profits to members. A minimum of 3 directors is a must have and they follow a corporate like structure. Section 8 companies can most often be seen working towards education, social wellbeing, capaciting arts and endangered crafts, charity and likewise.
Time required for registration: Post payment of registration fee, it takes anywhere between 8-10 days for the process to be completed in all 3 structures discussed above.
What to know before you establish an NGO?
Now that you have figured out the structure for your NGO, it's time to get the ball rolling for its establishment. Here's how to do it:
Decide what your mission and vision are going to be:
Distinctively put forth why your NGO exists and the impact you are looking to achieve through it over a period. The right vision and mission will not just be inspiring but also serve as a guiding light to your initiatives.
Conduct a Feasibility Check as a prerequisite:
Assess the community's need for your NGO's service? Are there problems to solve? Research who your target beneficiaries are, identify the most pressing challenges they face, and finally evaluate your NGO's long term sustainability.
How to register an NGO in India?
Here's leading you through with a step-by-step breakdown of the entire process
Carefully choose a name for your NGO:
A good name is one that conveys the mission and vision of your NGO, has a good recall value, and can help create a connection between your beneficiaries and your donors. Make sure the name is not registered and that you’re not infringing on anyone else’s trademark.
Create a Memorandum of Association (MOA) and Rules and Regulations:
Prepare memorandums of understanding (MOUs) and rules for your NGO that outline its goals, governance, and operational guidelines. It is always advisable to seek legal advice to make sure you do not encounter any compliance issues with the existing laws of the land.
Get together the must have documents for paperwork:
To be recognized as an independent entity, you must present certain documents inclusive of address proof, identity proof of the members associated, and additionally any certificates that are specific to the chosen legal structure of your NGO.
What are the documents required for registering a trust?
What are the documents required for registering a society?
What are the documents required for registering a section 8 company?
Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) and Director Identification Number:
It's time to apply for a Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) for the authorized representative of the NGO and a Director Identification Number (DIN) for your assigned director.
Go, Submit your application:
Now you're all set to submit the application along with the necessary documents to the concerned competent authority based on the legal structure that you have chosen. The Registrar of Societies, Charity Commissioner, or the Registrar of Companies are the concerned stakeholders.
Pay the registration fee:
Get through the registration process by paying the specified fee and make sure you have a receipt with you for you might need it in future.
What after registration and compliance ? Certain obligations on the way
After successfully registering your NGO to maintain its legal status, follow these steps as is:
Apply for 12A and 80G certificates:
To let your donors be exempted from tax on their donations, you'll need to apply for 12A and 80G certificates from the income tax department. These certificates help you attract more donors and also add to the credibility of your NGO.
FCRA registration (if applicable):
If you expect or seek donations from around the world, you must register the FCRA with the Department of Home Affairs. Compliance with FCRA regulations is critical to accepting international donations, in the absence of which it will be a strict no-no.
Maintain top notch transparency with accounts and records:
Make sure that your NGO keeps accurate financial records without fail and maintains transparency in all transactions. Proper accounting practices instill trust in your donors and regulatory authorities. It's vital to have an efficient mechanism in place to keep diligent records.
Some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Here are some common queries regarding NGO registration
How much does it cost to register an NGO in India?
It's dynamic in nature. The cost of registering an NGO in India may change depending on the legal structure and the state where you are registered. The costs range from a few thousands to several thousands.
Can I register my NGO online?
Yes, many Indian states offer online registration services for NGOs.
How to register NGO in Delhi or any other state?
The NGO registration process is similar in all states of India. However, specific instructions and procedures may slightly vary. It is recommended that you check the respective state government website for state specific details.
How much time does the NGO registration process take?
The time taken by the registration process depends on the efficiency of the process and the completeness of the documents shared by you. It takes anywhere between 15-45 days to complete the registration process in entirety.
Can I register an NGO under NITI Aayog?
NITI Aayog does not directly register NGOs. However, NGOs can register on the NGO-Darpan portal provided by NITI Aayog to obtain a unique identity. Primary registration of an NGO must be done with the respective state government or the Registrar of Companies.
What is the process of registering an NGO in Maharashtra, Karnataka, etc.?
The basic process for NGO registration remains the same in all states. However, specific requirements and documentation may vary slightly. You should check the respective state government website for state-specific guidelines.
Can I register an NGO online in India? Yes, some Indian states offer online registration services
for NGOs. Online registration is a convenient and efficient option, reducing the need for paperwork.
How do I register an NGO under the Social Act?
To register an NGO under the Associations Act, you must prepare a Memorandum of Association (MOA) and the association's rules and regulations. You can then submit your application to the respective state registrar.
Here are some recent sightings in the NGO registration process in India lately:
There has been a reduction in paperwork and delays owing to the adoption of end to end online processes in states.
FCRA subscription renewal is now made possible through an effective online platform
Digitally signed documents for registration are accepted and encouraged for all
Use of DigiLocker to submit certain documents is now mandatory
There has been the need for increased accountability over proper use of CSR funds
Rising emphasis on measuring the impact of NGO projects for improved transparency can be observed
Adherence to ethical fundraising on social media is a must for all
Several government and non government initiatives are in existence for capacity building of NGOs to get organized and run smoothly
What are the most common NGO registration challenges and how to overcome them?
All the processes involved and the time spent registering your NGO will be worth it undoubtedly, but no reward comes without its fair share of challenges. Here we’ve collated some obstacles that you can expect to encounter in the journey to registering an NGO, however the solutions are right there.
Hire a professional to your best interest
To ensure the registration process is smooth and convenient for you, consider hiring a professional consultant. Counsels and legal professionals can help you overcome these barriers and catalyze the process.
Carry on detailed research
Do not shy away from spending enough time in research, from figuring the right legal structure for you to understanding the prevailing laws of the land, government regulations, required documents etc. The more extensive your research is lesser is the probability of you losing time in the process due to insufficiencies.
Monetary challenges, difficulty in raising funds
Raising funds in the nascent stages of the NGO can come with several challenges of its own.
Our suggestion ? Start small. Even small fundraising efforts can go a long way in spreading the word about your NGO.Organize crowdfunding campaigns and events for the locals, nukkad nataks also help in the endeavor. As it gains trust and credibility, you'll soon see charities, grants and sponsors coming your way.
Taxing bureaucratic processes and red-tapism
The registration process may at times take longer than you’d have otherwise expected. Be patient and make sure all the insufficiencies are resolved.Unexpected situations can cause delays that can not be avoided.
Now that you have planned to set up an NGO in India you’re already well on the road to a noble and fulfilling task that would need unwavering commitment, absolute dedication and unflinching compliance with legal procedures without a doubt. After going through the options of legal structures to take, the step-by-step application process breakdown, and figuring the most common challenges, you will be able to easily sail through the formalities involved and get right into working for your cause sooner than you’d expect. However, you must always strive to commit your efforts towards transparency. A little tip from our side would be to constantly stay updated with the changing rules and regulations and be aware of the developments at any given point in time.
With this detailed guide on registering an NGO in India to your rescue, it's time to carefully start treading towards your journey for the betterment of the community at large.