What is the structure of an NGO?

The structure of each NGO is nearly identical to the structure of any enterprise or corporation: highly hierarchical. The NGOs borrowed even the division of labour from the capitalist economy: similar to the division of stockholders, management board and workers in a corporation, each NGO has its president, its council and its field workers (activists). Like any enterprise, each NGO inevitably has its accounting department (since, although “non-profit”, it works with large sums of money), as well as managers of various fields and projects.

Again, the legal system has thought of everything, so in pursuit of ensuring the inevitable hierarchy in the NGO sector, the law determines that one of the basic conditions for registering a formal organization is that it has a listed president or leader (“someone who can be held responsible”). In Macedonian law, it is impossible to register a horizontal (or egalitarian) organization. Seems like the “freedom fighters” don’t mind taking orders from their superiors in the NGO; anyway, this is how the NGOs provide the state with yet another mechanism for training obedient, subordinated and consenting citizens.

The NGO sector in the world, as well as in Macedonia, is completely professionalized, which is why insisting on calling the NGO activism volunteering, instead of a profession, makes no sense anymore. Furthermore, the NGO sector is the third biggest employer on a national level, right after the business sector and the state. (There are such areas, like Kosovo, where the NGO sector employs far more people than the private business. Macedonia is not far from this scenario.) When the NGO activist spends a number of hours every day working in the organization, receives a salary for his work and doesn’t have a “real” job, it is clear that working in an NGO is a profession, like any other.

It is true, on the other side, that many NGO-affiliated activists are in fact volunteers, i.e. they don’t get paid for their efforts. But in any NGO, those are only the “young and inexperienced beginners” who actually do all the physical work that is relevant for the NGO (such as, conducting surveys in the streets, spreading propaganda materials, doing field work related to some campaign etc). A smaller number of activists (those “most dedicated and most experienced”) do get paychecks for their work, which usually consists of sitting on a soft chair in a private desk, monitoring the work of others. In other words, they get paid for bossing (like capitalists) and for contemplating about common problems in society (and doing nothing about it) – like politicians.