Corporate to Compassion: My Story in the NGO World

Growing up in a rural area, I was only aware of traditional professions like doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, and police officers. It was only when I moved to Pune for work that I discovered social work as a profession. A friend of mine, who was a social worker, introduced me to the idea that social work could be a paid job. Until then, I believed it was purely voluntary.

I worked in the corporate sector for more than ten years. My seven-year-long journey into the development sector was quite accidental. After resigning from my corporate job, I joined the development sector and started loving it. My job gives me happiness, and I feel satisfied when I see the meaningful impact in the lives of our community stakeholders  we work with. This field allows me to grow professionally and find personal fulfilment. For those driven by a desire to contribute to a better society, the development sector provides a unique and deeply rewarding path.

However, every coin has two sides. Even though I love working in the development sector, there are a few things I am not happy about. There are areas where I personally desire to see improvements. Indian NGOs, especially small and mid-scale ones, constantly struggle with getting funds. Implementing programmes on limited budgets is the biggest challenge. Strict government policies often add to these challenges. It is disheartening that while NGOs work for the well-being of others, they often neglect the well-being of their own employees. Many small and mid-scale NGO employees frequently struggle to get decent salaries and benefits. They are often told to accept lower pay due to limited funding, and many agree out of a genuine desire to effect change in society.

Personally, I have seen some difficulties in this sector. A few years ago, I applied for a home loan as a single applicant and faced multiple rejections. The reason? Banks do not favour giving loans to NGO employees who are single applicants. I was told that they do not see the NGO sector as “stable” as the corporate or government sector. Many people I know in the same field have had similar experiences with personal loans. Moreover, many insurance companies refuse to offer group insurance schemes to small-scale NGOs. Despite these challenges, NGO employees are expected to pay the same income tax as corporate employees. The Indian tax system does not offer additional exemptions or rebates specifically for NGO employees.

This inequality raises important questions:

  • Why is there such discrimination against the NGO sector?
  • Why do most Indian organisations suppress their employees when it comes to better packages, hikes, employee benefits, and facilities?
  • Why do not funding agencies acknowledge the efforts of NGO employees and grant more budget for employee salaries and welfare?
  • Why do not financial institutions understand that NGO jobs are equally stable as corporate and other sectors, and that giving loans to NGO employees will not make them lose money?
  • Why do not the government recognise the challenges and efforts of the NGO sector and offer some financial relief to NGO employees in taxation?

Despite all these challenges, NGOs work tirelessly for the betterment of various communities, including low-income communities. NGO workers stay dedicated and passionate about making a difference. 

In the end, we must ask ourselves: How can we, as a society, address these inequalities and ensure better support for the individuals who are committed to improving the lives of others through their work in the NGO sector?

This article shares my journey from the corporate sector to the NGO sector. It highlights the rewarding impact of this work but also points out the challenges NGO employees face. The aim is to raise awareness about these issues and recognise the efforts of NGO workers.


Priyanka Patil, Finance Manager, Equal Community Foundation 


Disclaimer: The opinion and views have been expressed solely of the individual mentioned, not belonging to the organisation.