It is often argued that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become increasingly visible in media discourses on armed conflict and thus play a growing role in shaping states’ foreign policies. However, there is little investigation of their influence on specific conflict coverage and what types of NGOs are influential, in what way and under what conditions. The authors elaborate a ‘supply and demand’ model of growing or declining NGO influence to theorize these dynamics and take Syria’s civil war from 2011–2014 as a ‘best case’ for testing it. They conducted an interpretative analysis of NGO output and media coverage to investigate the relative visibility of NGOs in the media over time. Further, they examine how different NGOs were referred to during two highly salient phases of the conflict for debates about foreign policy: the first escalation of protests and their repression in 2011 and the use of chemical weapons in 2013. They find evidence of rising NGO visibility and growing reliance on new types of semi-local NGOs for the provision of factual news about the conflict and human rights violations. Yet, large international NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch remained the most influential in pushing normative frames and advocating a tough stance on the Assad regime. The article discusses the implications of the findings for the theoretical argument and for broader accounts of NGOs influence.