Comparative Evaluation of Different Types of International Organization

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Note prepared for a UNESCO expert meeting on international organization studies (Paris, 1972)


There is a current of dissatisfaction and confusion concerning the means of comparing different types of international organization. This is particularly evident in connection with the 2700 international nongovernmental nonprofit organizations, less so in connection with the thousands of multinational enterprises, but rarely in connection with the 200 intergovernmental organizations.

The object of any such comparison could be:

  • to have some agreed-upon scale by which the more "significant" or 'important'' organizations to be contacted would be isolated.
  • to attempt cross-comparisons between NGOs, MNCs, and IGOs and even with nations of comparisons of MNCs with with nations)
  • to reduce dependence upon legal criteria which artificially separate organizations of equal functional im- (eg "international" organizations are separated from "national" organizations with international programs in a large number of countries, when many of the latter group may be functionally more significant).

These notes are an attempt to examine a few of the questions in any such comparisons. Of particular value is the relative significance of different forms of organization as features of the social system, representing different types of interests (political, economic, or other) of the individuals in the system -- irrespective of any one single conventional or legal boundary.

Quantitative measures available

A number of possible available measures are tentatively listed in Table 1. This is structured as though comparison were possible or useful between the four categories -- which remains to be seen.

Table 1: Some quantitative measures available








combined population

consumers product purchases






(working population)




(including voluntary)


fund exchange with constituency




Nonprofit income


operating budget

Admin. budget

admin. budget

admin. budget

admin. budget


program budget






no of countries represented by individuals


countries represented

countries of consumer sales

Nationalities represented


no of continents represented by individuals


continents represented

continents of consumer sales

Continents represented


no of countries of program action

no of bilateral agreements

No. of countries in which there are national programs

no of countries within which business is done

No. of countries in which there are national programs


no of countries with operating offices

no of countries in which there are consulates, embassies, trade missions, etc

no of countries with national IGO representative or field offices

no of countries with sales or manufacturing offices

no. of countries with operating tries in tries with tries with tries with


country source of funds

no of countries from which imports are received

no of countries contributing

no of countries with which business is done

no. of countries contributing

Comparison might, for example, be useful for empirical program decision-making without being of great theoretical significance.

1. Nations: Nations are frequently ranked according to population, GNP, etc-,

2. Multinational enterprises: MNCs are frequently ranked according to sales (cf. the Fortune list of 500 companies, etc.). The author has attempted a crude ranking of 600 MNCs according to a measure of "internationality" based on nature and number of subsidiaries in foreign countries relative to those in the head quarter country (1).

3. Intergovernmental organizations: No attempt appears to have been made to rank IGOs.

4. International NGOs: No attempt has been made to rank international NGOs (2)

In Table 2 is reproduced a list of NGOs in order of mass membership or individuals represented indirectly, via national bodies.

In Table 3 some NGOs are listed in order of the number of countries represented.

In Table 4 some NGOs are listed in order of their budget (or funds handled).

Examination of these lists brought out several obstacles to further programs:

  • some organizations do not provide information under all headings (and therefore cannot be included in all three tables)
  • it is difficult to compare a mass membership organization with a select membership organization
  • some organizations describe their membership in terms of countries and territories (which makes comparison difficult)

A crude effort was made to get around the above difficulties by totalling the rankings of an NGO in each list, using means where rankings were absent. The first few NGOs in the resultant list are given in Table 5. Clearly, absence of information unfavourable to an NGO pushes it further up the list. This is not satisfactory.


One of the original stimuli to experiment with cross-comparison was a comparison of national budget of countries with turnover of MNCs (3). The first few in the series were:

United States




General Motors








Standard Oil








It was then hoped that by placing countries in order of population, a more interesting comparison with MNCs could be made by inserting MNCs into the sequence on the basis of sales against GNP. The decrease in the latter does not follow the decrease in population of course, and several "rules" were tried to govern insertion -- with little success. The hope had been that NGOs could also be inserted into the se- on the basis of mass membership against population. The non-mass momb3rship NGOs could then have been inserted into the same sequence on the basis of country representation. This approach seems to be of little use and of extremely doubtful significance -except for a journalistic presentation.

Development of a ranking technique

The following points have to be taken into account:

  • some information will always be absent
  • absent information should not severely penalize the organization's rank
  • the technique should encourage organizations which are more "international" to give extra information which can increase their rank
  • even within the NGOs, significant bodies may have very high or very low
  • membership
  • program funds
  • membership distribution
  • etc
  • The objective must be to capture those bodies which score relatively high when as many factors as possible are taken into account.
  • some factors are more important than others in evaluating the significance of an organization -- but the weighting depends much on the user and therefore must be modifiable.

Three approaches were considered:

  • multiplying scores on different scales, for each body, and ranking on the total
  • adding scores on different scales, for each body, end ranking on the total
  • a combination of adding and multiplying

The first approach was rejected because of the problem of handling the many cases where either information would be absent, because not available, or absent, because it was not a significant operating characteristic of the organization. The second was rejected in favour of the third to permit overall addition but multiplication within factors when these could be "exploded" to give a more elaborate assessment.


Score =

a1(factor)2 + a2(factor)2 + a3(factor)3 + ...

where an = weighting to be attached to each factor

but an(factor) may be exploded as:

an(bn1(factor))n1 + bn2(factor)n2...)

where bnn equals weighting to be attached to a component factor (which may itself score as zero)

Similarly each of the factors may be exploded when appropriate - an "onion peel" principle.

The argument would be as more information was given on a factor and it could be examined at a lower level, this extra information should itself tend to push the overall score up, ie more detailed information can only improve the score, it cannot push it down.


Suppose an organization it has members in 87 countries, this would be described as:

Score = ...ap(87)+ ....

If this was amplified as 87 countries with a given distribution by continent the score becomes:

score = ...ap(bp(35)+bp2(20)+bp3(30)+bp4(7)...)+....

where the b factors are the number of continents activated

It would be an advantage to allow the user to experiment with different wieghtings to refine the importance which he attaches to different factors.

It would seen that th is approach would be satisfactorily tested. Non-quantitative actors could also be scored and weighted for addition to the others, eg: nature of membership

  • Mass
  • Special mass
  • Professional
  • Specialized professional

The difficulty would be to score each so that millions of mass members would be appropriately counterbalanced by the right factor weighting.

Whilst this technique could be used for ranking NGOs only, given the contents of Table 1, it might also be possible to

Attempt useful comparaison with MNCs, IGOs, etc.

Comparaisons using financial ratios

There is a long-established practice of using fainancial ratios, based on analysis of the financial statements, to:

  • analyze the performance of a corporation
  • compare a corporation's financial performance to that of other corporations

Many financial ratios have been studied for this purpose, to help analyze the "health" and equilibrium of an organization.

The argument has always been that these techniques could not be applied to organizations without any profit objective. Such techniques have, however, been applied to a limited extent to compare the performance of national nonprofit associations in the U.S.A.(4). There seems to be much scope for using them to compare international NGOs, IGOs, and to cross-compare on equivalent budget items.

Certain mixed (financial/nonfinancial) ratios are used such as GNP/ capita. These might well be used in cross-comparisons, eg GNP/capita as a possible equivalent to sales/employee (MNC) or to total funds/employee (IGO or NGO).

Tables 2-5

In Table 2 is reproduced a list of NGOs in order of mass membership or individuals represented indirectly, via national bodies..

Table 2: NGOs in order of mass membership


membership in millions



International Social Security



International Cooperative Alliance



League of Red Cross Societies



World Federation of Trade Unions



World Federation of Democratic Youth



Socialist International



Lutheran World Federation



International Confederation of Free Trade Unions



World of Credit Unions



International Touring Alliance



Baptist World Alliance



International Automobile Federation



International Amateur Basketball Federation



World Veterans Federation



World Methodist Council



Boy Scouts World Bureau



General Federation of Women's Clubs



Would Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts



International Association of Crafts and Small and Medium- Sized Enterprises



Associated Country Women of the World



World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession



International Federation of Resistance Movements



International Federation of Photographic Art



General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists



African Trade Union Confederation



International Council of Social Democratic Women



In Table 3 some NGOs are listed in order of the number of countries represented.

Table 3. NGOs in order of countries represented
(organization / countries / members)
  • Baha'iinternational Community 319 --
  • Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society 207 1,600,000
  • General Confederation of Seventh Day Adventists 187 2,000,000
  • Rotary International 149 707,500
  • Lions International 147 960,000
  • International Amateur Athletic Fed 142 --
  • International Fed of Association Football 140
  • Society for International Development 135 --
  • International Amateur Basketball Fed 132 20,000,000
  • International Olympic Committee 131 --
  • World Peace Through Law Center 128 5,000
  • International Hotelassociation 123 --
  • International Amateur Boxing Assn 115 --
  • League of Red Cross Societies 115 225,000,000
  • World Federation of Democratic Youth 115 101,000,000
  • International Criminal Police Org 111 --
  • Society of St. Vincent de Paul 107 608,000
  • International Air Transport Assn. 106 --
  • Boy Scouts World Bureau 102 12,000,000
  • International Volleyball Federation 102 --
  • InternationalAssn of Universities 101 --

In Table 4 some NGOs are listed in order of their budget (or funds handled).

Table 4. NGOs in order of budget
(organization / budget / members )
  • General Conference of Seventh-Day
  • Adventists $211,000,000 2,000,000
  • Lions International 10,000,000 966,000
  • International Air Transport Assn 3,000.000
  • League of Red Cross Societies 1,100,000 225,000,000
  • Junior Chamber International 890,000 --
  • International Recreation Assn 872,000 --
  • The Criminal Police Organization 850,000 --
  • International Road Federation 750,000 --
  • Int. Union for Conservationof Nature and Natural Resources 730.000 --
  • Int Chamber of Commerce 580,000 --
  • International union against Cancer 590.000 --
  • World Peace Through Law Center 550,000 5,000
  • International Cooperative Alliance 360,000 53,200,000
  • Lutheran World Federation 332,000 53,200,000
  • World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession 300,000 5,000,000
  • International assn of universities 285,000 --
  • International Hotel Association 220,000 --
  • Baptist World Alliance 200,000 26,000,000
  • Society for InternationalDevelopment '20,000 --
  • Studies and Expansion Society 90,000 --
  • World Fed Of United Nations Assns 80.000 --
  • Universal Esperanto Association 777,000 33,500
  • International Amateur Basketball Fed 50,000 20,000,000
  • International Amateur Wrestling Fed 25,000 --
  • Int Catholic Assnfor Radio and TV 23,000 --

Table 5: Overall ranking of leading NGOs (mass membership, no. of countries represented, and budget)

Table 5. Overall Ranking of Loading NGOs
(organization / mass membership / countries represented / budget)
  • Baha'i International Community - 319
  • International Amateur Athletic Federation - 142
  • League of Red Cross Societies 225,000,000 115 $1,100,000
  • International Federation of Association Football - 140 _
  • World Federation of Democratic Youth 101,000,000 115
  • General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists 2,000,000 - $211,000,000
  • International Air Transport Association - 106 $ 3,000,000
  • International Olympic Committee _ 131
  • International Criminal Police Organization - 111 $ 850,000
  • Lions International 968,000 147 $ 10,000,000
  • Society for International Development 135 $120,000
  • International Social Security Association 500,000,000 91
  • Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society 1,600,000 207
  • International Hotel Association 123 S 220,000
  • International Amateur Basketball Federation 20,000,000 132 3 50,000
  • Boy Scouts World Bureau 12,000,000 102
  • International Confederation of Free Trade Unions 48,400,000 91
  • International Association of Universities 101 $ 285,000


  1. Anthony Judge. Multinational business enterprises. In: Yearbook of International Organizations (1968-1969) [text]
  2. The author has produced a crude list of over 100 NGOs ranked on a measure of the number of times they have been recognized by IGOs (see Yearbook of International Organizations 1972-73). This is one measure of their importance to the intergovernmental system.
  3. G. P. Speeckaert. Quo pense-t-on des sociétés internationales Introduction à une petite anthologie. Associations Internationales, 24, 2, pp. 71-88.
  4. Anthony Judge. Management and Assessment of Financial Resources. International Associations 23, 1971 52 p. 287-293, reporting on: Ernst and Ernst (Comp.). Association Operating Ratio Report. Washington, American Society of Association Executives, 1967, 36 p. (see also: Policies and Procedures of Associations. Washington, ASAE, 1968, which is a comparative analysis of financial, and nonfinancial characteristics of 1326 USA national associations. [text]

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