Evaluation of INGOs according to some criteria leads to an assessment of ineffectiveness which therefore justifies any proposed use of alternative organizational channels.
Assessment of INGO effectiveness is frequently based on the size of the budget, the number or qualifications of paid staff, the number of members, etc. Such assessments ignore characteristics of INGO operations, namely that: (a) the operating costs may be directly absorbed by national members (for example, when the INGO secretariat is handled by a national NGO); (b) much of the work may be done by people working voluntarily (who may be both skilled and highly influential); and (c) the members may be significant not in terms of their numbers but rather in terms of the (many) influential positions they occupy of their collective expertise in some specialized domain.
A frequent error is to compare an INGO budget with that of some other organization operating with generous overheads, and a large support staff on an international pay scale. This compares potential, but not actual ability to focus effectively on a problem. Another error is to generalize about INGOs without distinguishing those with clearcut operations from those with correspondence secretariats only. An INGO's effectiveness, whatever the quantitative conclusions, may be primarily determined by its critical relationship to other bodies in a network. 'Insignificant' organizations may be very important communication centres. The notion of effectiveness is a very Western managerial concept of questionable relevance to some organizations concerned with relations between people and exchange of experience. The relation between the effectiveness of an organization and its right to exist is surely determined by its ability to continue to attract members and not by some externally imposed criteria.