The World Bank defines NGOs as "private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development" (Operational Directive 14.70). In wider usage, the term NGO can be applied to any non-profit organization which is independent from government. NGOs are typically value-based organizations which depend, in whole or in part, on charitable donations and voluntary service. Although the NGO sector has become increasingly professional over the last two decades, principles of altruism and voluntarism remain key defining characteristics.
Because the nature and quality of individual NGOs vary greatly, it is extremely difficult to make generalizations about the sector as a whole. Despite this diversity, some specific strength generally associated with the NGO sector includes the following:
The most commonly identified weaknesses of the sector include: