- Community-based organizations (CBOs) arise out of people's own initiatives. They can be responsible for raising the consciousness of the urban poor, helping them to understand their rights in accessing needed services, and providing such services.
- City-wide organizations include organizations such as chambers of commerce and industry, coalitions of business, ethnic or educational groups, and associations of community organizations.
- State NGOs include state-level organizations, associations and groups. Some state NGOs also work under the guidance of National and International NGOs.
- National NGOs include national organizations such as the YMCAs/YWCAs, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, professional associations and similar groups. Some have state and city branches and assist local NGOs.
- International NGOs range from secular agencies such as Save the Children, SOS Children's Villages, OXFAM, Ford Foundation, Global march against child labor, and Rockefeller Foundation to religiously motivated groups. They can be responsible for funding local NGOs, institutions and projects and implementing projects.
Apart from "NGO", there are alternative or overlapping terms in use, including: third-sector organization (TSO), non-profit organization (NPO), voluntary organization (VO), civil society organization (CSO), grassroots organization (GO), social movement organization (SMO), private voluntary organization (PVO), self-help organization (SHO) and non-state actors (NSAs).
In Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and other Romance languages, the 'mirrored' abbreviation "ONG" is in use, which has the same meaning as "NGO" (for example Organização Não Governamental in Portuguese, Organización no gubernamental in Spanish, or Organizzazione non governativa in Italian).
Governmental-related organizations / non-governmental organizations are a heterogeneous group. As a result, a long list of additional acronyms has developed, including:
- BINGO: 'Business-friendly international NGO' or 'Big international NGO'
- SBO: 'Social Benefit Organization,' a positive, goal-oriented designation as a substitute for the negative, "Non-" designations
- TANGO: 'Technical assistance NGO'
- TSO: 'Third-sector organization'
- GONGO: 'government-organized non-governmental organization' or 'government-operated NGOs' (set up by governments to look like NGOs in order to qualify for outside aid or promote the interests of government)
- DONGO: 'Donor-organized NGO'
- INGO: 'International NGO'
- QUANGO: 'Quasi-autonomous NGO,' or QUANGO refer to NGOs set up and funded by government. The term is particularly prevalent within the UK (where there are more than 1,200 of them), the Republic of Ireland, and the Commonwealth.
- National NGO: A non-governmental organization that exists only in one country. This term is rare due to the globalization of non-governmental organizations, which causes an NGO to exist in more than one country.
- CSO: 'Civil Society Organization'
- ENGO: 'Environmental NGO,' such as Greenpeace and WWF
- NNGO: 'Northern NGO'
- Sparsh NGO: 'Sparsh NGO,' such as Non-Governmental Organization
- PANGO: 'Party NGO,' set up by parties and disguised as NGOs to serve their political matters.
- SNGO: 'Southern NGO'
- SCO: 'Social change organization'
- TNGO: 'Transnational NGO.' The term emerged during the 1970s due to the increase of environmental and economic issues in the global community. TNGO includes non-governmental organizations that are not confined to only one country, but exist in two or more countries.
- GSO: Grassroots Support Organization
- MANGO: 'Market advocacy NGO'
- NGDO: 'Non-governmental development organization'
- PVDO: 'Private voluntary development organisation'
USAID refers to NGOs as private voluntary organizations. However, many scholars have argued that this definition is highly problematic as many NGOs are in fact state- or corporate-funded and -managed projects and have professional staff.
GRO/NGOs exist for a variety of reasons, usually to further the political or social goals of their members or founders.
Examples include improving the state of the natural environment, encouraging the observance of human rights, improving the welfare of the disadvantaged, or representing a corporate agenda. However, there are a huge number of such organizations and their goals cover a broad range of political and philosophical positions. This can also easily be applied to private schools and athletic organizations.