Following the 2012 and 2013 Top 100 NGO, the former editor of The Global Journal has led the expansion and improvement of the rankings, including a number of changes to methodology and evaluation. For those interested in the ranking’s evolving methodology, read the methodology paper here.

For a glimpse of these changes, here is a summary of the 2015 Top 500 NGOs

Twenty-two NGOs have moved into the upper tier (top 100) since 2013, which means the same number of NGOs have moved down the rankings. Among the new entries is USHAHIDI, noted by The Global Journal as a young organization of promise. OXFAM returned to the top of the list. The Grameen Bank fits into the rankings thanks to an expanded definition of “NGO”, as with Islamic Relief International, whose global work cannot go unrecognized. Survival International is among the very few NGOs who made exceptional progress in an area receiving little to no publicity. Garden of Hope from Taiwan made an impressive debut in the top tier of the rankings, and deserve praise for their mission in a region where it is difficult to garner steady support. The change Wikileaks wrought on the world can’t be ignored, even if their lack of transparency presents obstacles to ranking and research. The same can be said for Help Age International, Gavi, Action Aid, Make A Difference, and Kimse Yok Mu, the leading Turkish NGO. Voix Libres has accomplished the impossible with “les enfants de l’enfer”, as founder Marianne Sébastien calls them. We encourage everyone to accept a refreshing lesson in humanity from these kids in the mountain mines of Bolivia. Democracy Reporting International, a German NGO, Friends of the Earth, the Nobelized Malada Fund, and Techo from Chile are other newcomers to the upper tier, and do their part to raise the bar for the NGOs further down the ladder.

Though the USA still leads in sheer number of ranked NGOs—33% of the 2013 rankings, and 25% of the 2015 rankings—the top 10 rankings give a slightly different picture. Bangladesh claims two nominees, France has contributed the top-ranked MSF, and Denmark gives us the Danish Refugee Council. The UK’s Oxfam, Islamic Relief International, and Save the Children (which merged last year with Merlin) made the top ten, as did the USA’s Acumen Fund, Partners In Health, and World Vision. After the USA’s 25% share of the rankings comes the UK with 9.6%, then India with 5.8%, and Switzerland with 5.4%. With only 1.8% of the Top 500, France fell behind countries like Japan (3.2%) and The Netherlands (3%).

Many notable organizations are unaccounted for by the rankings. Red Cross, an international organization and part of Swiss diplomacy; the Gates Foundation, which supports market-based solutions to non-profit problems; business NGOs (BINGOs); faith-based NGOs, some of them highly commendable—these and others like them represent limitations of the ranking methodology.

These changes might surprise someone familiar with the previous rankings. They come from improvements in our methodology, which we partly owe to the research and writing of Dr. Cecilia Cannon of IHEID in Geneva. Her work has provoked ongoing debate about the evaluation of NGOs. This research and subsequent debate, combined with the expansion of the rankings into new languages and locales, has resulted in a more valuable Top 500 NGOs ranking.

The Top 500 NGOs has been (and will continue to be) shaped by the role of data-driven work in the sector. GIS, data-mining, and other digital approaches have led to new perspectives on old problems, as well as the discovery of new problems. Though many data-driven projects are small upstarts still looking to gain traction in the donor community, these digital do-gooders are positioned to make lasting contributions to the non-profit sector in the coming years. In particular, we anticipate significant changes to funding and revenue models, with enhanced opportunities for organizations to achieve independence and sustainability. We also expect this to drive more integration of classic and novel organizational models, and to improve connectivity across the sector, trends it would be irresponsible to ignore.

Another interesting change is the role Geneva has taken on as NGOs continue to headquarter in the Swiss global capital city. The huge community of UN agencies and NGOs has given the city a sense of dedication to the work of the sector, which is giving Geneva a new kind of draw, and creating an atmosphere where people of the globe convene to share and evolve their ideas. Were it not for the Enlightenment undertones, we might call it a new global salon. At the least, Geneva has become a city where NGOs can recruit strong minds and build community.

One last comment regarding the many NGOs we’ve researched for the 2015 NGOs500: Global_Geneva is a media outlet run by journalists. We do not pretend to be academics (though we employ a few for our research). Nonetheless, as with prominent rankings in other fields, we draw on the work of qualified researchers and lively debate among key constituents to improve understanding of NGOs and the accountability of non-profit actors. We are developing the rankings as a tool to improve understanding and accountability on the widest possible scale.

During the coming weeks and months, we will work hard to bring you more information about NGOs using the data we’ve collected in recent months and over the last few years. Few of us have a clear idea of gross revenue among ranked NGOs, or of the total jobs, employees, volunteers, or the number of people served around the world. This will be our aim until the next edition of the NGOs500 in January 2016.

THE 2015 TOP 500 NGOS