Amnesty International: Measuring Organizational Effectiveness


The present paper explores a non-profit sector organization of choice (Amnesty International). Factors that can improve their organizational effectiveness are examined and addressed. Non-profit organizations are far more complex in terms of measuring their performance due to their non-market quality, mission-driven services, intangible outcomes, and non-profit focus.

In order to be effective, a non-profit organization needs to formulate a clear mission and vision and have proper organizational and financial management. In the case of Amnesty International, it is essential to review its goals to operate more efficiently and attract extra funding. However, it should be stated that the paper is limited to the public information on the NPO that is available.


In the current paper, a not-for-profit sector organization is analyzed based on what factors can boost its organizational effectiveness. Amnesty International (AI) was chosen as a non-profit organization for the present work to be the essay’s subject. What elements affect an NPO’s organizational effectiveness and what actions can improve AI’s performance will be discussed. Moreover, challenges and barriers for the non-profit organization will be addressed. Furthermore, discussions and recommendations for AI will be derived and presented from a previous analysis.

A Brief on Amnesty International

Amnesty International (AI) is a non-profit international organization that is independent of any country. It was founded in 1961 by Peter Benenson, a British lawyer whose original aim was to fight for an amnesty for prisoners of conscience in different parts of the world. When Benenson and his team realized that the issue is global, they permanently protected human rights (The Nobel Prize, 2020). Nowadays, the organization works on numerous topics regarding the protection of human rights.

Its activities include fighting against abuses in the following areas: armed conflict, climate change, corporate accountability, the death penalty, discrimination, detention, international justice, indigenous people, police violence, racism, sexism, and others (Amnesty International, 2020). AI is based in London and finds significant support from a great number of volunteers around the world.

Challenges and Barriers in Measuring Organizational Effectiveness

There are no issues for a for-profit organization to measure its organizational effectiveness, as its primary purpose is clear – to be profitable. With non-profit organizations (NPOs), the situation is more complicated and requires an alternative approach. It should be stated that NPOs need to prove their success in order to receive funding from governments or different private organizations (Carnochan et al., 2013).

According to Stone and Cutcher-Gershenfeld (2002), difficulty measuring an NPO organizational effectiveness is explained by its non-market quality and mission-driven services. Moreover, the results of an NPO’s campaigns are mostly intangible or difficult to account for, such as scholarly outputs, raising awareness programs, or preventive actions. For instance, providing psychosocial care (nursing) in palliative hospitals means easing people’s moral suffering. However, this kind of activity is complicated in being counted and monitored.

In the case of Amnesty International, a vivid example is its protection of freedom of expression, including press freedom, freedom of speech, and the digital frontier (Freedom of expression, 2020). It is clear that it is relatively difficult to measure the organizational effectiveness in coverage of injustice cases if a specific outcome (for example, the release of a person from custody) was not yet achieved. However, it does not mean the actions did not affect governmental structures or a social attitude towards a particular event.

Discussions: What Elements Affect an NPO’s Organizational Effectiveness?

It should be stated that there is no straightforward answer on what elements consist of an effective NPO. However, there is no doubt that defining clear objectives is one of the first steps in order to achieve organizational effectiveness. It is also alternatively called ‘mission and vision’ or ‘mission and purpose’ (Exponent Philanthropy, 2014).

According to Harvey and Snyder (1987), the central issue in formulating aims conveys a real goal or set of goals, rather than a number of concepts. If an NPO’s purpose is just a concept or a statement, it is almost impossible to measure its effectiveness. It usually sounds too general and abstract, including formulations: “Our main purpose is to help homeless people worldwide.”

It does not present a clear objective because it needs to include ways of achieving it. In the case of the example, it can be formulated as follows: “Our main purpose is to help homeless people around the world by building housing and other facilities.”

An effective leadership or governance is another cornerstone of organizationally effective NPO. According to De Vita et al. (2001), for NPOs, leadership comes from numerous sources, involving volunteers, board members, and professionals in different areas. The component is interconnected with an NPO’s objectives, and thus, strong leadership translate goals to a team and motivate them towards achieving them.

Strong leadership implies an ability to solve organizational issues and stay flexible, a regular review of the existing program and fundraising plans, structured and consistent board meetings, and clear written policies concerning all general questions that might occur during an NPO’s activities. Moreover, effective leadership involves robust financial procedures that prepare yearly audits, financial statements, strong financial monitoring, and a reserve fund that allows the NPO to function for three to six months (Exponent Philanthropy, 2014). From the discussed above, it is clear that effective leadership, together with suitable management actions, are the key to organizational effectiveness.

Recommendations: What Actions Could Improve AI’s Organizational Effectiveness?

AI could improve its formulations of goals or mission and vision. As follows from its website, the NPO’s central objective is “Through our detailed research and determined campaigning, we help fight abuses of human rights worldwide. We bring tortures to justice. Change oppressive laws. And free people jailed just for voicing their opinion”.

On the one hand, its purpose is clear enough; however, on the other hand, it sounds too vague, and the ways of achieving the goal remain untightened. The organizational effectiveness of AI is heavily dependent on the level of clarity of its mission and vision. Thus, it is suggested to devote an entire web page or a document for a detailed presentation of its mission and vision.


In conclusion, it should be stated that an NPO’s organizational effectiveness is a complex set of actions required from operational management and board members. Reasons for challenges in measuring the outcomes of NPOs include its non-market quality, mission-driven services, intangible outcomes, and non-profit focus.

Two main elements plan an essential role in the organizational effectiveness of an NPO: clear mission and vision, and suitable organizational and financial management. It is complicated to analyze its financial and managerial activities concerning Amnesty International, as they are not public. However, it can be clearly stated that AI could improve its formulation of goals in order to be more effective and attract funds.


Amnesty International. (2020). What We Do. Amnesty International. Web.

Carnochan, S., Samples, M., Myers, M., & Austin, M., J. (2013). Performance measurement challenges in non-profit human service organizations. Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 43(6): 1014-1032. Web.

De Vita, C., J., Fleming, C., & Twombly, E., C. (2001). Building non-profit capacity: A framework for addressing the problem. Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, The Urban Institute, 5-30. Web.

Exponent Philanthropy. (2014). What makes an effective non-profit. Fidelitycharitable. Web.

Harvey, P., D., & Snyder, J., D. (1987). Charities need a bottom line too. Harvard Business Review. Web.

Stone, M. M., & Cutcher-Gershenfeld, S. (2002). Challenges of measuring performance in non-profit organizations. Non-profit and Civil Society Studies, 33-57. Web.

The Nobel Prize. (2020). Amnesty International history. Author. Web.

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