The non-profit sub-industry is a primary segment of the hospitality industry. It is comprised of non-governmental organizations, most of which are involved in humanitarian work. Since the aforementioned organizations primarily rely on well-wishers’ contributions to raise funds for their operations, they are often under intense scrutiny to ensure that they operate ethically. This paper analyzes Amnesty International as one of the most prominent organizations involved in non-profit management. It details the organization’s background, its fundraising strategies, and the ethical complaints lodged against it. Analysis indicates that its perceived association with dubious characters and organizations, unethical fundraising, mismanagement of contributions, and selection bias are the primary ethical complaints leveled against Amnesty International, and have gradually compromised its credibility as a defender of human rights.


Background and History

Amnesty International is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes the enjoyment of human rights throughout the globe. According to the pioneers of the organization, its core objective is to conduct research studies, initiate interventions to prevent grave abuses of human rights and to lobby for justice where the violation has already occurred (Chandler 30). Currently, Amnesty International is ranked as the most recognizable defender of human rights in the world and is used by other organizations such as the United Nations to keep governments in check.

Amnesty International was founded as Amnesty in 1961 in London. It was formed by Peter Benenson, an English labor lawyer who was overwhelmed by the blatant violation of human rights by several regimes at the time (Sithole 81). Amnesty International works to mobilize public opinion and put governments under pressure to comply with the international laws and provisions on human rights. It provokes demonstrations and picketing as well as undertakes community education through seminars and meetings to promote the protection of human rights. When it started in 1961, Benenson and his partners focused on dissents, freedom of expression and rights of prisoners of conscience (Chandler 32). However, as time passed, Amnesty International progressively expanded its scope. Today, it handles a host of issues and is especially concerned with instances of extrajudicial killings, indigenous rights, torture, death penalty, rights of refugees, and protection of human dignity.

Its membership has also grown exponentially. In 1961, there were only 5000 members (Chandler 32). By the end of that decade, the number had grown to 15,000 and had reached 200,000 by 1979 (Chandler 32). Today, it is estimated that there are over 7 million members scattered throughout the globe. For its efforts in defending human rights, especially its campaign against torture, Amnesty International was honored with the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize (Geist 23). It has continued to win many other awards and recognitions for its bravery in the push for recognition of the universality of human rights.


Amnesty International uses a variety of strategies to raise funds for its operations. The most prominent of its fundraising strategies is the acquisition of fees and donations. Amnesty International solicits donations from well-wishers who may be private individuals, business entities, or other non-governmental organizations (Hill, Moore, and Mukherjee 221). The only provision is that the amount donated must not be attached, meaning that the donor must not prescribe how Amnesty International should use the donations. Amnesty International reserves the right to appropriate the donations it receives for interventions it feels are pressing at the time. Crucially, Amnesty International does not receive donations from governments or their agencies (Amnesty International). The strategy of accepting only unaffiliated donations helps it to remain neutral in its interventions and protect itself against the influence of an undue government, political ideology, economic interest, and religious interest.

Additionally, Amnesty International raises funds through the acquisition of grants. Apparently, the grants, the same as donations, are ordinarily unattached (Beaumont). Amnesty International has a long history of receiving grants appropriated through the budgetary processes through agencies such as the United Kingdom Department for International Development, the European Commission, the United States’ State Department, and the Rockefeller Foundation among others (Chandler 33). Some critics have faulted Amnesty International for accepting these grants as it translates to the violation of its principles prohibiting it from receiving affiliated contributions.

The last major fundraising strategy is the establishment of street fundraising events. It has held fundraising occasions on the streets of major cities such as New York, London, Paris, Brussels, Milan, and Los Angeles among others. According to Amnesty International’s website, street fundraising helped the organization to raise €4 million in 2015 (Beaumont), while a sizeable number of people expressed apathy and even hostility towards it on the streets.

Ethical Complaints

Amnesty International operations have not been devoid of criticism both from internal and external sources. The major ethical complaint leveled against Amnesty International is that it associates itself with organizations that are known for violating the very human rights it seeks to protect and afford others (Sithole 87). For instance, in 2010, Amnesty International was rocked by accusations of moral bankruptcy when allegations of association with Moazzam Begg, the director of Cageprisoners, emerged. Amnesty International was accused of gross error in judgment for associating itself with Britain’s most fervent supporter of the Taliban. Given the atrocities the Taliban had committed in Afghanistan and Pakistan, many expected Amnesty International to denounce any form of connection with the organization. Some perceive it as an organization having lost the ability to distinguish right from wrong.

A further ethical complaint, expectedly, focuses on the issue of funding. Critics have often faulted Amnesty International for accepting contributions from governments and governmental agencies, despite explicitly pledging not to solicit or receive any form of affiliated donations (Hill, Moore, and Mukherjee 224). For instance, it still receives grants from the UK Department for International Development, the U.S. State Department, and many other governmental programs throughout the world. Consequently, Amnesty International is perceived by some as dishonest and lacking in moral authority. The issue of unethical fundraising has often been cited by detractors whenever they wanted to rebut the claims of violation of human rights made by Amnesty International.

An additional ethical complaint has been its perceived mismanagement of funds. Amnesty International is accused of grave misappropriation of donations. In fact, the perceived misappropriation of donations has been cited as the main reason why the contributions it receives are continually dwindling (Sithole 89). In 2011, for instance, Amnesty International was rocked by overpayment scandal. It was revealed that Irene Khan, the then secretary general, received a severance package of £533,103 after she resigned from the organization in 2009 (Hill, Moore, and Mukherjee 228). In fact, this constituted more than four times of her annual salary, which averaged £132,490. To make it worse, her deputy Kate Gilmore also received an ex gratia payment of £320,000 as part of the confidential agreement (Hill, Moore, and Mukherjee 228). The ensuing backlash from its disillusioned supporters compelled the organization to retract its initial response, apologize, and promise that the organization has instituted measures to protect itself against similar occurrences in the future.

Amnesty International has also been accused of doublespeak by the Catholic Church. The Church has faulted Amnesty International’s policies relating to abortion, accusing the organization of condoning abortion yet it purports to condemn murder, the death penalty, and extrajudicial killings (Geist 24).

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However, its major Achilles’ heel has been the perceived selection bias. Amnesty International is accused of flagging the issues that it sees fit and disregarding similar ones it may not fancy. Specifically, Amnesty International has been accused by many countries, including the U.S., China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia among others, of speaking on issues selectively (Hill, Moore, and Mukherjee 230). These countries assert that there is consistently institutionalized bias against certain countries. For instance, many foreign policy experts assert that Amnesty International has disproportionate focus on Israel since it often takes the side of Palestine in the conflict. In countries such as India, Amnesty International has been accused of sedition as it seemingly defends rebel groups in the Kashmir conflict (Sithole 96). Consequently, all these accusations of unethical dealings, whether true or not, have created a perception of moral inconsistencies on the part of Amnesty International.

Social Media Use

Amnesty International, the same as most organizations today, also uses the social media to communicate or otherwise lend an ear to its supporters. It uses these social media platforms to raise awareness, solicit for donations, and establish general communication that is of interest to its audience. The organization especially uses Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as its main social media platforms (Amnesty International). These platforms have been linked to the organization’s main website. The different chapters of Amnesty International throughout the world have their localized versions of the website and social media platforms.

Conclusion and Reflection

Taking SEE 3065 subject has been very informative. I have gained meaningful insights into non-profit management and fundraising efforts. I have comprehended that perceptions are of utmost importance in this segment of the hospitality industry. Before taking the course, I had little appreciation of perception and how it influences the effectiveness of fundraising efforts. I have now learned that the best non-profit organizations try to avoid controversies and paint themselves in the best light possible. Despite the many challenges evident in the non-profit management subsector, including difficulty in sourcing for funds, I am still interested in pursuing a career in it. My primary motivation to engage in non-profit management is to help others in the society, especially the disadvantaged, marginalized, and oppressed. My sense of duty to humanity, I believe, by far outweighs the anticipated challenges the career will pose.


In conclusion, it is evident that Amnesty International is one of the most prominent non-profit NGOs fighting for universal enjoyment of human rights. Just like the other organizations involved in non-profit management, it has faced its own share of criticism. The main ethical complaints leveled against it range from association with dubious characters and organizations, unethical fundraising, mismanagement of contributions to selection bias. Amnesty International needs to address the unfavorable perceptions these controversies have created; failure to do so will result in a decline in the donations, grants, and other contributions it receives.

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