Welcome to ‘My key KPI’, a new weekly content series where we ask CFOs and FDs what metrics and measures they use to drive their businesses forward.
The aim is to understand how different finance professionals, across a broad array of industries and sectors, use data to inform their decision making.
This week, AccountingWEB spoke to Nicki Deeson, the international finance director of Amnesty International about her key KPI.
My key KPI: Staff activity ratio and Global North v Global South expenditure
In terms of sheer brand name recognition and clout, there are very few charities that can compete with Amnesty International. Founded in 1961, the organisation has attained a potent international influence.
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That rise hasn’t come without controversies and skirmishes, of course, but the ‘movement’, as Nicki Deeson referred to it, remains relevant because of its unerring advocacy on behalf of the vulnerable.
It’s not always campaigns and action. In fact, Deeson told AccountingWEB, it’s an emotional labour that often comes with a grim calculus. “It’s true of all charities, we see and hear of terrible situations but we can’t help them all, unfortunately. We always have to prioritise and it’s heartbreaking.”
But it’s a toll that Deeson seems willing to pay, now a charity sector veteran and halfway through her fourth year at Amnesty International. As the international FD Deeson presides over Amnesty’s finance, workplace and facilities, and risk management.
As part of these tasks, Deeson keeps a close eye on staff activity ratio. This is calculated rather simply: staff costs v non-staff costs (meetings, travel, etc.). The ratio factors into the organisation’s personnel choices. That is, whether a more short term role or consultancy is appropriate to deal with a short term need, rather than hiring a long-term employee.
Hiring contractors and consultants where appropriate gives wiggle room if Amnesty International’s donations or memberships take a hit, Deeson explained. “If were to experience a drop in income, we wouldn’t want to suddenly restructure,” Deeson said.
In terms of Amnesty’s broader strategic agenda, Deeson keeps a close eye on what she called Global North v Global South expenditure. The Global South denotes regions with developing economies like in Africa.
AI’s headquarters -- the international secretariat as it’s called -- is based in London. But in the past few years, AI has embarked on a mission to decentralise its resources and bring them closer to places where Amnesty’s advocacy is most needed.
“In recent years, we’ve opened offices in the Global South and moved many roles to these new locations. We still have quite a few roles in London, but we’re constantly measuring our expenditure because we’re aiming to move as much of our resources close to where many of the human rights atrocities are actually happening.”
To Deeson, both these metrics have been invaluable strategic frames. “It’s led to many discussions like ‘What should Amnesty look like in five years’ time?’,” Deeson said.
“Both these ratios create discussions of, if we do grow, how much of our operation would be in London versus the Global South, what should be the pattern of our spending? How much can we work remotely? All of those questions have arisen from taking these measures.”
About Francois Badenhorst
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