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Fundraising Survey Reveals ‘Eye-Opening’ Harassment

10 April 2018 at 8:35 am
Wendy Williams
Nearly half of all fundraisers in the US have had some form of personal experience with sexual harassment, according to new research.

Wendy Williams | 10 April 2018 at 8:35 am


Fundraising Survey Reveals ‘Eye-Opening’ Harassment
10 April 2018 at 8:35 am

Nearly half of all fundraisers in the US have had some form of personal experience with sexual harassment, according to new research.

The survey, released by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy and The Chronicle of Philanthropy, marks the first comprehensive study of its kind about sexual harassment in the fundraising profession in the US.

It found that 48 per cent of respondents had either personally experienced, witnessed, and/or heard second-hand about incidents of sexual harassment, with a quarter of all female fundraisers and 7 per cent of men having been sexually harassed during their careers.

In 65 per cent of the cases reported in the survey the perpetrator was a donor, and in nearly all cases (96 per cent), the perpetrator was a male.

AFP president and CEO Mike Geiger said the number of cases involving donors was “eye-opening” and pointed to a “unique and very troubling situation within the profession”.

“As we look at how to proceed with the data from the survey and begin developing anti-harassment education and training for fundraisers and others in the charitable sector, we will have a special focus on the all-important donor-fundraiser relationship,” Geiger said.

“We know most donors have only the best interest of the cause at heart, but our message will be clear: no donation and no donor is worth taking away an individual’s respect and self-worth and turning a blind eye to harassment.”

His comments come after more than a quarter (27 per cent) of respondents said they believed donors were prioritised and had more rights than they did, and 13 per cent said their organisation placed a greater value on the loyalty of donors than the safety of its staff.

The numbers increased for those who had personally experienced sexual harassment, witnessed or been told about another’s experiences.

In total, 21 per cent of all respondents to the survey, which was based on information provided by 1,040 people, had personally experienced harassment, while 16 per cent of all respondents had witnessed harassment, and 26 per cent have been told about incidents of harassment.

The most common types of sexual harassment experienced in the fundraising profession included inappropriate sexual comments (80 per cent) or unwanted touching or physical contact (55 per cent).

It was not typically a one-time occurrence with 74 per cent reporting having had at least two harassment experiences, and 51 per cent had three or more.

AFP chair Ann Hale said it was clear the fundraising profession was not immune to the problems of sexual harassment.

“Regardless of where the harassment comes from supervisors, colleagues, donors or whomever AFP is committed to addressing this critical issue and providing tools and resources to help stop and prevent sexual harassment from occurring,” Hale said.

“This data is exactly why we developed the Women’s Impact Initiative this year, and we’re grateful to the Chronicle for their support of this important survey.”

The survey is the first major project in the Women’s Impact Initiative, a two-year campaign launched on International Women’s Day that focuses on issues related to women in the profession, including harassment, salary inequity and lack of women in leadership positions.

Women’s Impact Initiative chair Tycely Williams said a conversation was also needed around the response to harassment.

“A big takeaway from the survey is that many fundraisers like their organisation and believe it will support them if harassment occurs,” Williams said.

“But at the same time, the data shows that once harassment was reported, often times very little was done.

“We need to begin a larger conversation with everyone in the sector about what we can all do to not only prevent harassment, but respond appropriately and timely when it does occur.”

According to the survey, 94 per cent of respondent were at least somewhat satisfied with their organisation’s culture towards sexual harassment and as many as 91 per cent were optimistic that their organisation would support them if they personally experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

However, according to respondents who had experienced sexual harassment and told their organisation, in 71 per cent of the cases no action was taken against the perpetrator after the incident was reported.

Over half (53 per cent) were not very or not at all satisfied with how their manager, supervisor or organisation responded to their allegation of sexual harassment.

A total of 35 per cent said they felt a negative impact on their career through raising their incidents of harassment.

Overall 92 per cent of all respondents believed sexual harassment allegations in fundraising were more likely to be taken seriously today than ever before, with 82 per cent observing the #MeToo movement having a positive influence on the general workplace environment.

Geiger said the survey, which was launched shortly after a scandal in the UK involving the Presidents Club which hosted a charity event that required hostesses to sign non-disclosure agreements, should be a call to action to everyone in fundraising and philanthropy.

“Fundraising has been responsible for so much positive change in the world, and now we need to be at the forefront of change within our own profession,” Geiger said.

“As the largest community of fundraisers in the world, AFP is prepared to take the lead on the issue, and we look forward to working with organisations across the sector in addressing and ultimately solving the issue of sexual harassment.”

Fundraising Institute Australia CEO Rob Edwards told Pro Bono News all charities must ensure they have appropriate protocols in place to reduce the risk of sexual harassment in the workplace and in the field.

“We need to provide safe and secure workplaces for all staff,” Edwards said.

“Where there are direct client interactions, fundraisers, no more or no less than other sectors, are at risk of sexual harassment.

“There are avenues of fundraising that may present greater risk. For example, working with major donors generally requires frequent face to face interaction. If there is any concern, perhaps consideration should be given to working in pairs.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.


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