Research & Reports

New AFP Research Highlights Intersectionality of Harassment & Bias with Gender, Race and Sexuality

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(Arlington, VA) – New research by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, conducted in partnership with The Ohio State University (OSU) and focused on inclusion, diversity, equity and access in the charitable workplace, explored the intersectionality of gender, race, and sexuality in the areas of sexual harassment, bias, hiring and promoting.

The research, The Fundraising Workplace Climate Survey, is the second of three reports based on data from AFP members to better understand diversity and inclusion issues in the fundraising workplace and how charities are addressing these topics.

The first report from February 2021 focused on sexual harassment, sexual coercion and harassment training in the workplace. Data from that report showed that more than 75% of respondents reporting having been sexually harassed by a coworker, stakeholder (such as a donor or board member) or both.

Part two expands the data, looking at harassment by gender, race and sexuality, and also looks at other inclusion and equity issues, including perceptions of organizational equity, recruiting a diverse workforce and promoting BIPOC staff.

“This is an important step for AFP as we look to provide tools and resources for the fundraising profession and the charitable sector in helping to address harassment and bias and increase inclusion and equity,” said Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA, president and CEO of AFP. “This rich intersectional data allows us to pinpoint where we have serious challenges, especially across different demographics, so we can help our members in the best way possible. The third part of the research will look at organizational policies and their effectiveness and help us gauge the commitment and capacity different charities to have to prevent discrimination and harassment.  I’m grateful for the partnership we have with Ohio State University and Drs. Beaton and LePere-Schloop.”

Seventy-eight percent of female fundraisers and 64% of male fundraisers have experienced sexual harassment over the course of their fundraising career by either a coworker, a stakeholder (e.g., a board member), or both.

Respondents who identified as LGBTQ+ were more likely to report instances of harassment across all demographic categories. Almost three-quarters (74%) of those who identify as BIPOC and LGBTQ+ have experienced sexual harassment behaviors, and the percentage for those who identify as Caucasian and LGBTQ+ and have experienced such behaviors is 84%.

In addition, 27% of female fundraisers and 13% of male fundraisers have experienced unwanted sexual attention by either a coworker or external stakeholder in the past two years alone. 43% of respondents who identify both as female and Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC) have experienced sexual harassment behaviors by either a coworker or external stakeholder during a similar timeframe. Again, those respondents who identified as LGBTQ+ experienced even higher rates of unwanted sexual attention (46%).

“While people with marginalized social identities seem to be impacted to a greater extent by sexual harassment, it’s important to note that it is an issue for everyone,” said Erynn Beaton, Ph.D., and Megan LePere-Schloop, Ph.D., the researchers who conducted the survey. “We are committed, alongside AFP leadership, to support members and the broader fundraising community in addressing these important issues. While the first step to dealing with sexual harassment is instituting a sexual harassment policy (that protects employees from donors and board members) and customized training (required by all staff and board members), these steps are not enough. Organizations must be prepared to conduct credible investigations upon receiving a report and be poised to take remedial action when appropriate. Building a culture of zero tolerance requires that organizations are willing to fire staff, remove board members, and turn away donors that exhibit sexually harassing behaviors—all of which happens too rarely.”

The survey also asked respondents to agree or disagree with a series of statement about the organization’s work in diversity and inclusion and hiring and promotion practice.

More than four in ten (43%) of all respondents agreed with the statement that “the organization where I worked for most of the past two years was successful in recruiting a diverse workforce.” Almost one-third (32%) disagreed with the statement, 19% neither agreed nor disagreed, and 6% felt they couldn’t respond.

Agreement with the statement was relatively the same across demographic lines, as 42% of female fundraisers and 47% of male fundraisers agreed with the statement. Almost half (49%) of respondents who identify as BIPOC agreed, while 42% of respondents who identify as Caucasian agreed.  

When asked about the statement, “In the organization where I worked for most of the past two years, the opinions and insights of minority employees were often ignored or devalued,” 14% of all respondents agreed. Twice the number of BIPOC respondents (26%) agreed with the statement than those who identify as Caucasian (13%). One third (32%) of respondents who identify as BIPOC and LGBTQ+ agreed with the statement.

“The results are especially important because they illuminate some of the perceptions that different fundraisers have about these issues, and addressing these perceptions is one of our key challenges,” said Birgit Smith Burton, executive director of foundation relations for Georgia Tech and chair-elect of AFP. “For example, just six percent of White respondents agreed with the statement that ‘standards were higher for minorities than non-minorities,’ while three times as many BIPOC fundraisers agreed with the statement. When we’re not having the same experiences, or perceiving conditions differently, it’s hard to create ideas and solutions that everyone buys into. This research is part of coming to terms with the experiences of BIPOC fundraisers and how others can assess their perceptions and serve as allies.”

More than 1,700 AFP members responded to the survey, and were asked to describe their gender identity, sexual orientation as well as their race/ethnicity. Respondents were also asked to share whether they’ve experienced particular behaviors from colleagues, stakeholders or both over the past two years, as well as the course of their fundraising career in its entirety.

To view the full results from part two of The Fundraising Workplace Climate Survey, please click here.



Since 1960, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) has been the standard bearer for professionalism in fundraising. The association works to advance effective and ethical philanthropy by providing advocacy, research, education, mentoring, collaboration and technology opportunities for the world’s largest network of professional fundraisers. AFP’s 26,000 members in more than 240 chapters raise over $100 billion annually for a wide variety of charitable organizations and causes across the globe. For more information, go to www.afpglobal.org.

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