President's Perspective Blog

The Fundraiser Bill of Rights

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Fundraisers, by their very nature, look outward.

We look out at communities and see needs that must be met. We inspire donors and volunteers to our causes to help meet those needs. We cultivate external relationships with businesses, foundations, and others, helping them leverage their knowledge, funding and perspective to support our causes.

We place so much importance on these external relationships that we have created the AFP Code of Ethics to ensure that we treat them with the utmost care and respect. To underscore our commitment to serving others, we have helped create documents like The Donor Bill of Rights that shows, specifically, what donors should expect when they make a gift.

This external “outlook” is critical. It defines our profession and our commitment to ethics and impact. Without external trust—without the confidence of the giving public—fundraising and philanthropy are simply not possible.

But this external outlook comes with a cost.

Because we dedicate our work to serving others, we have not always focused on —or taken care of—ourselves. We have not always been explicit in talking about and ensuring we possess the tools and resources that we need to be successful. With the drive and pressure to reach fundraising goals and ensure programs are funded, we have not always felt empowered to speak up when questions arise about ethics, or even when our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing might be placed in jeopardy.

For example, from our recent Speaking Truth to Power in Fundraising: A Toolkit report, we found that 23% of fundraisers have been subject to sexual coercion during their career, which is defined as fundraisers being asked or pressured by their employers to put themselves in a position where they would be vulnerable to sexual harassment in order to secure gifts, such as dressing in a way to garner inappropriate attention. That’s right, almost a quarter of the profession has been asked by organizational leaders or staff to put themselves in potential jeopardy in order to solicit a gift.

Over the last several years, the pendulum has begun to swing back as fundraisers more closely examine their work environments and the responsibilities and pressures that have been placed on them. We are questioning not only how we have been working, but also the manner in which we do our work. We are finally taking the much-needed time for ourselves to ensure our physical, mental and emotional health. We are also shifting expectations about what is possible so that the demand for the dollar does not override everything else, including our wellbeing.

The next step in that process is the creation of the Fundraiser Bill of Rights – and we are announcing the first steps TODAY. The document will address some critical topics, including bias, sexual harassment, equity, and anti-racism. It is intended to protect you, the fundraiser and help you speak up to avoid situations such as sexual coercion—often justified by the need for a gift.

The Fundraiser Bill of Rights is also meant to be empowering. It will be a way to start conversations with organizational staff leadership, the board, donors and volunteers, and other staff that we work with. We must say, if you want me to be successful, these are the things that the profession—the ENTIRE profession—maintains that I need to create that success for the organization. I hope it will be a catalyst to frank discussions about how organizations need to invest in fundraising and the kinds of principles, values, baselines and safeguards they need to have in place to nurture their fundraisers.

The project is just beginning, and we are committed to hearing from a wide range of voices, including many outside the profession who have a vested interest in fundraising and philanthropy. I think it will be a hugely exciting and satisfying project, and you can find more information here at our project webpage.

Our focus must always be external. After all, that’s where we’ll find our past, current, and future organizational funding and support. But we must also continue to look inwards as well and take care of ourselves, both individually and as a profession. The Fundraiser Bill of Rights will help us find the most important parts of our profession—the things we need to be successful—and help ensure that fundraisers are protected, nurtured and allowed to flourish.

As always, I want to hear what you think, so feel free to email me your thoughts about the Fundraiser Bill of Rights at Mike.Geiger@afpglobal.org, or send me a message on Twitter at @AFPMikeGeiger

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Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

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