President's Perspective Blog

Statement of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Regarding Sexual Harassment/Gender Equity in the Fundraising Profession

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

AFP President and CEO Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA
Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

See Attachments section for translated versions in French and Spanish.

It might be easy to assume that the recent Presidents Club incident in the U.K., in which hostesses at the charity event were required to sign non-disclosure agreements that they were not given time to read—and then were sexually harassed by male attendees throughout the event—is so extreme, so far out of the norm for the nonprofit sector, that there are no lessons to be learned. We could respond that no legitimate charity in North America or around the world would ever consider holding such an event or condone the mistreatment of women like that, and therefore, there's nothing to be said.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It might be easy to think that sexual harassment couldn't be an issue in the charitable sector. After all, we are organizations and individuals dedicated to changing the world. We typically work long hours for less pay than our for-profit counterparts. We are committed to values such as justice, equality, equity, and respect. There is simply no way that harassment could be a serious problem for our sector.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Like most other sectors, the charitable sector is not an outlier on this issue. We are symptomatic of it. While the issue of donors harassing nonprofit staff and volunteers may be unique to our sector, the power dynamics are the same—and there are countless instances of it across the sector. In addition, harassment from supervisors, board members, and even co-workers occurs in the charitable sector with regularity. We have seen that reflected in an increasing number of surveys and articles about the sector, including an article in the Fall 2017 issue of AFP's own magazine, Advancing Philanthropy.

So, how best to address this serious issue? There's no easy fix for the problem, but we are the charitable sector, and our mission is to change the world, one step at a time. We can serve as a model—and given our role in society, we MUST serve as a model—for the rest of the world.

The Institute of Fundraising's (UK) response to the Presidents Club incident and subsequent article in The Guardian serve as excellent starting points for the conversation, and, in that spirit, we would like to lay out AFP's own priorities regarding these issues. Our priorities are grounded in the principles contained in our internationally recognized Code of Ethical Standards, including each fundraiser's aspiration to "practice their profession with integrity, honesty, truthfulness and adherence to the absolute obligation to safeguard the public trust," and to "foster cultural diversity and pluralistic values and treat all people with dignity and respect."

First, we must enact a clear and decisive policy of zero tolerance for harassment. Not only must we implement and enforce defined policies and procedures in place at our organizations for dealing with harassment, but we also must make clear upfront the expectations for behavior from sector employees, board members, and yes, even donors. This must happen through education and continuous reinforcement of these critical principles.

Our goal is to build a culture of respect, equality, and openness so that harassment doesn't occur—and if it does, victims must feel secure and confident that they can approach their supervisor and/or others in the organization and expect an appropriate response while their confidentiality is respected. And, we need to proclaim loudly to our organizational leaders that no donation (and no donor) is worth taking away an individual's respect and self-worth while turning a blind eye to harassment.

Second, the issue of harassment is part of a larger conversation about equity in the fundraising profession and the charitable sector. Women make up approximately 70 percent of the profession, yet account for only 30 percent of senior leadership positions. On average, women's salaries lag behind their male counterparts by roughly US $12,000 – $20,000, according to AFP's annual 2017 Compensation and Benefits Survey. Having more female senior-level executives in the profession isn't just important to preventing sexual harassment; it's critical to furthering the entire mission of the nonprofit sector.

From the Chair's Column in our most recent Winter 2018 Advancing Philanthropy magazine: "We have to realize that these are not just women's issues—these are issues that are fundamental to the principles of the charitable sector, a sector that is based on equality, justice, and equity. To call them women's issues is to ignore what each of us, man or woman, works to build every day: connections, understanding, empathy, generosity, and compassion. How can we so passionately work on these issues for our own organizations, yet miss the problems that are right in front of us in our workplaces?"

This leads to our Third point: we must emphasize, more than ever, the role of men in preventing harassment. It's not enough for men to shake their heads at an incident like the Presidents Club and promise not to be "that guy." Men and women need to be working together for this cause, and men need to take the initiative to speak out against harassment. Speaking out affirms that men are standing with their female colleagues and providing their unwavering support.

We recognize that there are many facets to this issue, and we need to lead the conversations, providing guidance and solutions to all members of the profession. And we will! AFP is proud to announce that—in partnership with The Chronicle of Philanthropy—we'll be conducting a comprehensive survey about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the profession, and then using that data to develop anti-sexual harassment education as part of our library of educational offerings. We intend to make this training available to AFP members and non-members alike. Furthermore, AFP will also be launching new initiatives later this year to address equity in the profession.

As the leading global association representing fundraisers, AFP's role in this situation is to raise awareness of key issues, unite people and organizations together, and seek solutions to these challenges. We must bring our fundraising skills, innovation, empathy, and communications to this critical issue that affects our profession, our communities and the entire world. AFP is committed to this endeavor, and we encourage all organizations in the sector to join us as we work to champion equity, fairness, and justice in our own workplaces.

Ann Hale, CFRE

Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA
President and CEO

I’m Mike Geiger, president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Though I’m the one posting, it’s really your thoughts and views that we'll be posting, as much as mine —it's about the AFP community and the fundraising profession. I want to keep you up-to-date with what’s happening at AFP, but I really want to hear from you. So e-mail me your comments, questions, concerns, feedback, and items you think I should be covering.

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