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Speaking Truth to Power in Fundraising: A Toolkit

Published Date May 16, 2022
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Executive Summary

Speaking Truth to Power in Fundraising: A Toolkit, produced in partnership with the Association of Fundraising Professionals, is simultaneously a report of findings from a mixed-methods study of the fundraising workplace, a call to action in addressing sexual harassment in the profession, and a set of resources for taking action. As has been found elsewhere, the report points out consequential disparities in the experience of fundraisers across social identity groups – race, gender, and sexuality. There are mixed feelings about the success of fundraisers’ workplaces in achieving diversity and equality. Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) fundraisers are more likely to perceive barriers to promotion for minorities, and Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) fundraisers are more likely to perceive inequality and a lack of diversity. The report speaks to the ability of fundraising employers to make members of different social identities feel safe. Results show that most fundraisers have confidence that their employer would address a complaint of discrimination or harassment, though there is room for improvement. Fundraisers may be less certain in the case that the harasser was an external stakeholder. And, while 80% or more of fundraisers’ workplaces have policies prohibiting harassment based on race, sexual harassment, and workplace violence, fewer have policies prohibiting bullying. Exclusionary and harmful behaviors like these are due to a misuse of (financial, supervisory, and/or social) power.

Among the greatest misuses of power in the fundraising profession is sexual harassment. This report finds that the incidence of sexual harassment among fundraisers is higher than previously thought: 42% of fundraisers have experienced sexual harassment in the past two years, and 76% have experienced it ever in their career. Breaking this down by harasser, in the past two years, 32% of fundraisers have experienced sexual harassment by a coworker and 24% by an external stakeholder such as a donor. The study also shows that fundraisers are being pressured by their employers to put themselves in a position where they may be at a higher risk of sexual harassment in order to secure gifts. Often sexual harassment is framed as a women’s issue, but these results suggest otherwise. LGB fundraisers experience higher rates of sexual harassment than women, and both BIPOC and LGB fundraisers experience higher rates of the most egregious forms of sexual harassment. While fundraisers generally feel supported with a sexual harassment policy and training, employers can do more. Very few sexual harassment policies address sexual harassment by external stakeholders like donors. Fundraisers’ workplaces also need to better encourage reporting. Only 15% of fundraisers experiencing sexual harassment by a colleague, and 27% of those harassed by a stakeholder, tend to report that experience to someone in the organization.

The report concludes with a series of actions that can be taken to address sexual harassment specifically, and related power disparities broadly. We call on fundraisers to use the data in this report to raise awareness of sexual harassment in the profession among leaders and donors. Beyond the data in this report, additional tools are needed to conduct workshops and organizational planning in relation to sexual harassment. The report contains a Sexual Harassment Toolkit, which includes materials for two role play exercises, a prevention assessment, and an action planning template. AFP is also doing its part by putting policies, mentorship, and a Fundraiser Bill of Rights in place for its members. We believe the data, stories, tools, and recommendations contained in this report have the power to significantly reduce the presence of sexual harassment in the profession.