In recent years, there have been a number of incidents reported relating to allegations of sexual harassment, as well as a number of women sharing their experiences of this in the fundraising sector. In addition to highlighting the inappropriate behaviour of colleagues, employers or donors, these reports have also brought into focus the mechanisms and processes that organisations have in place for responding – which in some cases have been found wanting.
Sexual harassment can be a risk for fundraisers as they often find themselves working alone and attending external events. In addition, the donor-fundraiser relationship, particularly in terms of major giving, hinges upon a distinctly uneven power dynamic: fundraisers should never be under pressure to accept any inappropriate behaviour or harassment of any kind.
Addressing this issue effectively will require action and improvement in multiple areas; from charities responding to staff reporting sexual harassment and supporting them, to charities protecting fundraisers, and donors preventing unacceptable behaviour. There is clearly much to do to address this issue and establishing the nature and extent of the problem is a crucial first step.
DSC and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising (CIOF) believe that evidence is the bedrock of impact, and that great research can lead to greater social change. Over the last few months, DSC has been working in partnership with CIOF to source funding for a piece of research exploring the extent and types of sexual harassment experienced by fundraisers.
It is likely to be a painful experience for those who choose to share their stories of sexual harassment during this process. However, it is also, undoubtedly, a learning opportunity for the wider sector and one which, hopefully, lights a fire under us all to take immediate action.
We were pleased with the news that Third Sector has launched an anonymous online survey to gather fundraisers’ views and experiences of sexual harassment. This is a great step, which will complement our work in this area.
Both DSC and CIOF encourage all charities to view research into this under-prioritised issue as a positive opportunity to spark much-needed conversations, implement changes in policy and practice to protect fundraisers. The Third Sector survey can be completed here. All respondents will remain anonymous, and for legal reasons any individuals identified as perpetrators will not be named.
If you would like to support DSC and CIOF’s research into Sexual Harassment, please contact the research team via [email protected]
Debra Allcock Tyler
Directory of Social Change
Chief Executive Officer
The Chartered Institute of Fundraising