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New survey reports sexual harassment is rampant in fundraising world

Fundraising Aviva News 4 6 18
The Dorcester Hotel in London, where a January men-only Presidents Club fundraiser turned into a grope-fest for female waitstaff. (Spanish Coches)

The #MeToo movement may have begun by revealing the extent of sexual harassment in Hollywood, but there is increasing evidence that the problem touches nearly every industry—including philanthropy. 

In January, a British charity called the Presidents Club closed less than 24 hours after it was reported that female waiting staff were harassed at a men-only fundraising event. Attendees allegedly groped the waitstaff, with one individual even taking out his penis, according to a story published in the Financial Times. The women had been given short, tight, black dresses to wear for the occasion and were brought out on stage before the event began.  

A new survey, released Thursday, offers an idea of just how extensive the issue of sexual harassment is in the philanthropy world, with over a quarter of female fundraisers reporting that they have experienced sexual harassment on the job, and almost half reporting that they had either been sexually harassed or heard about incidents secondhand. The survey was put out by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and The Chronicle of Philanthropy and was conducted independently online by the Harris Poll in February. More than 1,000 people who work in nonprofit fundraising participated.  

The survey highlighted the extent to which power dynamics between donors and fundraisers shape experiences in the workplace. In 65 percent cases, the perpetrator was identified as a donor. In nearly every single case (96 percent), the harasser was identified as a man.

“The number of cases involving donors is eye-opening and points to a unique and very troubling situation within the profession,” Mike Geiger, president and CEO of AFP, said in a statement. “We know most donors have only the best interest of the cause at heart, but our message will be clear: no donation and no donor is worth taking away an individual’s respect and self-worth and turning a blind eye to harassment.”

For many individuals who experience harassment, the problem is ongoing. Of people who have been harassed (including 7 percent of men surveyed), the median number of occurrences they personally experienced was three; only about one-quarter (26 percent) of respondents had only been harassed once. Inappropriate sexual comments were the most common type of sexual harassment reported in the survey (80 percent), followed by unwanted touching or physical contact (55 percent).  

The survey also found that while the vast majority of individuals are confident that their organizations would respond positively if they experienced harassment in the workplace (91 percent), in reality very little is done to support survivors. Of respondents who experienced sexual harassment and reported it, no action was taken against the perpetrator in almost three-quarters (71 percent) of cases. 

One woman, who at the time worked at a charity providing services to developing countries, was sexually harassed on stage while helping run an award ceremony overseas, according to a story published by Inside Philanthropy in November. When the 29-year-old announced the recipient of award, he stepped onto the stage, grabbed her, and kissed her on the mouth in front of the audience.  

“Everyone in the crowd was laughing,” wrote the woman, in a survey conducted by the outlet. The 64-year-old donor’s behavior was never addressed.  



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