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Stephen Cotterill: Fundraising leaders have a duty of care to stamp out sexual harassment

11 Mar 2019 Voices

Fundraising leaders have a duty of care to stamp out sexual harassment in all aspects of the job.

If you only read one article in this issue, online here. Not that the rest of magazine is not crammed with insightful, illuminating content of course, but Ruby Bayley-Pratt’s Agent Provocateur piece this month is a must-read – a heart-felt volley across the bows of something that has been troubling the sector since the days of yore: sexual harassment.

There are a number of different elements to this problem across the industry. Obviously, the scandals around safeguarding and the abuse of beneficiaries by charity employees at international aid organisations have been at the forefront of the news over the last year or so. But there are other problems that form a worrying undercurrent of threat for people working in the fundraising sector.

Firstly, there is the potential imbalance of the donor/fundraiser relationship, particular in major donor programmes, where young people, mostly women, are asking older people, mostly men, for money. Without strong leadership, this fundamental power dynamic is open to a form of abuse as old as time.

Secondly, there is the explicit danger of younger people being in situations where they are vulnerable – at events, in one-to-one meetings or even while street fundraising.

Another aspect that Ruby touches on in her piece is one that fundraising is particularly susceptible to. The power structure within the sector means that many key roles have traditionally been held by men, with a large junior female employee demographic. Again, a situation ripe for abuse. With the rise of awareness campaigns and global movements such as #MeToo, there is a hopeful sense that the problem is at least being confronted, through better protocols, safeguards and general sensitivity to what constitutes sexual abuse.

The truth is though that, as with many other sectors, fundraising has a long way to go. It takes people like Ruby to call out such instances, without fear of personal or professional retribution, in order to prevent the normalisation of behaviour that has been perpetuated for far too long in this industry.



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