In the non-profit sector, it is the fundraiser’s job to develop relationships with charitable donors, and continue to foster those relationships so that they continue to donate their time and money to the organization. Unfortunately, when interacting with wealthy and powerful donors who are used to getting what they want, fundraisers are often the subject of inappropriate behavior. According to a recent study, over 75 percent of fundraisers experience some form of sexual harassment in the workplace over the course of their career. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment by a charitable donor, contact an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible.

What Is Considered Sexual Harassment?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it is against the law to harass an applicant or an employee based on their sex. Sexual harassment includes unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or any other physical or verbal harassment of a sexual nature. While innocent teasing or an isolated incident may not be considered sexual harassment in the eyes of the law, frequent or severe harassment that creates a hostile or offensive work environment, or that results in the victims being fired or demoted is considered sexual harassment.

What Does the Research Show Regarding Sexual Harassment in Fundraising?

A recent study published in The Conversation found that sexual harassment is a persistent problem in the non-profit sector. Researchers conducted a series of 75 interviews with fundraisers, and obtained survey responses from 1,782 members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In the two years prior to the summer of 2020, 18 percent of fundraisers reported that they had been sexually harassed by a co-worker, 10 percent had been sexually harassed by a donor or someone outside the organization, and 14 percent said that they were harassed by both. The survey also found that lesbian, gay or bisexual employees, as well as people of color, are more likely to be the victim of sexual coersion, which includes stalking, and even rape.

The research also shows that only a small percentage of fundraisers who have been sexually harassed by a donor chose to report the incident because they are afraid that they will suffer negative consequences. One survey respondent shared that she had been the victim of sexual harassment for six years before she finally reported it. However, instead of supporting her and taking action against the harasser, the organization retaliated against her by demoting her. Sadly, this is a common pattern among non-profit organizations.

What Can Organizations Do to Prevent Donor Misconduct?

In order to maintain a positive, professional and safe work environment, nonprofit organizations should keep the following tips in mind:

  • Support your employees. There are a number of steps that organizations can take to support an employee, from reassigning the donor to another member of the team to making sure that another staff member joins the employee when meeting with the donor so that he or she is not alone with the donor.
  • Establish policies and procedures that address sexual harassment. When an organization has a clear set of policies in place, there are clear steps that employees can take if they have been the victim of sexual harassment from a donor. This should include policies on how to report an incident of sexual harassment, developing a written code of conduct that states that any board member who harasses a staff member will be removed from their position, and addressing the fact that women and minorities are at an increased risk being sexually harassed.
  • Establish a “zero-tolerance” policy against sexual harassment. Each organization should create a policy that ensures that this behavior is unacceptable and that employees will not be retaliated against for reporting inappropriate behavior, regardless of who the harasser is.

Marlton Employment Attorneys at Burnham Douglass Represent Victims of Sexual Harassment

If you work in the non-profit sector as a fundraiser, and you have been the victims of sexual harassment by a donor, contact our experienced Marlton employment attorneys at Burnham Douglass. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 856-372-5107 or contact us online. With offices located in Marlton and Northfield, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout New Jersey, Camden County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, Gloucester County, and Mercer County.