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Create a Harassment-free Nonprofit

Updated: May 5, 2021

Define the line comic book panel. Female character with speech bubble "Uhhhh. Ok?"

As we’ve seen with the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment doesn’t discriminate by industry, a company’s bottom line, or the do-gooder mission of the organization. Nonprofit organizations have experienced their share of claims. There are two big differences from the for-profit sector: the addition of potential victims, and even harassers – donors, volunteers, interns, and Board of Directors, and the withdrawal of financial support from donors when made aware of harassment in the organization.

Nearly two in five donors who have heard about workplace sexual harassment at a charity say

they no longer donate to or have reduced their support for the organization.

What can you do?

Start with an anti-harassment policy, and one that everyone should adhere to. In addition to the employee handbook, include the policy on your website, in the Board of Director's by-laws, in donor agreements, and on registration materials for events. Share the policy with your volunteers and interns.

Next up, training. Provide tailored trainings to managers, employees, and even your Board of Directors. While some states require sexual harassment training, initiating awareness in your organization shows that you take harassment seriously and have zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior.

Implement complaint procedures. Harassment is already a difficult experience for someone to have, but not being able to discuss it is even more isolating. 87-93% of people never file a formal complaint. Anyone who is a victim of or witness to harassment should feel safe enough to bring the situation to the attention of HR or management, and confident that their concerns will be addressed in a timely and resolute manner. If you don't have an HR professional in your organization, identify a point-of-contact that people can go to with their claim.

Investigate all claims. General steps taken during an investigation include:

  • Take immediate action

  • Interview the claimant, any witnesses, and the alleged harasser

  • Document all conversations

  • Determine outcome and appropriate next steps

  • Follow-up with the claimant and communicate the action taken

1 out of 4 women in the fundraising profession have experienced harassment.

65% of them reported that at least one of their harassers was a donor.

What if the harasser is a donor?

The success and viability of a nonprofit organization depends on the financial support of donors. What if you find out that a donor has been harassing your employee? Do you decline their donation? Or do you continue that relationship? Consider which of these quotes your organization aligns with:

"Let’s not put the goal of shaming wrongdoers above the goal of furthering the common good."

- The Washington Post

“When you want to hide the relationship, you really need to reconsider whether

to accept the donation at all.” - Good360

Ultimately, the decision is yours to wrestle with but it certainly merits a conversation so that you can justify the reasoning behind the choice you made if/when it comes into question.

We have much more to share with you on this topic - information that will help create a workplace free of harassment. We are offering free harassment training to our nonprofit community, learn more.

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