Contact Mazarine: (503) 673-FUND (3863)

28 April 2017


 April 28, 2017

Here’s a message from Captain Obvious! Feminism is good for everyone! Real equity and Diversity is good for everyone.  Who agrees with me? Let’s see. Nonprofit Pro. Sofii. The Agitator.

Vanessa Chase of The Storytelling Nonprofit started the Fundraising is Female issue hashtag, and here are the issues we see as female fundraisers.


Why Fundraising is Female? Because:

  1. We do not get Equal Pay. According to the Forward Salary survey of 2015- women in fundraising make 70% of what men in fundraising make. We need to ask for a raise. Just ask the Council of Nonprofits.
  2. We do not get equal opportunities for LeadershipA leadership study done by the University of Denver states that Men are 75% more likely to get put into leadership roles at nonprofits.
  3. We often do not get Paid family leave:  Flexible work policies for families to take care of our children or our elders. Mary Cahalane has more.
  4. We get bullied at work-snubbed, yelled at by the seething giant or the tyrant. To learn more about the different bullying styles-check out this presentation.
  5. How we deal with female donors versus male donors-are we equitable in our treatment of donors, as couples, do we talk more to the man than the woman? How do we value women’s philanthropy? It’s not just about the mega-gifts in philanthropy, but all levels of giving. My mom-volunteered at a hospice and was given the cooking and cleaning tasks. If she were a man, would she have been expected to do those tasks? Absolutely not.
  6. Recognizing microaggressions-Gender Biased tasks: Who takes care of the nametags? Who cleans up after meetings? Who is expected to get food for the meetings? Who ends up taking notes?
  7. Sexual Harassment. In addition to telling women that we should make way for more men to get into fundraising, we routinely get sexually harrassed. Many women with front-facing donor roles are subjected to harassment by donors or board members or other staff. And what are you going to do? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.


This is sexual assault awareness month. So let’s take a moment to talk about sexual harrassment of fundraisers by donors.

We are chosen, sometimes for our beauty, sometimes for our skills, but often for our cheer- our ability to be enthusiastic, get people excited about our cause and help donors want to give more.


What’s the trouble with this picture?

People can take it the wrong way, when you show interest in them. I know, from personal experience. If I smile at someone, and engage them in conversation, it can make them think I’m sexually interested in them, and ask for my number.

Working in fundraising has led me to get harassed by a board member. And I’m not the only one.



Board member and Donor Harassment: My Story

A board member at a nonprofit I used to work at had a meeting with me, and asked me inappropriate questions about my sexuality, and was overly familiar in touching me during that meeting. I left feeling gross. I told the board chair, but he was an HR professional, and because he was, his primary concern was to protect the nonprofit, not me, and so he simply told me not to meet with the board member again.

This didn’t really solve the problem, did it? The board member was free to go on and harass the next person. Absolutely no repercussions for this person.


NOPE, I can’t sit on this board, because the board chair hit on me.

This isn’t just a past problem. This is a present problem. How so? I work for myself! Surely, there’s nothing that anyone could do that would be sexual harassment toward me! Au contraire.

Last year I was approached to sit on a nonprofit board, and as part of the interview process, they had me meet with the board chair. We spent an hour or so together in a coffeeshop, where we talked about the nonprofit, and I showed him how to make a quick, easy fundraising plan. After the meeting, he emailed me to get a date. And I turned him down.

Then I realized that no matter how much I liked this nonprofit, there was no way I could sit on this board now. They wouldn’t have me. It would be too awkward. I told the person who originally recruited me, but that was it. There was nothing more I could do. Will this board chair hit on someone else again? Probably.

These are just two of the ways that fundraising while female has impacted my life.

On sexual assault awareness month, let’s take a moment to talk about sexual harassment of fundraisers by donors.

Nonprofit Leader, Listen Up.

If you’re an executive director, board member or other senior nonprofit leader, here’s why you should care about this.

  1. You want to protect your nonprofit from lawsuits.
  2. You want to protect your fundraisers from people who could misconstrue their attention.
  3. You want to protect your nonprofit from a “grey area” around what appropriate touching and conversations are, whether with Staff, Board, Volunteers OR Donors.


See below to see ideas for how to protect your nonprofit and your staff from unwanted lawsuits.



What we can do to protect ourselves, as fundraisers?

  1. Confront the person, right there. Say, Hey, I don’t want you to hug me. It’s not appropriate. You have to confront them or you’re never going to convince them to change.
  2. If they don’t listen, then talk with a trusted friend at work about what a donor did to you, if you’re currently dealing with this. If you have HR, talk to HR. If you don’t have HR, talk with a board member. If you don’t have access to the board, talk with the Bureau of Labor division in your state.
  3. Talk with your direct boss about this, and suggest that
    • You stop taking money from this donor,
    • This person be taken out of a leadership position, if they are in a leadership position,
    • Suggest that you have a clear agreement with board, staff, volunteers, and donors about appropriate behavior and inappropriate behavior.
  4. Have a formal complaint process where there’s a form people can fill out, and then hand the complaint form to the person responsible for dealing with this.
  5. Have a policy in place about what appropriate touch and conversation is. Maybe you decree a “ask before you hug” policy. Maybe you say, “no talking about sex at work.” Sometimes you have to create and enforce boundaries before people understand what is and isn’t appropriate.
  6. Rewrite the employee manual to include consequences for sexual harassment by donors
  7. Rewrite your gift acceptance policy to include rules and procedures for sexual harassment by donors.


Can you think of any other ideas of what to do for sexual harassment in the workplace? I’d love to hear them!

Thank you to Vanessa Chase for giving me the inspiration to write this post!


2 responses on “Are you afraid to talk about being harassed by a donor?

  1. Steve says:

    I find it interesting that there’s the comment on how men are more likely to be in leadership roles in nonprofits. It’s not something that I have seen before. I can’t think of a single ED I know personally, aside from myself and Vu Le, who is a guy. I’ve always perceived it as a female led field just like the other side of my occupation (literally every one of my mentors is female along with probably 60-70% of my peers). I have never met a male development director (as a standalone position). There’s a joke locally that they are like sasquatch: you always hear about them but no one can produce hard evidence of their existence.

    Then again….small sample size skewing the statistics. It’s actually kind of uncomfortable when I do deal with the local YNPN group because I am male and a rookie ED and, by default, in charge of fundraising. There’s some serious side eye going on there. The fact that I came at this from a background other than nonprofits doesn’t help. There’s very much a (mostly) unspoken attitude which seems to impart that because I’m a guy that I’m unqualified for the job (which I received quite literally because the board went “This was your idea so…..we took a vote and you lost. Congrats!” upon us becoming an entity) and somehow “stealing” a position from a woman or from a person of a different heritage (I happen to be mixed race but that’s irrelevant and beside the point since it has absolutely zero to do with our line of work and therefore is a red herring).

    That said, we have most of the suggestions you posited already worked into policies etc simply because they are common sense stuff but good food for thought in more established organisations. I’ve been hit on by both male and female potential donors and others in the course of my work over the past couple of years. To me personally, it’s not a big deal (actually, it’s kind of flattering even if I am not interested) but if it were done to someone else who works for me, it’s a different story if it needs to be (i.e., if it is brought to my attention). The difference is all in how someone reacts to it. What I might find flattering on the receiving end might mortify someone else.

    By the way, I am also the one who normally gets tasked with cooking for any get together I am even tangentially involved with. One of our board members (a woman) freely admits to the time she melted a pot on the stove while trying to boil water. Not kidding.

    • Mazarine says:

      hi Steve,

      I’d be happy to produce some examples of men in high positions for you to take to your next meeting! But first consider- How many State Governors are women? How many College Presidents (often a vital part of the fundraising team) are women?

      Jim Ervin Executive Director, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation
      Mark M. Luellen Vice President for Advancement UVA
      Executive Director Philip W. Lovejoy,
      Kevin Heaney Vice President for Advancement Princeton
      Robert E McQuinn Vice President of Alumni Relations & Development

      You might say, Mazarine, you are cherry-picking the biggest fundraising departments in the country! And yes, that is what I am doing. Because it matters how much people make. You probably know a lot of people at small nonprofits. That’s where women make very little. I look at larger nonprofits because Income inequality matters. Racism matters. If you don’t think that women at the top matters, then I think if you’ll look at ANY university or hospital fundraising department, you’ll see that nearly every single person is a white person. Maybe you’ll have a problem with that. I know I do.

      I think the issue with people being hit on is the power differential. What are the repercussions going to be if you’re a woman of color versus a white man? There’s a privilege there that we need to acknowledge.

      Do you see what I mean, Steve?


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