The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is combining public awareness accompanying studies of gender-based wage inequality and sexual harassment in the workplace with Women’s History Month in the launch of its Women’s Impact Initiative (WII). WII is the association’s response to bias and harassment in the fundraising space.
The initiative is the first in a new series of diversity and inclusion efforts by AFP.
New efforts toward diversity and inclusion, now more broadly referred to within the association as Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access (IDEA), were prioritized by the association’s board last October, just prior to CEO Mike Geiger joining.
Geiger said during a Wednesday conference call that the association has long sought to add diversity to the profession by recruiting members from various groups. Equity and access within the profession have come recently front and center, Geiger said, as diversity is not possible without either pillar. AFP has also taken an interest in not only attracting diverse membership, but helping them grow within the profession.
The series of initiatives will be based around research, education, training, support, and awareness — geared at engaging various demographic groups within the profession, Geiger said. Other communities AFP will seek to engage include African Americans, youth, and members of the LGBTQ community. This initial foray will run for the next 18 months, according to Tycely Williams, vice president of development at YWCA USA, who will chair the initiative. These 18 months will focus on highlighting and addressing issues women in fundraising face with the ultimate goal of creating awareness and resources to overcome problems.
Education and information sharing will be primary components of the initiative. AFP is developing a study on sexual harassment in the profession. The association has received 1,000 survey responses from members of the profession and initial findings are expected to be announced during the association’s International Fundraising Conference in New Orleans next month. Survey findings will also be used to build educational tools. Developing similar tools is anticipated for barriers such as salary negotiations and overcoming gender bias.
“We want everybody, beyond women, to share experiences,” Williams said. “Awareness is the goal of the initiative.”
Past association efforts in the inclusion space include the creation of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee during the 1990s and Minority Outreach Committee during the 1980s. There might be a sense within the fundraising space that nonprofits are the answer to reports of harassment and inequality, not the problem. Recent stories of harassment and abuse within Oxfam, Humane Society of the United States, and other organizations show that that is not the case, said Ann M. Hale, chair of AFP. The silver lining is that there is also motivation within the profession to improve in this area. The association’s member webinar on the topic, scheduled for Thursday, filled all 475 slots in less than a day.
“Many of us have stories and examples of harassment,” Hale said. “These issues have been around. We have an opportunity to amplify them with public awareness.”