Fundraising must deal with gender issues, says Rogare project leader

Caoileann Appleby of the creative agency Ask Direct says fundraisers need more protection from unwanted sexual attention

Caoileann Appleby
Caoileann Appleby

The fundraising profession urgently needs to tackle gender issues such as sexual harassment, according to the leader of a project on gender issues run by the think tank Rogare.

Caoileann Appleby, strategy director at the Irish creative agency Ask Direct, said more needed to be done to protect fundraisers from unwanted sexual attention.

She made the comments as Rogare published the first outputs of the project on gender issues in fundraising.

The project has been set up to identify and discuss issues that need further exploration, to clarify and define terms, and to collate existing research, theories and practitioner thoughts on the issue.

Appleby said: "Gender in fundraising had been simmering for many years before the #MeToo movement and the scandals of the Presidents Club fundraising dinner, and Oxfam’s safeguarding failures caused it to boil over.

"Now there is evidence from the US that something like 25 per cent of female fundraisers have been subjected to sexually inappropriate behaviour.

"It is clear that as a profession we urgently need to tackle gender issues and work to improve how we protect and develop all fundraisers. Not only for our benefit, but also for our organisations and beneficiaries."

Rather than releasing a final report at the end of the project, the think tank said in a statement that it intended to publish a series of posts on its Critical Fundraising blog explaining its findings.

The first two posts deal with defining the terminology used in the project and looking at what is currently known about sexual harassment and gendered violence, both in fundraising and society as a whole.

Future posts will explore topics such as career paths, leadership and visibility, how feminist ethics can apply to fundraising, the gender pay gap and donor dominance, according to a Rogare statement.

Appleby said: "We are not here to give definitive answers, but to raise awareness of the issues, encourage better conversations and discussions grounded in better knowledge, and help point those of us eager to enact change towards the most effective ways to do that."

Ian MacQuillin, director of Rogare, said issues around gender were some of the most important challenges fundraising faced and he hoped the project would ensure that any change was grounded in theory and evidence.

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