Fundraising undervalued by sector 'because could be seen as women's work'

A paper by the American academic Elizabeth J Dale says this view could damage the sector's credibility

Is fundraising seen as women's work?
Is fundraising seen as women's work?

- This article was amended on 30 January 2018; please see final paragraph

Fundraising is not sufficiently valued by the charity sector because could be seen as "women’s work", and this could limit the sector’s credibility, an academic paper has warned.

The paper, Fundraising as Women's Work? Examining the Profession with a Gender Lens, by Elizabeth J Dale, assistant professor of non-profit leadership at Seattle University in the US, argues that this perception is connected to the gender pay gap and an over-representation of men in senior level positions in both the UK and North American fundraising sectors.

It calls for charities to review their employees’ pay, promote more women to leadership roles, ensure they are embracing a range of leadership styles as and create more flexible, family-friendly working practices.

Dale says that even though men occupied the majority of fundraising positions until recently, the day-to-day job of fundraising has become closely aligned with the stereotypes of women's work.

She also argues that a push for the sector to be more "business-like" and to emulate the traditionally male-dominated private sector in its practices and values has limited the sector’s ability to recognise the contribution and roles of women.

"The day-to-day work of fundraisers and its similarity to stereotypically female work place women at a systematic disadvantage in the profession and enable men to maintain a disproportionate share of the most financially lucrative and executive-level positions," Dale writes.

She points to a range of studies, from 1982 to the present day, that have showed a "dramatic difference in the compensation of males and females persists" and men are more likely to hold senior positions at larger charities.

"The devaluing of fundraising as mission-critical work and a career suitable for both women and men may limit the credibility and power of the non-profit sector to represent diverse voices and enhance democratic values in society," she says.

To deal with the issue, Dale says, boards and managers should evaluate salary data by gender, looking for and correcting any imbalances – something that could also be used to correct racial disparities in pay, she adds.

She also calls for charities to engage in more succession planning and mentoring of women to support their promotion into leadership roles, to value a diversity of leadership styles rather than assuming there is only one way to manage and to create stronger family leave and flexi-time policies for men and women.

Dale calls for the sector to avoid fundraising language that emphasises the traditionally "masculine terminology of military and business". For example, instead of "soliciting a prospect," fundraisers should "ask" or "invite" a "potential donor", she says.

"Fundraising is an essential task in non-profit organisations and can offer meaningful work for women as well as men," she says.

"Yet the profession, and perhaps even the entire sector, may be at risk if women continue to be held back."

- The article originally said fundraising was seen as women's work and this had led to a gender pay gap in the profession. 

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