Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Our Ethics Process

Over the past several months, we've heard horrible and reprehensible news about the treatment of charity employees and workers—for example, the UK President's Club scandal and the recent revelations at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

There is no question that we must have a zero-tolerance policy for harassment of all types in our organizations. That means putting our principles and values into action and not turning a blind eye to these incidents. We have an obligation to see that everyone is treated fairly, beginning with a presumption of innocence, and that ultimately justice is done with appropriate consequences for those who have violated AFP's Code of Ethics.

It is critical that our process be fair and impartial. We cannot rush to judgment, no matter how seemingly clear the allegations may appear. Above all, we must respect the confidentiality and privacy of all involved.

The AFP Code of Ethics and the complementary enforcement procedures were designed to respond to situations when donors, organizations, our profession or our entire philanthropic system is hurt and/or jeopardized by the actions of an AFP member. Our ethics enforcement process was created to express our commitment to ethics while ensuring every member's right to a fair, impartial and confidential hearing and judgment process.

So, what exactly are AFP's enforcement policies and procedures when a member is accused of violating our Code of Ethics?

First, our enforcement procedures only apply to AFP members. While this might seem obvious, it is a question we are asked from time to time.

Second, anyone (AFP member or non-member) can file a complaint against a current member concerning possible violations of the AFP Code of Ethics. A complaint must be in writing, preferably on our "Complaint of Ethic’s Violation" form.

Third, once a complaint is filed, the President’s Office determines whether the complaint is viable and contains sufficient and reliable information. If the complaint is viable and actionable, the matter is referred to the AFP Ethics Committee. It is worth noting that, in accordance with the enforcement procedures, we defer any action on an ethics complaint if a legal proceeding has commenced or is pending with regards to the subject matter of a complaint. We may also refer matters to federal, provincial, state or local government agencies if appropriate.

Finally, it is critical to understand that this entire process is completely confidential, known only to myself, our General Counsel and members of the AFP Ethics Committee. We cannot (and will not) divulge to anyone outside of this group whether or not a complaint has been filed against a member, a member is currently under an ethics investigation, or the final outcome of an investigation. The only exception is in the case of permanent revocation of membership, in which case this is made public on our website and in our Advancing Philanthropy magazine.

It is important to note that the overriding goal of our enforcement procedures is to educate members, and alter behavior, not to punish. We sometimes find that the Code is breached inadvertently, and in many cases, the situation is remedied and addressed in good faith quickly with processes implemented to prevent future issues.

However, we have come across situations where the breach was egregious, or the individual refused to acknowledge or remedy the issue. At that point, the Ethics Committee will consider disciplinary action. There are four actions that the committee can take:
  1. Reprimand: a formal rebuke by the committee in writing addressed to the member.
  2. Censure: a more serious rebuke in writing that prohibits the participation in AFP-sanctioned activity for one year.
  3. Suspension: a suspension of AFP membership and prohibition of participation in AFP-sanctioned activity for a period determined by the committee.
  4. Revocation of Membership: the permanent revocation of membership and permanent prohibition of participation in AFP-sanctioned activity. Again, this sanction is made public. 
You can learn more about our ethics enforcement policy here, including how to file a complaint.

I hope I've made clear how and when AFP handles ethics complaints. As you see, this is a very thorough and rigorous process that we take extremely seriously and consider to be a critical aspect of protecting all involved in the philanthropic sector. Regardless if you are an AFP member or not, we encourage everyone to adopt this Code of Ethics as their basis for all daily interactions.

If you have any questions, I encourage you to contact me directly (mgeiger@afpnet.org) or Jason Lee, AFP’s General Counsel (jlee@afpnet.org).

Thank you for your dedication to an ethical fundraising profession.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Our Values

On Monday, I was attending the AFP Mid-America Conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, when someone mentioned to me an article critical of our recent sexual harassment survey and its findings. I finally got the chance to read the article, which referred to our survey (conducted by the well-known firm Harris Polling in partnership with The Chronicle of Philanthropy) as "sensationalized rubbish" and a "self-serving, hogwash survey."

I encourage members to decide on their own whether our survey, which found that 25 percent of all female fundraisers and 7 percent of male fundraisers have been sexually harassed, is "sensationalized rubbish." I encourage members to decide on their own whether our focus on ethics is wrong and outdated.

Rather than address the article point-by-point, here's my big-picture perspective:

The nonprofit sector is a big space with room for lots of different opinions, approaches and perspectives. Not everyone is going to agree with everything AFP does, or even stands for. Sometimes people will publicly criticize AFP, and that's okay.

AFP encourages differing opinions and even pointed criticism. We can learn much from criticism and different perspectives that will make our programs and services more inclusive and effective.

But we will always take a stand for what we believe in—the core values and principles of our fundraising community.

AFP believes unequivocally that sexual harassment is a serious issue in the profession. We're committed to confronting it head-on, along with other equally critical issues, such as salary inequities and the lack of women in senior leadership positions.

AFP believes in the importance of certification, such as the internationally recognized ACFRE and CFRE. It is imperative that we demonstrate to the general public that fundraisers possess the skills and knowledge necessary to be effective professionals for their organizations.

AFP believes that the long-standing value that members have placed on ethics—evidenced by the popular usage of our Code of Ethics and The Donor Bill of Rights—means that fundraisers view our focus on ethics to be highly relevant and important to their daily work.

I think change and innovation are key hallmarks of all thriving professions and organizations. While AFP's programs and services adapt continuously to the shifting fundraising landscape, we will never change or compromise our values.

AFP stands for ethics, best practices, diversity, inclusion, innovation and tolerance. You can see that reflected in our Women's Impact Initiative, our focus on ethical and effective fundraising, and our work in championing the profession.

We always need to be tolerant of different voices. Diverse viewpoints challenge our way of thinking, encouraging us to either make change or reaffirm our existing commitments.

Whether or not you are a member or supporter of AFP, thank you for your service as a fundraiser to communities around the world, and for your dedication to an ethical, effective and inclusive fundraising profession.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Women's Impact Initiative

On March 8, AFP celebrated International Women’s Day by launching its new Women’s Impact Initiative, or WII. The Initiative is AFP’s response to a series of issues around the role of women in fundraising, including gender inequity, sexual harassment, and implicit bias.

Despite women representing approximately 70% of the fundraising profession, we estimate that barely a third are in leadership position. We see salaries for women that are consistently $15,000 - $20,000 behind those of our male colleagues. And there are so many stories about harassment—sexual or otherwise—from bosses, colleagues, board members and donors that go back many years.

The goal of the Initiative is to provide skills and training so that fair and equitable salaries can be negotiated; to provide resources to create workplaces that are against harassment in all its forms; and develop mentoring programs, as well as research and other services, that can break barriers and create new opportunities for women.

We’re already well underway. We’ve held town hall webinars (in which registrations filled up in a day and a half) and created a new website and hashtag (#WIILead). Next week, we will be releasing our first major project under the initiative: a comprehensive survey of sexual harassment in the profession conducted in partnership with The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

We are also identifying and working with partnering organizations who can bring their own perspectives and resources to the initiative. On the WII website, you’ll find a great resource from DonorPerfect, “The Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women.” The handbook contains tried-and-true advice, best practices, and valuable exercises to equip and inspire you to pursue leadership positions within your organization. There are also free online courses you can take through Catalyst covering topics like Unconscious Bias: From Awareness to Action, Communication Skills for Bridging Divides and Becoming a Successful Leader (Inclusive Leadership Training).

I also encourage you to use the discussion groups we have set up for WII. It’s an opportunity to ask questions or share your thoughts and perspectives. What have you or organization done to make progress on this issue? What are some shining examples of organizations doing equity well?  We want to hear from you!

As the community for the fundraising profession, AFP needs to take a leadership role in addressing these critical issues. But we’re not going to do it all at once—this is a long-term project. And we’re not going to do it alone. It’s so critical that we listen to, and WII encompasses, so many different perspectives and ideas.

Our function as fundraisers and charities is to highlight important topics and educate the public about them. Equity, leadership, harassment—these issues are as important as any we will ever raise funds for in our career. They affect every one of us, and I hope you’ll join us as we begin these important first steps in addressing these critical issues.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Statement of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Regarding Sexual Harassment/Gender Equity in the Fundraising Profession

Déclaration de l’Association des Professionnels en Philanthropie (AFP) Concernant le Harcèlement Sexuel et l’égalité des Sexes dans le Domaine de la Collecte de Fonds

Declaración de la Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Sobre el Acoso Sexual/Equidad de Género en la Profesión de Procuradores de Fondos

It might be easy to assume that the recent Presidents Club incident in the U.K., in which hostesses at the charity event were required to sign non-disclosure agreements that they were not given time to read—and then were sexually harassed by male attendees throughout the event—is so extreme, so far out of the norm for the nonprofit sector, that there are no lessons to be learned. We could respond that no legitimate charity in North America or around the world would ever consider holding such an event or condone the mistreatment of women like that, and therefore, there's nothing to be said.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It might be easy to think that sexual harassment couldn't be an issue in the charitable sector. After all, we are organizations and individuals dedicated to changing the world. We typically work long hours for less pay than our for-profit counterparts. We are committed to values such as justice, equality, equity, and respect. There is simply no way that harassment could be a serious problem for our sector.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Like most other sectors, the charitable sector is not an outlier on this issue. We are symptomatic of it. While the issue of donors harassing nonprofit staff and volunteers may be unique to our sector, the power dynamics are the same—and there are countless instances of it across the sector. In addition, harassment from supervisors, board members, and even co-workers occurs in the charitable sector with regularity. We have seen that reflected in an increasing number of surveys and articles about the sector, including an article in the Fall 2017 issue of AFP's own magazine, Advancing Philanthropy.

So, how best to address this serious issue? There's no easy fix for the problem, but we are the charitable sector, and our mission is to change the world, one step at a time. We can serve as a model—and given our role in society, we MUST serve as a model—for the rest of the world.

The Institute of Fundraising's (UK) response to the Presidents Club incident and subsequent article in The Guardian serve as excellent starting points for the conversation, and, in that spirit, we would like to lay out AFP's own priorities regarding these issues. Our priorities are grounded in the principles contained in our internationally recognized Code of Ethical Standards, including each fundraiser's aspiration to "practice their profession with integrity, honesty, truthfulness and adherence to the absolute obligation to safeguard the public trust," and to "foster cultural diversity and pluralistic values and treat all people with dignity and respect."

First, we must enact a clear and decisive policy of zero tolerance for harassment. Not only must we implement and enforce defined policies and procedures in place at our organizations for dealing with harassment, but we also must make clear upfront the expectations for behavior from sector employees, board members, and yes, even donors. This must happen through education and continuous reinforcement of these critical principles.

Our goal is to build a culture of respect, equality, and openness so that harassment doesn't occur—and if it does, victims must feel secure and confident that they can approach their supervisor and/or others in the organization and expect an appropriate response while their confidentiality is respected. And, we need to proclaim loudly to our organizational leaders that no donation (and no donor) is worth taking away an individual's respect and self-worth while turning a blind eye to harassment.

Second, the issue of harassment is part of a larger conversation about equity in the fundraising profession and the charitable sector. Women make up approximately 70 percent of the profession, yet account for only 30 percent of senior leadership positions. On average, women's salaries lag behind their male counterparts by roughly US $12,000 – $20,000, according to AFP's annual 2017 Compensation and Benefits Survey. Having more female senior-level executives in the profession isn't just important to preventing sexual harassment; it's critical to furthering the entire mission of the nonprofit sector.

From the Chair's Column in our most recent Winter 2018 Advancing Philanthropy magazine: "We have to realize that these are not just women's issues—these are issues that are fundamental to the principles of the charitable sector, a sector that is based on equality, justice, and equity. To call them women's issues is to ignore what each of us, man or woman, works to build every day: connections, understanding, empathy, generosity, and compassion. How can we so passionately work on these issues for our own organizations, yet miss the problems that are right in front of us in our workplaces?"

This leads to our Third point: we must emphasize, more than ever, the role of men in preventing harassment. It's not enough for men to shake their heads at an incident like the Presidents Club and promise not to be "that guy." Men and women need to be working together for this cause, and men need to take the initiative to speak out against harassment. Speaking out affirms that men are standing with their female colleagues and providing their unwavering support.

We recognize that there are many facets to this issue, and we need to lead the conversations, providing guidance and solutions to all members of the profession. And we will! AFP is proud to announce that—in partnership with The Chronicle of Philanthropy—we'll be conducting a comprehensive survey about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the profession, and then using that data to develop anti-sexual harassment education as part of our library of educational offerings. We intend to make this training available to AFP members and non-members alike. Furthermore, AFP will also be launching new initiatives later this year to address equity in the profession.

As the leading global association representing fundraisers, AFP's role in this situation is to raise awareness of key issues, unite people and organizations together, and seek solutions to these challenges. We must bring our fundraising skills, innovation, empathy, and communications to this critical issue that affects our profession, our communities and the entire world. AFP is committed to this endeavor, and we encourage all organizations in the sector to join us as we work to champion equity, fairness, and justice in our own workplaces.


Ann Hale, CFRE
Chair

Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA
President and CEO

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Public Policy and the New U.S. Fundraising Environment

(This is a bit of a longer blog than usual, but there's a lot to share with you! To our Canadian and other members, please know I’ll be focusing on other countries and public policy later in the year). 

It’s a bit of a new world for fundraisers in the U.S. after the passage of the tax reform bill.

The bill, and its doubling of the standard deduction, could bring about major changes in giving patterns by mid-level donors and an overall drop in giving—tens of billions of dollars. It may also mean new opportunities in major and corporate giving.

We know that many of you are concerned about the implications. AFP has already provided some guidance here and here, and I promise we’ll be here to help you throughout the year, offering tips and lessons learned as we explore this new giving environment.

Of course, the final bill wasn’t what we wanted, even with the Johnson Amendment ultimately being retained (which keeps the prohibition on charities from getting directly involved in partisan politics). We believe a universal charitable deduction is needed to offset the anticipated drop in giving we’ll see in 2018 as a result of the tax bill. We’ll continue to fight for that provision over the next 12 months and beyond, just as we’ve fought during the past year.

AFP was incredibly active on the tax reform front, both individually and as chair of the Charitable Giving Coalition (CGC). The CGC is composed of over 200 nonprofit organizations, associations and related groups, including Independent Sector, CASE, AHP, Council on Foundations, the National Council of Nonprofits, United Way, YMCA, etc. You can check out the CGC website to see what the coalition did over the past year—it’s a good source of public policy information along with AFP. 

Along with all the groups in the CGC, we met with nearly every Member of Congress in 2017. We also met with academics and tax policy experts to discuss legislative proposals to encourage giving. During the last couple of weeks, we had hundreds of calls and meetings and emails with Congressional staff to create a universal charitable deduction amendment.

We were contacted by numerous media outlets (and were quoted in The Washington Post, Fast Company and The Nonprofit Times). We distributed several legislative alerts to members, like this one here, asking you to contact your Members of Congress, and your response was tremendous—thank you! We partnered with new champions, like Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) and Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and came close to getting the amendment inserted into the final bill.

But it didn’t happen. We did seem some positive change—an increase in the adjusted gross income (AGI) limitation for cash gifts to 60 percent and the elimination of the Pease Amendment that limited certain gifts—but the bottom line is, we, collectively, have a lot of work to do in 2018.

As a profession and as a sector, we need to catalogue what happens with giving this year. Congress needs to understand the ramifications of its legislative decisions. We’ll be working with you and your fellow members to gauge if and how giving changes over the next 12 months. We will also be developing communications so Congress can understand how the tax changes are affecting charities and the services we provide.

Throughout the year, we’ll continue to push the universal charitable deduction. We anticipate some legislative vehicles related to tax issues that should provide some openings for us. But we’ll be open to other ideas and incentives that may work to encourage giving as well.

People do not give because of tax policy. That is clear. But we know from research and history that tax incentives influence how much and how often donors give. Removing the incentive to give from approximately 30 million taxpayers by expanding the standard deduction likely will result in a significant drop in giving.

On the other hand, we need to realize that although tax policy has changed, the desire to give hasn’t. People still want to help each other and change the world. Major donors will still be able to take advantage of the charitable deduction, and small-gift supporters were likely giving without using the deduction. Our goal—to build relationships, create connections and inspire people to get involved—has not changed in the slightest.

Public policy can have an extraordinary impact—both good and bad—on the work we do and the impact of our organizations. AFP remains committed to advancing public policy that supports your fundraising, such as the universal charitable deduction and other giving incentives. We will keep you posted as we push important legislation forward and, with your action and assistance, we can persuade Congress to help our organizations better serve our communities.