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Addressing Donor Misconduct: Advice to Boards and Leaders

Posted by Anne Wallestad, President & CEO, BoardSource on Apr 8, 2019 12:01:39 PM

Businessman hands around a paper cutout of board membersLast week, Anne Wallestad co-wrote a piece with Mike Geiger — president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals — for Nonprofit Quarterly discussing donor misconduct within the nonprofit sector and how to address it. We summarize her viewpoint here but encourage you to read “Addressing Donor Misconduct: Advice to Boards and Leaders” in full on the Nonprofit Quarterly website.

With news of the recent Michael Steinhardt allegations, it is important that nonprofit leaders address donor harassment of nonprofit employees.

The sad truth is this is just one example among many where women have been harassed by a donor. Something needs to be done about this sector-wide problem. And with that in mind, here is some tangible advice to help your organization navigate through this challenge.

Support your team
Nonprofit organizations have a responsibility to their staff to support them in any case of inappropriate donor behavior. Never should a fundraiser be asked to tolerate inappropriate behavior “for the good of the cause.” 

Set Policies and the Right Tone at the Top
Policies are critical and provide concrete context, boundaries, and expectations for action. But they are only the “floor.” It’s essential that policies are buttressed by clear and committed tone-setting at the top. This includes communicating the organization’s commitment to addressing issues of harassment in a way that puts employees’ safety first, as well as establishing a written commitment of non-retaliation against fundraisers who report harassment by donors, among other things.

Focus on what you can control
Not everything will be within your power. Rather than just give up and concede defeat, focus on the things you CAN do to improve the situation. You may not be able to control the behavior of an individual donor, but you can control how employees are treated when a situation is reported.


Read “Addressing Donor Misconduct: Advice to Boards and Leaders” in full on the Nonprofit Quarterly website. 

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