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"What will it look like if we take a strong stance against sexual harassment?"
This is not a question most founders or executive directors expect to have to ask themselves — especially shortly after they found their organizations. But it’s one many of us have had to confront in recent months.
As a woman of color and the founder of a new nonprofit in the animal protection movement, I’ve faced many challenges. And recently, I’ve struggled with how to navigate the #MeToo movement, once confined to Hollywood, but now affecting nearly every industry, including nonprofits.
In recent weeks, the #MeToo movement has resulted in the resignation of Wayne Pacelle, the former C.E.O. of the Humane Society of the U.S., the world’s largest animal welfare organization. And in the farmed animal protection movement — where I focus my efforts — a number of leaders and organizations in our tight-knit community have been forced to face this difficult conversation after years of rumblings beneath the surface.
I’m glad to see this much-needed discussion about sexual harassment taking place, because I know that our cause is only as strong as the people who champion it. It is with this belief that eight months ago I founded Encompass, an organization with a mission to increase effectiveness in the farmed animal protection movement by fostering greater racial diversity, equity, and inclusion while simultaneously empowering advocates of color.
It’s been rewarding to actualize my vision but also nerve-wracking to be solely responsible for executing it. Like many other founders, I’ve faced funding challenges, including starting from scratch and building relationships with donors, persuading them to invest in a vision that hasn’t stood the test of time, and working on race — one of the most divisive issues in our country. And now, on top of these challenges, I’m navigating the #MeToo movement.
I’ve had to seriously consider the funding consequences of my desire to be outspoken on this issue. We shouldn’t have to choose between supporting sexual harassment survivors and keeping (or gaining) funding, but it’s where many nonprofits find themselves.
These considerations aren’t only for executive directors and development staff. Advocates at all levels of our organizations are asking how our funding might be impacted by the comments we make on social media and as representatives of our employers.
There are no clear answers.
This lack of clarity often translates to fear. I feel it too. Even as I write this I worry that my already precarious funding might be at risk by naming the issue, so I offer the following options for consideration.
Recommendations for Donors
- Foundations and individual donors should consider implementing public policies stating that the people who work in social movements you invest in are important to you.
- Take issues of sexual harassment seriously when you learn about them at organizations you fund. No organization is perfect and cases of sexual harassment may arise. How organizations move through this is what sets great ones apart. Ask questions and ensure there is appropriate accountability.
- Financially support organizations run by women of color. We have unique ideas and perspectives that can transform society, but we are often under-resourced.
It’s clear that many nonprofits are hurting right now, but I truly believe that confronting sexual harassment will make our employees, organizations, and movements stronger in the long-run. And donors are uniquely positioned to propel us forward. I hope they will.