35: Sexual Harassment in Fundraising

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“My job is to bring people to task, to have people be accountable. And if the money goes elsewhere, if there’s a geopolitical problem, we have to confront that, but that’s a different issue and shouldn’t be sideswiped.”

– Ann Olivarius
Episode #35


In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

I have the incredible honor of interviewing Dr. Ann Olivarius who is recognized around the world for her pioneering work in representing victims of sexual violence, sexual harassment, and discrimination. Today Dr. Olivarius is a member of the organization Women Moving Millions, and the Chair of McAllister Olivarius, a leading firm in the US and UK representing victims of sexual misconduct and discrimination in employment, universities, hospitals, and other institutions. Her firms have achieved landmark settlements for survivors of abuse and have successfully coordinated international efforts to bring people to justice. 

In this two-part series, Dr. Olivarius shares a wide perspective on the issue of sexual harassment, talks about some cases she’s worked on through her successful career and explains why we urgently need to create fundraising norms that create more safety for fundraisers and break the cycle of toxic power dynamics. 

In part 1, we get to hear about Ann’s coming of age and the background stories that led her to birth the legal case for sexual harassment and coin the term date rape. We talk about some of the gender dynamics and historical foundational elements of the funder/fundraiser relationship that make it particularly vulnerable for sexual harassment situations. And we talk about some of the other forms of violence and racism in the sector because, as we know, sexual harassment is not the only form of harassment and abuse. At the same time, we also know that sexual harassment is a huge issue in our sector and one that needs to be talked about in a bigger way. 

In part two, we are diving into how to create organizational support for your fundraisers and how to ensure your donors understand your guidelines and process for protecting fundraisers from sexual harassment. Dr. Olivarius explains what a nondisclosure agreement is and how it is used as a tool of oppression. We also talk about how the corporate sector has changed and the progress we have seen in terms of accountability and protection. We address how to deal with legacy issues in organizations, and  Dr. Olivarius gives some clear advice around how organizations and this sector can best protect fundraisers and what to do when sexual harassment happens. 

The goal of this series is to acknowledge this issue, learn together, understand what collective action looks like, learn how to create safer environments for our fundraisers, and create an opening to process our past trauma through different lanes of support (the legal route is only one of many options). 

This series is going to push you and make you uncomfortable. It’s forcing us to ask some hard questions and it gives some clear next steps on how to create organizations that better support and protect our fundraisers. I hope you’ll join me for this important conversation….

sexual harassment sexual harassment sexual harassment sexual harassment sexual harassment sexual harassment sexual harassment 




How Organizations Can Support Their Fundraisers:



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I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.


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Part i

Part ii

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