If you recall, Wednesday March 8th was International Women’s Day. It was an odd mix this year. As Women’s March organizers were getting arrested in Washington D.C., a WTF attitude and a call to honour the good men in our lives emanated from other quarters.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) with world headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, chose to mark the day by re-posting an article on their monthly AFP eWire called Why Are There So Few Male Fundraisers?
For the uninitiated, 75% of AFP members are women and are professional fundraisers who work in a range of charities from food banks to universities.
There is a lot to say about the value, and values, of AFP in general, but in the interest of time, I won’t get into all of it today. Yet, with this trip-up on International Women’s Day, AFP once again shows how little it considers social justice or equity as part of its business.
After a bit of blowback from a few of the 75% of AFP members, Jason Lee, AFP President & CEO, did issue an apology about the article and if you want to read how much AFP respects women, you can click here.
The article in question has no discussion of the implications of women’s of position in the labour market or in leadership positions in the nonprofit sector. According to a leadership study conducted by the University of Denver, women constitute only 21 percent of leadership roles among nonprofits with budgets in excess of $25 million, even though they make up 75 percent of the workforce.
That means if you are one of seven women in a group of 10 people, one of three men standing with you is four times more likely to become CEO than you. Or that the existing 25% of men working in the sector could transform into 75% of its leadership.
All this inverted perspective at a time when we, and our colleagues in the U.S., are marching in the streets to support access to reproductive health, decent wages and working conditions, freedom from sexual harassment, as well as concern about our physical safety, while condemning racism, inhumane immigration policies, homophobia and Islamophobia.
Consider also that the U.S. government has recently instituted The Global Gag Rule designed to silence doctors working in any charity funded by US dollars.
The gag rule will prevent medical practitioners from discussing a full range of reproductive options, including abortion, with the women who come to them for help and advice, disrupting the reproductive health care for some of the world’s poorest women. We know the lives of women will be put at risk because of The Global Gag Rule.
And yet …
… why isn’t AFP out in front on that? Where is the leadership on that issue? Forget a dopey story on International Women’s Day. This is a life and death situation for the poorest women around the world.
Calling it “a violation of medical ethics,” Doctors Without Borders responded to The Global Gag Rule with a compelling video. Click here to take a look. Doctors Without Borders, it needs to be noted, doesn’t take any money from the U.S. government.
And if that isn’t enough to wind you up, what about the protection of charities as non-governmental organizations? Is that not a sectoral issue of great importance?
Surely, the complicity of aid charities in the deaths of 200,000 men, women and children in the Somali famine of 2011 as documented by journalist, Alex Perry, and summarized in my own book Cap in Hand: How Charities are Failing the People of Canada and the World, might give pause about the danger of charities being an extension of their governments’ policies and the importance of the operating at arm’s length.
Because AFP clearly doesn’t consider “mankind” their business. Or that fundraisers be directed by a moral compass beyond the transactional ethics raising of money.
It’s not like AFP is allergic to lobbying. It is prepared to get loud and proud on some issues, such as the repeal of the Johnson amendment, a change which would “allow churches and nonprofit organizations to get involved in partisan, electoral politics, including endorsing and raising money for parties and candidates.”
In the last few years in Canada, AFP saved its biggest salvos for a capital gains tax exemption for gifts of private shares and real estate, a move, if enacted, would have benefitted wealthy charities and wealthy donors.
Over the span of 25 years, AFP is an organization on which I have spent my own, and my company’s money, to support. I have delivered, and attended, workshops at its conferences, congresses and luncheons.
But today, and not to put too fine a point on it, AFP is irrelevant in terms of dealing with the issues that are eating the charitable sector alive. It is a fiddle while Rome burns, a place where fulsome and pertinent debate goes to die.
And this latest trip-up by AFP is simply another brick in a long line of actions and offerings that show its irrelevance to people who want to change the world.
Because what’s needed is a modern, progressive, responsive organization that feeds the souls of people working hard to change the world, not crush them.
Could all those volunteer hours given freely by the extraordinarily talented women of AFP be put to more effective use elsewhere?
Could all the membership fees that now go to AFP from these self-same talented women be more productively spent elsewhere?
Could the training delivered with 1950s values not be replaced with the training that’s needed to make much-needed systemic change in Canada, the U.S. and around the world —on issues of social justice, the increasing gap between the rich and poor, racism and the move to control the lives of women?
Is there an opportunity to build something relevant here? Something new, something dynamic and something responsive?
I’d say yes to all of the above.
But leadership is not gratitude. Leadership is leadership. We must begin the work.
Because if the work of women remains invisible to AFP, whose membership is 75% women, and AFP doesn’t lift a finger in objection when charities are being silenced and women’s lives are put at risk throughout the world, then it’s time to build an organization where women’s work is not invisible and where women’s lives are worth saving.
As a belated Happy IWD Day present, and something to fuel your spirit, here’s that video of the singer MILCK and vocal groups GW Sirens and Capital Blend, who went viral with their performance at the Women’s March on Washington in January, and who were hosted on Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal, for a special performance of their anthem “Quiet.” Just scroll down.
Gail Picco, a strategist who has worked in the nonprofit sector for 25 years, is one of Canada’s foremost experts on the increasingly complex dynamics at play in the charitable sector. She is the author of What the Enemy Thinks, a recent novel set in the nonprofit sector and of the recently published, Cap in Hand: How Charities Are Failing the People of Canada and the World published in January 2017. Gail works as a Principal with The Osborne Group in Toronto and serves as Chair of the Board of the Regent Park Film Festival.