Five Ways Nonprofits Can Fight Sexual Harassment


By now we have all witnessed the outpouring of sexual harassment claims that have been brought against America's tech, entertainment, government, and business industries. The nonprofit sector is not immune to abuse of power and faces pressure to implement zero-tolerance harassment policies and measures to enforce them. Mark Lipton, graduate professor and author, recently published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy five steps that every nonprofit can take today to combat sexual harassment.

  1. The role of your board should include cultural stewardship. Maintaining a healthy, productive work environment reduces disruptions, ensures organizations stay on mission, keeps a loyal donor-base engaged, and - reduces the likelihood of sexual harassment.
  2. Hold key producers accountable. Lipton calls them "rainmakers" and they are seen as essential to an organization's success. Nonprofits sometimes give them a pass on bad behavior, afraid of jeopardizing the company. There have been numerous examples of this backfiring, so ensure your key producers are modeling the kind of behavior you'd like to see replicated.
  3. Rethink the role of HR. The #MeToo movement has shown us how ill-equipped HR can sometimes be at addressing victim's complaints. Take an honest assessment of your HR structure and if it's able to properly handle these high-stakes claims. Otherwise, alternatives like independent third parties can be engaged.
  4. Determine the best way to utilize lawyers. Sexual harassment has considerable implications and legal counsel should be involved. But their approach is often hard-lined and single-focused. Also bringing in third-party development professionals who are solution-driven and able to build trust with employees can address the underlying dynamics at play.
  5. Encourage men to speak up. Women should not have to bear the responsibility alone. Find the "levers" that encourage men to speak out on other men. If they witness bad behavior and don't say anything, there should be consequences.