Sexual Harassment at Non-Profits

Nonprofits aren’t immune from the same ethical issues that plague for-profit businesses. That’s why it’s important to find ways to combat sexual harassment with nonprofits.

People devote their time and energy to make the world a better place. Sexual harassment can ruin that. Plus, it can destroy a nonprofit from the inside out.

Create An Accountable Culture

Often, sexual harassment with nonprofits goes unchecked because victims are afraid if they speak up, it’ll hurt the nonprofit’s purpose. However, if you create a culture of accountability, everyone knows it’s okay to report incidents. Hold training sessions to go over your nonprofit’s policies against sexual harassment. Explain that anyone who is experiencing harassment or who witnesses it should come forward immediately.

Explain how this protects the nonprofit by removing employees and volunteers who are trying to sabotage it. When everyone is watching out for each other, it’s a safer place to work and volunteer.

Establish A Safe Way To Report

Sometimes, nonprofits don’t think ethical issues should be a problem. This is why they might not have a clear way or process to report ethical incidents. Sexual harassment with nonprofits shouldn’t be ignored just because the victim doesn’t know who to report it to.

Instead, implement an ethics hotline for victims to anonymously report any issues. This way, they feel safer reporting. Not only does this help with fears of retaliation, but it can hide the victim if they feel shame, even though they shouldn’t.

Also, make sure reports go to more than one person. Remember, if one person is viewing the complaints, that person could be the problem. A victim isn’t going to report sexual harassment if the report is simply going to the harasser.

Follow Through On Policies

Every nonprofit needs a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment. Train all employees on what it means, including new hires and volunteers. However, your volunteers and employees will only believe it if you follow through. If they see someone sexually harassing someone and they report it, they expect to see an immediate investigation, followed up with the perpetrator being fired or asked to leave.

If nothing’s ever done, the entire culture changes to one of distrust and fear. This can derail a nonprofit and even cause people to avoid volunteering.

Protect Victims

Finally, make sure your nonprofit protects victims. If an investigation doesn’t find anything credible, that doesn’t mean the issue is resolved. Pay close attention to employees and volunteers. If you’ve questioned the harasser, but didn’t take any action against them, they may retaliate against the victim.

Watch for any signs of retaliation or other types of harassment. If more complaints arise, investigate immediately. When victims aren’t protected, they won’t continue coming forward. Others will find out what happened and refuse to speak up either. Gradually, you lose your best volunteers and employees while perpetrators continue with their unethical behavior.

Sexual harassment with nonprofits doesn’t have to continue. A zero-tolerance culture that protects victims creates a safer, happier environment. This allows the nonprofit to thrive, along with its volunteers and employees.