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AFP’s Response to Sign-On Letter

March 24, 2017

Dear Vanessa:

Thank you for the update and for sharing the perspectives and concerns with Ann and me that were expressed during the Twitter chat. I have read the sign-on letter dated March 22nd that you and your colleagues have crafted and circulated, and am also aware of the conversations on social media. I appreciate hearing from you about what you and the participants see as areas of improvement for AFP, and I am encouraged to hear that ultimately everyone wants to see AFP succeed. I would welcome any other advice and counsel to help AFP chart a path forward.

Per the point raised in the sign-on letter, I did circulate to the entire AFP membership (via eWire) a sincere apology in a blog (Women's History Month) that I penned on March 15th, where I also discussed AFP’s road ahead to become a better advocate for all groups and demographics, including women.

Ann and Martha Schumacher, AFP’s Chair-elect, also penned a blog (Women's History Month Reflections: We've Come a Long Way...and We Still Have a Long Way to Go) circulated via eWire on March 22nd about the data and research that reflect the challenges that female fundraisers, and women across the workforce, currently confront. They also referenced some of the personal challenges that they have faced in their careers as women fundraisers.

I regret that you and other AFP members were offended by the content of the article itself, not just the timing of its publication. The intent was not to offend, but rather to spur a conversation about an issue that affects many of our members in their own workplaces, and at the chapter level. The article actually came about because it was a topic that AFP members, of all genders, were recently discussing, and we spoke with several women fundraisers, as well as men, prior to publication, and they thought that it was an interesting concept to introduce in an article. The article has generated a great amount of conversation, and we have heard many different opinions and comments—including positive responses from all genders about wanting to continue the conversation elicited by the article. I believe that AFP should be a place where we can have open, yet challenging conversations that impact the sector, and where all voices can be heard.

AFP is dedicated to our diverse membership, including women. It’s why I chose Shiza Shahid, a women’s rights advocate and co-founder of The Malala Fund and Now Venture, as a keynote speaker at the AFP International Conference this year in San Francisco.

Before this situation arose, we had already scheduled several relevant upcoming articles and discussion topics. In the March 22nd eWire that contained Ann and Martha’s blog, there was a Q&A interview spotlight on Susan Earl Hosbach (former Barbara Marion Award honoree), and an announcement of Lilya Wagner as this year's recipient of the AFP/Skystone Research Prize. In the March 29th eWire, our Q&A interview spotlight will cover Eileen Heisman (CEO of the National Philanthropic Trust). Other timely articles and topics had been contemplated for 2017 and will be covered throughout the year, such as the salary gap, the dearth of women in senior development roles, and related issues.

I am also directing the volunteer Diversity and Inclusion Committee of AFP to consider this issue and make recommendations to the AFP Board of Directors regarding how we can have stronger conversations and measurable outcomes around the support and advocacy of women and other groups and demographics in fundraising.

AFP is constantly learning and trying to do better. We have learned, and will continue to learn, from this situation. Now our goal is to move forward constructively and focus on many existing challenges in our profession, including pay equity and the lack of women in senior development roles. We intend to do so in a much more structured way, focusing on workplace issues and using our eWire newsletter as the forum for these kinds of issues, as opposed to just being a round-up of news items. My staff team and I are currently discussing ideas and possible structures, and you will hear more about them soon.

I can promise you that we do intend to be stronger advocates for our diverse membership, including women. Any support or counsel you can provide toward that effort will be welcome.



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