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Donors and Dilemmas Post Time’s Up

Donors and Dilemmas Post Time’s UpOver the past year, the public has seen a number of powerful and high profile men brought down by allegations of sexual harassment. The #metoo and Time’s Up campaigns have brought to light issues that haven’t been spoken about for far too long. They will hopefully continue to move the conversation forward and more importantly, bring about real change.

Stepping away from the societal goals of these campaigns, they have also brought to light a question for all nonprofits—how do we react when a donor is accused of sexual harassment or any bad behavior?

The two major issues at hand are: 1) Should you keep the money donated by a disgraced donor; and 2) What should happen to any spaces or programs that are named in recognition of that donor?

The first question is a bit more clear-cut. Unless the money donated was obtained by illegal means, many organizations will choose to keep the gift. After all, why should the beneficiaries of this support suffer for the bad behavior of the donor? Some organizations have chosen to step away from gifts that were committed, but not actually paid yet, likely estimating the probability of actually receiving payments is much lower after accusations arise.

The naming question becomes a bit more difficult. First, it’s important that you have language in your gift policies and agreements that allows your board to review and revoke naming opportunities under certain circumstances. Every situation is likely to provide a different set of facts and issues, but this allows the board to gather the views of key stakeholders and make a decision. There has been a precedent for removing donor recognition. The University of Iowa and the University of Pennsylvania both removed Steve Wynn’s name from programs and spaces after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment.

Hopefully this is an issue your organization never has to deal with, but it’s important to be prepared (review those agreements and polices). Although cases in Hollywood and Washington receive most of the national attention, it certainly doesn’t mean that small towns or organizations are immune.

Shocking Statistic: The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund has raised over $21 million from over 20,000 donors.

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