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Gender issues in fundraising – dismantling the patriarchy

Gender in fundraising is an issue that had been simmering for many years before the MeToo movement and the scandals of the Presidents Club fundraising dinner and Oxfam’s safeguarding failures caused it to boil over. Recently research in the USA revealed that something like 25 per cent of female fundraisers have been subjected to sexually inappropriate behaviour.


Naturally there are calls for the both the fundraising profession and the charity sector more widely to tackle this issue, and initiatives have been set up in the USA and UK.


Rogare is contributing to these challenges with the aim to ensure any solutions are grounded in the relevant theory and evidence that already exist. This project has three phases: 

Phase 1 – build the knowledge base that underpins this issue to better inform debate and discussions and as a result to also better inform any interventions we make as a profession (Phase 1 project leader – Caoileann Appleby). We completed this in 2020).

Phase 2 – building on the issues identified and ideas collated under Phase 1, construct a Blueprint – based on Lean Out Feminism – to dismantle patriarchal structures in the fundraising profession (Phase 2 project leader – Heather Hill). The Blueprint was published in March 2023. One of our key recommendations is a code of conduct for donors.

Phase 3 – starting in 2023, this phase will look at how to implement and/or adapt the Blueprint, and explore any other challenges and issues that arise as we take this forward. A key part of Phase 3 was how we build the narrative to engage more male/men allies.

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All outputs from this project can be downloaded from this page. Click on the thumbnail to go to the relevant section.

Phase 2

Phase 2 – A Blueprint for structural change

Many of the initiatives our profession has put in place to address and rectify the challenges the fundraising profession faces appear to us to have taken a Lean In Feminist approach by trying to make it easier for women to get ahead in the patriarchal systems that exists in fundraising, such as by providing training to negotiate a better salary.


The Blueprint is based on ‘Lean Out’ Feminist principles. Lean Out Feminism aims to challenge that very system. (If you are not already familiar with Lean Out feminism and how its implications for fundraising, please check out Ruby Bayley's blog on Critical Fundraising.)


Our view is that if we dismantle the structures in which individuals behave and think, and build something better in their place, then we have a far better chance of changing their thinking and behaviour than if we just implore them to adapt, and leave current sexist, discriminatory structures intact.

The Blueprint contains 45 recommendations that we believe will change that system through interventions at three levels: sector level, organisational level and individual level.


If we want to change how individuals act, we need to change how the organisations they work for act, and to do that, we need to make changes to the whole profession of fundraising.

We firmly believe that transformational structural change starts by changing the way the fundraising profession works at level of sector-wide organisations, so we recommend starting there. But the process of change will have to be initiated and carried through by individuals, and this could start at any level.

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We think that if we can change internal structure of the whole sector and the organisations that are part of it, this will make it much easier for individuals to speak up, be heard and effect further change.


We have illustrated the Blueprint graphically, which you can see on this page. However, we strongly urge you to check out the full Blueprint paper to understand how this all works and where our recommendations sit as this is not a straightforward linear hierarchy of actions.

Our rationale for choosing the Lean Out roadmap options is provided by Rogare director Ian MacQuillin in this blog.

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More information

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Download the Blueprint for dismantling patriarchal structures in the fundraising profession, optimised for viewing on a desktop.

Download the Blueprint for dismantling patriarchal structures in the fundraising profession, optimised for viewing on a tablet.

Download Blueprint for dismantling patriarchal structures in the fundraising profession, optimised for home/office printing (with block colour removed).

Download the Blueprint graphic.


Read the press release.

The report outlining the Blueprint – and its 45 recommendations – contains the following sections:

  • Types of gender oppression and why structural change is needed to combat them – by Ashley Belanger

  • Improving workplace and leadership equity – by Heather Hill and Elizabeth Dale

  • Donor-perpetrated sexual harassment – by Jessica Rose

  • How to engage and enlist more men in being part of the change – by Becky Slack.

A key recommendation of the Blueprint is that charities should publish donor codes of conduct that commit donors to behaving in a respectful and non-discriminatory manner towards fundraising professionals.


Rogare has devised its own ‘model’ code of conduct that other organisations can use or adapt. Rogare’s model code asks donors to commit to six statements, which include that they will treat all fundraising staff as knowledgeable professionals, never discriminate against or harass them, and not exploit the power they hold in relationships with fundraisers for personal gain.


Work has previously been done and some is ongoing to develop a fundraiser bill of rights. These have included statements that fundraisers should be free to go about their work without unwanted interference from donors. As these fundraiser bills of rights confer certain rights on fundraisers, that means there are concomitant duties to uphold and protect those rights. This donor code of conduct stipulates the duties donors have to uphold the rights of fundraisers.

Donor code of conduct

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More information

Download Rogare’s model donor code of conduct.

Donor code of conduct

Find out more about Rogare's work on 'donor dominance.

Phase 1
Understanding the issues

Phase 1 – Understanding the issues

  1. Identify questions and issues that might need further exploration/identify in broad terms what we need to know and where the knowledge gaps are. Particularly are there any issues that might be unique or specific to fundraising (such as ‘donor dominance’)

  2. Clarify and define terms – e.g. what do we mean by, for example, ‘gender pay gap’?

  3. Collate existing research or theories, or at least the best or most relevant of these

  4. Collate and analyse current practitioner contributions to the debate (blogs etc.)

  5. Initiate and develop discussions and conversations that will contribute to ‘causal-explanatory accounts’ of the issues we have identified, and lead these outside of this group. (See Ian MacQuillin's blog for an explanation of a 'causal-explanatory account').

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More information

Read all the Critical Fundraising blogs from Rogare's first phase of the Gender Issues in Fundraising project:

1. Terminology 101 – some key concepts explained, by Ruth Smyth and Heather Hill.

2. Sexual harassment and violence, by Caoileann Appleby

5. Leadership and visibility, by Heather Hill.

6. A roadmap for structural change, by Ian MacQuillin.

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More information

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Or you can download all the Phase 1 blogs collected into a single volume.

Download Gender Issues in Fundraising - Phase 1, optimised for viewing a desktop.

Download Gender Issues in Fundraising - Phase 1, optimised for viewing a tablet.

Download Gender Issues in Fundraising - Phase 1, optimised for home/office printing (with block colour removed).

Phase 3
Changing the narrative

Phase 3 – dismantling the fundraising patriarchy

The third phase of this project will be an ongoing one – to continue work out how best to implement the Blueprint, to adapt it or change it, and to keep this issue high on the fundraising profession’s collective radar.


We are putting together the phase 3 team now. Until we have a project leader, anyone who wants to be part of Phase 3 should contact Rogare’s director Ian MacQuillin, or use the contact form on our 'About' page.


A key part of Phase 3 will be to engage more men/male allies in the movement for change. This was a tackled by Becky Slack in a section in the Phase 2 Blueprint Report. 


Becky has also written a considerably expanded version of that essay as a standalone paper – Changing the narrative: How to help men in fundraising become better allies in dismantling patriarchal structures, which you can download below.

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More information

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Download Changing the narrative, optimised for viewing a desktop.

Changing the narrative Issues in Fundraising - Phase 1, optimised for viewing a tablet.

Download Changing the narrative, optimised for home/office printing (with block colour removed).

The gender issues project group

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Project leader (Phase 2)

Chapel & York US Foundation (USA)

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