voluntary sector

Tackling Sexual Harassment and Bullying Across the Voluntary Sector

voluntary sector

08:45 - 16:00

Thursday 1 October 2020

Central London, London

This Forum will provide participants with the opportunity to share strategies for tackling sexual harassment and bullying across the voluntary sector. Key sector leaders, including NCVO and the Institute for Fundraising, will discuss the latest initiatives to safeguard volunteers and charity staff from the rising number of incidents of sexual harassment and bullying. Additionally, best practice case studies will share innovative methods for embedding a zero-tolerance culture, ensuring a robust and efficient complaints process and taking a sector-wide approach to tackling harassment and bullying.


This Forum is specifically designed for the Voluntary Sector. Typical job titles will include:

  • Heads of HR
  • HR Directors
  • Chief Executives
  • Deputy Chief Executives
  • Chair of Trustees
  • Trustees
  • Heads of Corporate Partnerships
  • Volunteer Managers
  • Directors of People
  • Directors of Operations
  • Directors of Resources
  • Directors of Services
  • HR Managers
  • Team Managers
  • Heads of Governance
  • Operations Director

This Forum is also open to the wider Public Sector to encourage networking and debate.

Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Catherine Edginton, Senior Safeguarding Lead, Charity Commission
  • Shaun Delaney, Volunteering Development Manager, NCVO
  • Isobel Michael, Co-Chair, Institute of Fundraising Task Group on Sexual Harassment in Fundraising
  • Kristiana Wrixon, Head of Policy, ACEVO
  • Ruby Bayley-Pratt, Policy and Research Manager, British Red Cross
  • Diana Holland OBE, General Secretary – Equalities, Unite
  • Georgina Halford-Hall, Chief Executive, Whistleblowers UK
  • Shaista Aziz and Alexia Pepper de Caires, Co-Founders, NGO Safe Space, Activists and Former Employees, Save the Children and Oxfam
View the agenda and additional speakers

50% of female fundraisers have experienced sexually inappropriate behaviour, according to research carried out by Rogare in 2019. Additionally, there have been increasing cases of bullying within the sector, with only 3% of those experiencing bullying reporting that it was dealt with in a satisfactory way, according to research by ACEVO.

Following the surfacing of a number of high-profile incidents of sexual misconduct within the voluntary sector, the prevalence of sexual harassment within fundraising was initially brought to light by an article by Ruby-Bayley Pratt from Red Cross in March 2019. This was followed by a number of revelations across the sector of experiences of harassment. In response to this, the Institute for Fundraising announced a series of measures designed to tackle sexual harassment within the fundraising sector, including the establishment of a taskforce to investigate cases of harassment and a commitment to strengthening the Institute’s Code of Conduct and existing complaints policy.

Simultaneously, a government consultation into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace was launched, with the consultation closing for consideration in October 2019. The consultation could have significant implications for the voluntary sector, with the proposal to extend the Equality Act 2010 to volunteers and unpaid interns, bringing volunteers within the scope of employment law. This would have significant implications for the voluntary sector. The consultation also includes likely proposals to make employers legally liable if they fail to take all reasonable steps to protect their staff from third party harassment, which could mean that charities will have legal responsibilities to protect fundraisers from sexual harassment by third parties, including donors.

In response to a growing number of complaints about harassment to the regulator, ACEVO and the Centre for Mental Health carried out in depth research into experiences of bullying in the charity sector. In June 2019, they published In Plain Sight: Workplace Bullying in Charities and the Implications for Leadership, with cases of bullying being routinely described as ‘severe’. According to the report, 67% of those surveyed who had experienced bullying left the organisation, and only 3% felt their complaint had been adequately addressed when reported. The report outlined a number of ways in which charities needed to make changes to their organisational culture and processes in order to ensure robust safeguarding of staff.

With a public focus on safeguarding in the voluntary sector, alongside a view that the charity sector is failing to meet the ethical standards expected of them, it is imperative that the voluntary sector act now to ensure that they are effectively safeguarding their staff and volunteers. This will require embedding a zero-tolerance culture, adapting organisational leadership and governance structures and developing robust sexual harassment and bullying policies which meets legal requirements and prioritises staff wellbeing.


Registration, Refreshments and Networking


Chair's Welcome Address

Professor Sylvia Walby OBE, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Violence and Society Centre, City, University of London (invited)

Part 1 – The Current Landscape


Morning Keynote: Outlining the Regulatory Expectations for Tackling Harassment and Bullying

  • Understanding the expectations of the Charity Commission concerning safeguarding against sexual harassment and bullying
  • Outlining the responsibilities of governance and senior leadership in ensuring robust policies are in place to protect staff
  • Highlighting how the commission expects charities to respond to incidents, including through promoting accountability and open communication
  • Offering guidance for voluntary organisations to ensure they have robust processes in place to prevent, tackle and respond to sexual harassment and bullying

Catherine Edginton, Senior Safeguarding Lead, Charity Commission (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Embedding Robust Procedures to Tackle Bullying Across the Voluntary Sector

  • Examining main findings from ACEVO’s In Plain Sight Report 2019 into bullying and workplace culture in the voluntary sector, including how only 3% of respondents felt that their complaint of bullying was dealt with satisfactorily
  • Understanding the factors that can create a bullying culture, including weaknesses in governance and uncertainty about the regulatory framework and how processes can be adapted to prevent these
  • Sharing recommendations to tackle bullying within voluntary organisations, including the proposal that all charity boards should nominate a trustee and senior leader responsible for leading on staff wellbeing
  • Creating robust and efficient procedures to respond to incidents of bullying and creating a zero-tolerance workplace culture which prioritises wellbeing

Kristiana Wrixon, Head of Policy, ACEVO (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking

Part 2 – Tackling Sexual Harassment in Fundraising


Special Keynote: How Does the Fundraising Profession Foster Sexual Harassment?

This session will discuss the complex situations fundraisers work in, including the requirement to build close relationships with powerful men, and how workplace situations have resulted in a prevalence of sexual harassment in the sector. Ruby Bayley-Pratt will share experiences of harassment and discuss what can be done to embed a zero-tolerance culture and create a safe environment for all charity employees.

Ruby Bayley-Pratt, Policy and Research Manager, British Red Cross (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Strengthening the Sector's Approach to Sexual Harassment in Fundraising

  • Outlining how sexual harassment of any kind is against the Institute of Fundraising’s (IoF) Code of Conduct and how the code has been strengthened to ensure it tackles harassment effectively
  • Examining the role of the IoF Task Group on Sexual Harassment in Fundraising to promote safeguarding, build trust, review and develop the process for reporting and investigating new and historic allegations of sexual harassment in the sector
  • Launching a new Tell Jane helpline to enable anyone who has witnessed or experienced harassment at IoF event or by an IoF member to be reported confidentially
  • Understanding the IoF’s expectations of its members and charities in creating a positive, safe and inclusive culture for all fundraisers and ensuring there are effective procedures in place to tackle and report incidents

Isobel Michael, Co-Chair, Institute of Fundraising Task Group on Sexual Harassment in Fundraising (CONFIRMED)


Practical Insights Session: How can Senior Leaders Support Their Teams to Report Incidents?

This session will share guidance on how senior leaders and managers can support their teams to step forward and report incidents of harassment, alongside outlining steps to be taken to safeguard staff after an incident occurs.

  • How can senior leaders and managers create a culture than encourages staff to report incidents?
  • What conversations should senior leaders and managers have with staff when an incident is reported and what should the outcomes of these be?
  • How can organisations ensure they have an effective plan of action in place that supports staff who have experienced harassment and promote their safety?
  • What are the steps to be taken after an incident is reported and how can this be embedded into practice?

Lizzi Hollis, Corporate Partnerships Manager, Richard House Children’s Hospice and Corporate Partnerships Expert (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking

Part  3 – Safeguarding Volunteers


Hot Seat Session: Examining the Consultation on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and Implications for the Voluntary Sector

This session will provide delegates with the opportunity to ask the Government Equalities Office direct questions regarding the consultation on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Delegates will discuss how proposals to extend the Equality Act 2010 to volunteers would impact the voluntary sector.

Elysia McCaffrey, Interim Director, Government Equalities Office (invited)


Special Keynote: Effectively Safeguarding Volunteers from Sexual Harassment

  • Discussing the proposal to extend the protections of the Equality Act 2010 to volunteers and unpaid interns and how this will have a significant impact on how charities work with volunteers
  • Analysing concerns that this extension could provide further barriers to volunteering
  • Sharing guidance on how charities can strengthen their safeguarding procedures against harassment for volunteers and unpaid interns
  • What other actions can the voluntary sector take to ensure volunteers are adequately protected against sexual harassment outside of the extension of the Equality Act?

Shaun Delaney, Volunteering Development Manager, NCVO (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking

Part 4 – Implementing Organisation-Wide Change


Panel Session: How can we Implement a Sector-Wide Approach to Tackling Sexual Harassment and Bullying?

  • How can we overcome the barriers to tackling sexual harassment across the sector, including reputational risk and a reluctance to report due to a passion for the charity’s work?
  • How can we lead effective culture change which tackles the issue of power balance, particularly ‘donor dominance’ and structural power imbalances?
  • What can be done to improve staff training to ensure awareness of what counts as sexual harassment, how to identify and prevent it and how to respond effectively if incidents are witnessed?
  • How can reporting procedures be improved to encourage staff to speak up and report incidents?
  • What are the responsibilities of senior leadership and what should be done when an incident is reported?

Diana Holland OBE, General Secretary – Equalities, Unite (CONFIRMED)

Georgina Halford-Hall, Chief Executive, Whistleblowers UK (CONFIRMED)

Baljit Banga, Executive Director, Imkaan (invited)

Girish Menon, Chief Executive, Action Aid (invited)


Case Study: Embedding a Workplace Culture which Prevents Harassment and Bullying

This session will explore how Action Aid have developed and embedded a positive organisational culture which prevents and tackles incidents of harassment and bullying. Delegates will discuss with Action Aid their three-year journey to improve organisational culture, including:

  • How different models of leadership can prevent the circumstances which allow bullying and harassment to occur
  • Embedding Feminist Leadership Principles across the organisation and how this tackles power imbalances and enhances internal diversity, culture and behaviours
  • Holding ‘Culture Workshops’ and Employee Engagement Forums to understand the shortcomings of an organisational culture and how to enhance this
  • Understanding the role of an organisation culture in tackling sexual harassment and bullying

Girish Menon, Chief Executive, Action Aid (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Workshop: Examining Power and Privilege in Charity Spaces

Shaista and Alexia will draw on their combined 15 years of experience in charities and recent campaigning on #AidToo to discuss underlying power dynamics embedded in our structures.

  • Examining sexual harassment and bullying as behaviours linked to patriarchy, whiteness and unequally held power
  • Participants will be able to reflect on their own observations and experiences of how societal assigned privilege impacts on their work
  • There will be an opportunity to ask questions to Alexia and Shaista on their campaigning and activism

Shaista Aziz and Alexia Pepper de Caires, Co-Founders, NGO Safe Space, Activists and Former Employees, Save the Children and Oxfam (CONFIRMED)


Chair's Summary and Close

*programme subject to change

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