(March 26, 2021) Liz LeClair is the current Chair of AFP Global’s Women’s Impact Initiative and a major gift fundraiser based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She has recently filed an ethics complaint with the AFP Ethics Committee regarding the behaviour of Tom Ahern, a copyrighter, AFP conference circuit regular and author. The complaint is based on a three-week tirade Ahern mounted against Community-Centred Fundraising (CCF), an organization based in Seattle, Washington that he first raised when an Australian fundraising company withdrew a webinar series because of a lack of diversity among its speakers. As Ahern mocked the CCF as an organization and its supporters as “fundraising wannabes,” Liz LeClair fought back, one of a few non-BIPOC voices to publicly take on Ahern’s racially based rant. After three long weeks, Ahern eventually launched a non-apology apology,
On March 25, LeClair published the apology she wished leaders in the philanthropy sector would issue on racial justice and safe workplaces. We re-produced here for you now:
I’ve been waiting to see it. I keep hoping I will read it somewhere else. But in my heart I know we won’t get the apology we deserve, so I have decided to write it myself.
So consider this an open letter to the fundraising sector. Do with it what you will.
I’m sorry that our sector leadership – those in the highest ranks of our sector – don’t see it.
I’m sorry that when reports come forward around what the top priorities for our sector are, not one of them mentions racial justice or the safety of our employees.
I’m sorry that months after #BlackLivesMatter and the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black men and women throughout North America, that we’ve ALREADY forgotten what we pledged.
I’m sorry that Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) in our sector feel so unwelcome, so unsafe, that they had to create a movement. A movement that is there to remind us every day of what it means to be a person of colour in fundraising. A movement to remind us of how we fail to be inclusive.
I’m sorry that 13 Black fundraisers needed to write a book called Collecting Courage – a BEAUTIFUL and compelling book, full of heart breaking stories of resiliency – to have people start to listen. I’m sorry you had to bear your souls on paper just to have us start to discuss the issues you are facing being a Black fundraiser.
I’m sorry that our most senior organizations and funders – the ones who SHOULD be reading this book – have declined to do so or are ignoring the messages in it. I am sorry that you have not been asked to speak at conferences as plenaries – this is the most important message we could be sending our sector right now.
I’m so sorry that in sharing your pain, white people in our sector have become – somewhat predictably – defensive. I’m sorry white people are so fragile. I’m sorry that white fundraisers – the people who supposedly live to serve those most in need – won’t listen to their own peers. I’m sorry that our sector is full of racism and white complacency.
I’m sorry that those we consider “experts” in our sector are mocking and ridiculing you. I’m sorry that these men – and some women – are spending their time trying to disprove the principles of social justice and equity in the name of “raising more funds.” I’m sorry that they feel that their critiques are valid because they care more about protecting wealth and privilege than protecting the vulnerable. I’m sorry that it took so long for us to call it for what it was – white supremacy imbedded in the fiber of what our sector is.
I’m also sorry that in addition to all of this, our sector refuses to protect women and non-binary people. I am sorry that three years after the #MeToo movement, after surveys around the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in our sector, that sector leaders continue to deny women justice.
I’m sorry that we don’t believe women. I’m sorry that in spite of the statistics showing 78% of our peers have been sexually harassed at work by a donor, a board member, or a senior member of their organization, we continue to ignore this issue. I am sorry that our peers in the UK have had to endure having a known sexual predator involved with IOF and that he was allowed to continue having access to young women. I’m sorry that we have failed to protect you.
I’m sorry that people with disabilities in our sector are continually told that accessibility at conferences are on a “wish list” not a priority. I’m sorry that your human rights are not our very top priority. I’m sorry that being able to participate in learning and education in our sector is made so god damn difficult for you. It shouldn’t be.
I’m also sorry that our sector believes, so vehemently, that it is above reproach. I’m sorry that we think we are so “woke”. I’m sorry that our organizations, charities, boards of directors, associations, and others are so afraid to apologize. I’m sorry that they won’t say that THEY are sorry for doing harm. I’m sorry that they don’t acknowledge that through in-action they do harm.
More than anything I want you all to know that I am sorry that I have been a part of this problem for such a long time.
I’m waking up. I’m doing the work. It is hard as hell.
I’m sorry I didn’t do this sooner.
In solidarity with you all.