On November 10, 2018, the Slingshot Board of Directors passed a policy on “Board Misconduct” outlining standards for moral, ethical, and respectful behavior; detailing the procedure for when those standards have been breached; and espousing a commitment to a safe and respectful workplace for employees, volunteers, and leaders alike. (You can view the policy here.)
This policy is among the first of its kind in the Jewish community, or beyond. Most harassment and discrimination policies are for staff. In our research for assembling our policy, we were unable to find a single other policy that addressed board members. Too often these days we hear stories of individuals in positions of power wielding that power in often heinous ways, demonstrating painfully unethical behavior.
Our community has turned a blind eye for way for too long. We know, as Insider Philanthropy, wrote, “One reason charities look the other way when wealthy donors and trustees harass fundraising staff is doubtless the money and influence such people wield, critical support that organizations stand to lose in correcting problematic behavior.” Therefore, a major way to make real, substantive, lasting change in our community is to begin to address this issue with both staff and funders, in conversation with one another.
Over a year ago, Slingshot was beginning to develop a new strategic plan, just as the #MeToo and #GamAni movements were emerging. As Slingshot’s Executive Director, Stefanie Rhodes, and Board Member, Jenna Weinberg wrote just a few weeks ago:
We [found] ourselves asking, what would it mean for funders to adopt formal, public policies of ethical conduct? [Could] we promote safety for Jewish professionals and strengthen organizations by garnering commitments from each of their funders?
Over the past year, as Slingshot developed a new strategic plan, we have sought to intentionally create the beginnings of a new culture and structure of philanthropy within Slingshot. This work should help to preemptively ensure that funders and board members engage safely and respectfully with the staff of the organizations they support.”
Led by our Board of Directors, we developed a formal policy for ethical behavior. As a staff member assigned to this task, I was, frankly, a bit daunted. This was not easy. There wasn’t good precedent or a high standard for us to emulate or adapt. We had to start from scratch.
Through a training led by Martin Kaminer, we were introduced to Fran Sepler, a pioneer in harassment prevention and workplace investigations. In the absence of any substantive model policy, Fran provided us with a template for a comprehensive ethical behavior staff policy. Working together with the Slingshot Board’s Governance Committee, we refined the policy to ensure we were clear about expectations of Board Member behavior and the procedures for violations of the policy. We made sure that the policy sets expectations for our leadership when as they represent Slingshot out in the world, protects our lay leadership from misconduct, and empowers board members to speak out should they experience, or witness, something unethical.
After much work, a lot of questions, and significant bravery, Slingshot’s board adopted the policy.
Our forward thinking, risk-taking, fearless board of directors is the main reason we achieved this. Each board member was committed to making a change to protect every individual who works or volunteers with our organization. This brave group of people decided to lead our community, to show their peers how to lead with their values, and what’s necessary to make substantive change.
The policy we ended up with is not perfect. We know there are things missing and we look forward to updating it as best practices in this space evolve. It is a living document and will, no doubt, grow and change over time.
But for today, I feel proud, safe, and grateful.
Please feel free to download our policy here. We encourage you to bring it back to your organizations or the boards you work with and hope that you will adopt something similar. If you would like help doing so, or have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to Rachel Hodes at [email protected] or Stefanie Rhodes at [email protected].