December 19, 2018 / 7:07 PM / 9 months ago

Donations to U.S. #MeToo fund slow despite deluge of complaints

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A U.S. legal fund for victims of workplace sexual harassment saw donations drop steeply after the initial furor of the #MeToo movement but still raised more money on the popular GoFundMe site than any other cause this year, organizers say.

FILE PHOTO: A vendor sells #MeToo badges a protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California U.S. November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund raised more than $22 million since its January launch and received complaints from more than 3,700 workers, mostly low-paid women, the group said.

#MeToo dominated headlines for several months after accusations of sexual misconduct were made public against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in late 2017.

As #MeToo gathered steam late last year and early 2018, with women sharing their bad experiences on social media, members of the entertainment industry started the fund to spread the fight to workplaces nationwide.

Complaints to the fund have ranged from paramedics accusing a big city fire department of harassment to a transgender man, a postal worker and a hotel cook all left jobless for reporting cases of mistreatment, it said.

Donations totaling $20,096,000, all raised through GoFundMe, are the most raised this year on the online fundraising platform, according to the fund and GoFundMe itself.

However, all but about $600,000 of that had been raised as of April, showing a dramatic slowdown in donations thereafter.

Time’s Up said in an emailed statement on Wednesday that the fund had been busy responding to requests from survivors and would launch new fundraising initiatives in 2019.

“We are thankful for the generosity of over 21,000 donors and are confident that this outpouring (of) support will continue into the future,” it said.

The drop in funding was to be expected, said Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women, a major Washington, D.C.-based feminist group.

“It’s unsurprising that the majority of Time’s Up fundraising took place at the beginning of the year,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We often find that the more the media covers an issue, the more it reaches the public,” she said. “Support for the #MeToo movement is not waning.”

Fundraising expert Ashley Post of Charity Navigator, which researches and evaluates charities, said donors typically respond swiftly to a crisis then drop off.

“We tend to move on to the next issue, which is unfortunate, but it is something we see often,” she said.

Administered by the National Women’s Law Center Fund in Washington, the pool of money has funded 75 legal cases so far.

Among the fund’s founding donors were actresses Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep and Reese Witherspoon, producer Shonda Rhimes and actor Mark Wahlberg, whose donation followed a public outcry over disparity between what he and actress Michelle Williams were paid for re-shoots of the 2017 movie “All the Money in the World.”

Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org

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