CIoF chair steps down amid complaints handling scandal

Claire Rowney is quitting as chair of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising amid an ongoing scandal over the organisation’s handling of sexual harassment complaints.

She said she is stepping down “with a heavy heart” and will remain as chair until the CIoF’s AGM on 5 July.

Her decision to step down is “the right thing to do for the organisation and for me personally” adding that “fresh leadership” will “enable the organisation to finally move forward”.

Rowney’s has been a trustee since 2018 and became chair in 2020.

She said: “It has been a very difficult year as Chair, spending much of the time addressing failings of the past and present and not being able to move the sector or the organisation forward in the way I had hoped.

“So it’s with a heavy heart that I have decided to step down and make way for a new Chair, which I believe is the right thing to do both for the organisation and for me personally.

“Currently, the role of Chair at the Chartered Institute needs someone who can dedicate more time to drive the change that is so badly needed and it is with regret that I have come to realise that individual is not me.

“Fresh leadership both on the executive team and board of Trustees will enable the organisation to finally move forward and I hope that by stepping away this new leadership will come forward and make the Chartered Institute a professional body the fundraising community can be proud of."

The complaints handling scandal emerged earlier this year when CIoF was accused of failing to act on allegations of sexual harassment made against a member of the organisation.

Former chief executive Peter Lewis was cleared by an independent investigation of wrong doing in relation to an allegation that he received and failed to act on a complaint made to him seven years ago.

The findings prompted resignations from CIoF volunteers, including community fundraising special interest group chair Sarah Goddard who said the membership body “should be ashamed”.

The CIoF apologised this week after it emerged that not all complainants had been contacted during the investigation.

Rowney added: “I would like to wholeheartedly apologise for the hurt and disappointment that victims of harassment and abuse have had to endure and for any mistakes that happened during my time at the Chartered Institute.

“I am, and always will be, a passionate advocate for women in fundraising and I want every single woman affected by this to know that I believe them and am here to support them.”

Rowney’s departure comes amid further board level departures. Trustee Ian Wilson is stepping down from the board for personal reasons at the CIoF’s AGM and trustee Liz Tait is to step down at the end of 2021.

Interim CIoF CEO Dhivya O’Connor said “I would like to thank Claire for her leadership and contribution to the fundraising community in this role. In the brief time that I have got to know her, I have been inspired by her vision, passion and dedication”.

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