Former CIoF boss cleared of wrongdoing over sexual harassment complaint handling

An independent investigation has concluded there was no wrongdoing by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising (CIoF)’s former chief executive Peter Lewis in relation to an allegation he received and failed to act on a sexual harassment complaint made to him seven years ago.

The investigation, conducted by HR consultancy Tell Jane, was launched following an allegation made on social media earlier this year over the CIoF’s complaints handling.

Commenting on the investigation’s findings Lewis said: “The last few months have been difficult for me personally but my thoughts are with those who have been let down by our past complaints handling, policies and procedures.

“I offer my sincere apologies to anyone who has suffered harm. It’s vitally important to ensure that the fundraising community is safe.

“I volunteered for the allegation of not acting on a complaint to be investigated independently, and that investigation has now cleared me of any wrongdoing. I have been clear throughout that no complaint or disclosure was ever made to me.

“Under my leadership the Institute started to improve its handling of complaints about sexual harassment, and I'm glad that creating safe and inclusive spaces for everyone remains a priority for the Chartered Institute moving forward."

The investigation into the complaint of sexual harassment against a member of the CIoF is still ongoing.

A statement from the CIoF’s trustees said: “We know that our culture and processes have let people down in the past and recognise that these have led to individuals not feeling supported to raise concerns or make complaints about harassment.

“As a Board of Trustees we want to apologise again to all those who have been let down by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising. We are truly sorry.”

CIoF chair Claire Rowney added: “I would like to thank Tell Jane for the thorough and independent investigation. It is enormously important to me that we get things right for victims of bullying, harassment and abuse in the sector.

“My commitment, and that of my fellow trustees, to improving both our internal processes and the culture in the sector is unwavering and we continue to recognise there is a great deal to achieve.

“We thank the fundraising community for their support, feedback and participation in driving improvements for all fundraisers in the future.”

Criticism of complaints handling

In March the CIoF attracted criticism from charity leaders, and its own committee chairs and members, over its complaints handling. One senior figure said the CIoF had failed “the basics of leadership”.

A pledge made later in March by the CIoF to improve its response to sexual abuse and harassment complaints was broadly welcomed by charity leaders.

Lewis resigned earlier this year and has been replaced by interim CEO Dhivya O’Connor, a former chief executive with Cancer UK.

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