What is going on at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising?

The Chartered Institute of Fundraising (CIoF) has been rocked by scandal this year, around its handling of allegations of sexual misconduct.

This has seen a wave of accusations and criticism across social media from those in the sector about the CIoF’s complaints handling processes.

The membership body also been hit by a wave of resignations, including its chair and chief executive.

Recent months have also seen public statements by CIoF garner further criticism, including allegations that it is “gaslighting” victims.

Next month its AGM takes place with elections for three trustees as well as a resolution to make it explicit that action can be taken against former members if allegations of misconduct are levelled at them.

Charity Times takes a look back at the last few months to find out: What is going on at the CIoF?

In March the charity sector was left shocked by an allegation made by Charity Equality founder Mandy Johnson that she had shared an audio recording two years ago with a CIoF of a woman describing being sexually assaulted at an event by the sector body. She claimed that the CIoF had not dealt with these allegations effectively.

Among those to raise concerns was consultant Claire Warner, who in resigning from senior level committee and board roles at the membership body, said “never before have I been more ashamed to be associated with an organisation”.

The CIoF published an official response focusing on a general commitment that “anyone affected by harassment in any form must be listening to”. But this was criticised by charity leaders for not directly answering concerns raised and a fresh response was published days later.

The CIoF admitted that its initial response “was not clear enough” and that it recognises “this has caused confusion and distress”. Also following this initial response, CIoF chair Claire Rowney made a personal public “heartfelt apology to the women who have been let down” by the organisation.

CEO investigated

Within two weeks of the scandal breaking CIoF announced chief executive Peter Lewis was to resign, following nine years in the role. He has since been replaced by interim CEO Dhivya O’Connor, a former chief executive of Cancer UK.

In the months that followed it emerged that an allegation had been made that Lewis had received and failed to act on a sexual harassment complaint. An independent investigation by HR consultancy Tell Jane was commissioned and the CIoF announced early in June that this had cleared Lewis of wrongdoing.

Additionally, an investigation into a complaint of sexual harassment against a CIoF member is due to report at the end of June.

The decision to clear Lewis swiftly became marred in controversy and prompted further resignations in protest among CIoF’s volunteers.

This included the departure of community fundraising special interest group chair Sarah Goddard in June. She said the organisation “should be ashamed” and that she refuses to “have my name aligned with your organisation any further”.

Damningly, it also emerged that testimony from complainants had not been used in the investigation.

This included the testimony of Beth Upton, who alleged that Lewis failed to act on the disclosure of sexual misconduct.

This omission prompted an “unreserved apology” from the CIoF for its “failure to contact the women involved”.

Chair resigns

By mid-June Rowney announced her resignation as chair. She said that the CIoF “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”.

She will remain in post until CIoF’s AGM on 5 July. This will be a key date in the tumultuous recent history of the membership body as it looks to improve its processes around complaints handling and improve its support victims of harassment and abuse.

It also faces a huge task to repair its battered reputation in the charity sector.

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