CIoF upholds sexual harassment allegations and apologises to survivors

The Chartered Institute of Fundraising has upheld four allegations of sexual harassment by a fellow and apologised to survivors for its handling of the situation.

In a report setting out the outcomes of the institute’s investigation, it was concluded that a CIoF member breached the organisation’s Code of Conduct and has been permanently expelled as a member; removed as a fellow; and banned from all future CIoF events.

It also used the report to apologise to the survivors for failing to investigate a specific act of sexual harassment reported to the former CEO in 2014 and a subsequent public statement claiming there was no wrongdoing.

It said: “In May 2021, the investigation concluded into a complaint that the Chartered Institute of Fundraising failed to investigate a specific allegation of sexual harassment that was reported to the former CEO and/or the Institute in 2014 and he and/or the Institute failed to act.

“A public statement was made by the Chartered Institute in June 2021 that there was ‘no wrongdoing by Peter Lewis’. As part of addressing organisational failings and past mistakes, the board would like to apologise for the wording of that statement, which we have now removed from the website.

“As CEO of the Institute during the relevant period, he bears responsibility, along with other trustees and staff, for not taking action sooner in tackling these cultural and organisational failings.”

It added that in the matter of a specific complaint as to whether the former CEO and institute failed to act to an allegation in 2014, the board felt as though there “was not sufficient evidence” available at the time to conclude what happened. All of that evidence will now be passed on to a wider independent review being commissioned.

Independent review

The independent review being commissioned will focus on “the wider issues of concerns, reports and complaints of sexual harassment not being acted upon appropriately over time by the Chartered Institute".

It will make recommendations to the board, new CEO and head of professional conduct, and the findings will be shared directly with members and published on the website.

Full responsibility

In the report, the institute has claimed it takes full responsibility and apologises for the “clear organisational and governance failings in our culture and processes that let down survivors”.

Organisational failures it found included: the focus on requiring a ‘formal written complaint’, which made it very difficult for anyone who had experienced harassment, discrimination or bullying to raise concerns and did not provide a safe, simple and supportive process; the lack of action in response to repeated patterns of behaviour; insufficient past processes to ensure that action was taken; and the lack of appropriate training and support embedded across the organisation.

As a result “this has meant that allegations were not responded to and acted upon at the time they were made and led to individuals involved being able to continue to participate in events, activities and training,” it said.

Action plan

In March 2021, an action plan was agreed by the board which set out the work on new processes, procedures, and cultural change within the institute.

This was informed by a learning review, which was commissioned in December 2020 to look at the CIoF's complaints processes and handling of complaints related to sexual harassment, drawing on the details of a specific case, and asking for recommendations for improvement.

These pieces of work, along with the findings of the investigations into sexual harassment, have given the institute clearer understanding of past failings and have helped it recognise the impact of them, it has claimed.

“They have also provided us with a clear direction and steps to take to embed the long-term systemic change needed across the organisation.”

The report summary concluded: “The board wants to thank the survivors and allies who have fought so hard over many years. With a new CEO appointed, a new interim Chair in place, and three new trustees elected in July 2021, we are committed to taking all the steps and action needed to remedy the issues that their voices have brought forward.”

To read the full report, visit: https://ciof.org.uk/about-us/what-we-stand-for/safe-environment/outcome-of-investigations-into-sexual-harassment-a

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