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Fundraising body apologises over response to sexual harassment allegations

This news post is 8 months old

The Chartered Institute of Fundraising (CIoF) has issued an apology to women "who have been let down" and has created an action plan aimed at improving how it responds

A fundraising organisation has apologised over claims it failed to act on sexual harassment allegations.

The Chartered Institute of Fundraising (CIoF) has apologised for how it has reacted to complaints of misconduct.

The organisation’s board has responded to claims that it did not treat allegations that have been made seriously, with an apology made to women who the institute has “let down”.

A statement issued this afternoon said: “As a board of trustees, we want to apologise to the women who have been let down by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising and to everyone who has been upset, frustrated, and angry in relation to reports of sexual harassment. Raising concerns takes courage, and those who do so deserve to be taken seriously and treated with respect and sensitivity. We will do better in how we respond to those who come forward. We will admit to mistakes, apologise for them and share that learning openly. 

“Your work, and your professional membership body, must be safe. Sexual harassment is never acceptable, and every single instance must be treated seriously and with respect and sensitivity. The culture change that is needed must put your safety first. Our starting point must be to always believe people who come forward.  

“We know the organisation has a long way to go and that we are only a few steps into our journey. Our ambition is to create a culture where everyone is not just safe, but able to truly thrive. This will take hard work, and we promise you that we are ready for this.”

The CIoF first came under fire earlier this month on Twitter when the fundraising consultant tweeted that, two years, ago she had shared an audio recording with the institute in which a woman described being sexually assaulted at a CIoF event, and said that her report of the incident had been ignored.

The CIoF’s initial response, published on its website, and later updated, was criticised by many fundraisers on Twitter, one of whom described it as “thoroughly underwhelming”, and prompted the letter from the committee chairs.

The institute’s board met this week and agreed an action plan – which has been prepared by working with independent HR consultants Tell Jane – in response to recent complaints, and has accepted all the recommendations made by the consultants.

The statement continued: “Our announcement today outlines the specific next steps we are taking to turn our ambitions into reality. While today’s announcements are focused on sexual harassment, we know that so much more needs to be done to tackle all forms of harassment, discrimination and abuse. Only then can our profession be the inclusive one we want it to be.

“Yesterday, we met as a Board of Trustees to agree actions based on the findings of the independent Learning Review, commissioned in December 2020, and conducted by Tell Jane, a HR consultancy specialising in preventing workplace harassment and conducting independent investigations.  We agreed a way forward with clear and accountable actions.

“We approached these discussions with three principles in mind; principles we will be adopting in all our future work. They are:

•           Do no harm first. That the Chartered Institute and the profession has to be a place where everyone is safe;

•           Believe all those who come forward. Make it safe, simple and supportive if people disclose. Make that process a fair and balanced one;

•           Listen, learn and work to share progress openly, honestly and transparently. We know that this is vital to rebuild trust and also to create systemic change.

“Tell Jane made 18 recommendations to us. We have accepted them all and added further actions to make our profession and community one that’s safe for all to thrive. The actions we are taking fall into three categories – culture, safeguarding and governance of professional standards.”

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, announced earlier this week that he is to step down after almost 10 years in the role.

Lewis said in a statement that after the death of his father from Covid-19 last year, he had decided to follow his example and take stock of his life before deciding his next steps. Lewis said he handed in his resignation on 4 March – about a week before the recent outcry began.



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