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Fundraising summit cancelled after controversy on gender balance

Organiser Giles Pegram was heavily criticised after he defended the conference's line-up of nine male speakers and one woman

A conference on the future of fundraising organised by Giles Pegram and Adrian Sargeant has been cancelled after controversy arose over the gender balance of its line-up of speakers.

The one-day event, The Summit: Raising the Extra Billions, was to feature nine male speakers, including Sargeant, professor of marketing and fundraising at Plymouth Business School, and Pegram, a fundraising consultant and former fundraising director at the NSPCC. Jen Shang, a professor in philanthropic psychology at the University of Bristol – and Sargeant’s partner – was the only woman involved.

This led to concerns being raised on Twitter and the blog Charity Chicks that the event, which promised to "change the rules of fundraising", did not include more female fundraising experts and was therefore not representative of the sector.

Pegram then tweeted that the line-up was "more about wisdom, rock-solid experience and years of practice – sorry, but I don’t believe in quotas".

He went on to say that while there were women in fundraising management, there were not many in "thinking" roles, which led to him being criticised on Twitter. He later apologised for any offence he had caused.

In a statement published on the summit’s website, Sargeant announced that the event, which had been planned for April, had been cancelled, and distanced himself and the other speakers from Pegram’s comments.

"Gender stereotypes obviously have no place in the voluntary sector, nor anywhere within fundraising," said Sargeant.

"While Giles has rightly issued a full and heartfelt apology for his unwitting remarks and any distress that he might inadvertently have caused, in light of the way his comments have been interpreted and reported we think it would be inadvisable and practically difficult for us to continue with the summit, at least in its current format.

"While accepting Giles Pegram’s sincerely held and full apology, we would record that this unfortunate series of misunderstandings in no way diminishes the huge regard with which Giles Pegram CBE is held by the organisers and the proposed speakers at this event.

"Giles’s contribution to the shape of modern fundraising in this country and elsewhere is second to none and we have no doubt that he will continue to make a valuable contribution to our profession for years to come."

Pegram told Third Sector this morning it was very unfortunate that the event had been cancelled but that he did not wish to make any further comment.

In his statement, Sargeant thanked Denisa Casement, head of fundraising at Merchants Quay Ireland, and Tanya Steele, director of fundraising at Save the Children, for their "kindness and sensitivity" in working to resolve the issue.

Casement told Third Sector: "Not having the summit is a loss, but not having the conversation would be a loss as well.

"I think it is a conversation that is good to have and I was happy to be a part of it. But it should not get personal and have things taken out of context."

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