Chartered Institute of Fundraising members have criticised its annual general meeting for being a “masterclass in question avoidance” and accused the umbrella body of failing to provide answers on key issues.
The meeting was held yesterday after a tumultuous few weeks for the body, after it faced questions over its handling of sexual harassment complaints and saw the resignations of its chief executive and chair.
CIoF members expressed frustration that the meeting, which was held virtually yesterday, limited answers to queries, with one accusing the membership body of “blatantly ignoring questions”.
Claire Rowney, outgoing chair of the CIoF, said the organisation would respond to any questions that were not answered in the meeting in its next newsletter, which is due to be released on 20 July.
During the meeting, which took place via Zoom, the chat function was disabled, although questions were allowed through the Q&A function, and many focused on the CIoF’s handling of and response to the sexual misconduct investigations.
The workplace culture consultant Claire Warner said the meeting was a “masterclass in question avoidance”.
Anyone feeling despondent and let down after today's disappointing @CIOFtweets AGM (which was a masterclass in question avoidance) and wanting to join in one, co-ordinated conversation with other like-minded people who want answers, please get in touch— Claire Warner - wellbeing (she/her) (@ClaireWarner) July 5, 2021
Other CIoF members complained on social media about how few questions were actually answered, with the fundraiser Teresa Forgione describing it as “far from good enough”.
Fundraiser Pete Wallroth said the CIoF had made “seemingly never-ending attempts” to “meet members’ genuine well articulated questions about their practice with silence and shut down”, while fundraising consultant Sarah Goddard accused the CIoF of “blatantly ignoring questions”.
It also emerged at the meeting that the conclusion of a report into allegations of sexual misconduct at events run by the CIoF had been postponed until at least the end of the week.
Rowney told CIoF members that new evidence had come to light, so the board would not receive copies of the report, which was expected to be completed last week, until Friday.
The CIoF has faced criticism in recent months over its handling of an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct at an event run by the organisation in 2014.
The investigation was looking into the allegations of sexual assault against a prominent member of the CIoF and reports that the organisation’s former chief executive, Peter Lewis, had been aware of the allegations and failed to act, something Lewis denies.
In June, the CIoF announced that the investigation into Lewis had cleared him of any wrongdoing, but did not publish the findings, and later admitted that the investigation was in fact “unable to find sufficient evidence” that a complaint had been made to Lewis, but did conclude a complaint was probably made to someone at the CIoF.
The CIoF was also criticised for confusing communications about the issue and for failing to give advance notice to witnesses and survivors that the result would be made public, for which it has since apologised.
During the AGM, Rowney offered an apology for “errors of judgement and lack of empathy” by the CIoF and acknowledged that the way survivors had been treated had exacerbated their suffering.
The report into the second part of the investigation, into the allegations of sexual assault themselves, was expected to be delivered to CIoF’s trustees at the end of June.
But Rowney said: “There has been some additional evidence put into that investigation, so we expect to get it by the end of this week.
“Once the investigations committee has had an opportunity to read it and make recommendations to the board, we’ll then share all of the findings with the people involved, before making the findings public.”
She said, depending on the results of the investigation, there would be the possibility of a disciplinary panel taking place, but that the CIoF would “be as open and transparent as we are able to be regarding the ongoing investigation”.
The meeting also included a special resolution, which updates the CIoF’s complaints and disciplinary rules to ensure they continue to apply to former members, to ensure they cannot avoid disciplinary action simply by resigning their membership.
Rowney announced last month that she would be resigning as chair following the meeting, two years before the end of her term.
In an appointment meeting held immediately after the AGM, trustee Nadine Campbell was elected interim chair until a new permanent chair can be appointed through an open recruitment process.