CIoF complainant criticises ‘gaslighting’ investigation

Fundraising consultant Beth Upton said significant elements of her evidence had been overlooked by the membership body

One of the survivors in the Chartered Institute of Fundraising sexual harassment case yesterday described the investigation report as “gaslighting”, saying she has lost her “final shreds of faith” in the CIoF.

In a statement, the fundraising consultant Beth Upton said that significant elements of her evidence had been overlooked in the investigation, despite her formal requests for it to be included.

A summary of the investigation report was published by CIoF trustees yesterday. The findings upheld four complaints of sexual harassment against an unnamed CIoF Fellow, as well as identifying a series of institutional failures in the membership body’s handling of the allegations. 

The report said a further independent review would be carried out into whether the CIoF failed to act on wider concerns and complaints of sexual harassment. 

Upton, who was one of the complainants in the case, welcomed the conclusion that an independent review was needed. 

However, she said, her complaint that she told the former CIoF chief executive Peter Lewis about her allegations in April 2019, but he had not responded until September 2019, should have been specifically looked into as part of the investigation. 

Instead, the report only looked at whether Lewis had been aware of allegations against the unnamed Fellow in 2014, when some of the incidents took place.

It found that no complaint about sexual harassment was formally recorded in 2014, but noted the CIoF’s culture and processes at the time did not allow for informal concerns to be raised. 

According to the report, Upton’s evidence that Lewis had been aware of her complaint in 2019 and failed to contact her for five months was “noted by the Investigations Committee in the report from the recent investigation but this was not recognised or treated as a separate complaint”.

In her statement, Upton said she had submitted this evidence as a formal complaint in 2021, which alleged that CIoF staff knew about the actions of the Fellow “and failed to act, repeatedly, over a number of years”. 

She said: “I made this complaint to the ‘independent’ and expert agent appointed by CIoF leadership and overseen by its trustees. I made the complaint ‘formally’. I did everything I was told was necessary for a complaint to be acted upon. 

“Trying to make out that my words did not constitute a complaint is gaslighting.”

In addition, she said, it removed the idea that the issues raised were “merely” historical because ignoring her formal written complaint meant “the current leadership – paid and voluntary – are as culpable as those who have already left the organisation and must be held to account”.

Upton said that after the CIoF made an initial statement in June that the investigation had found “no wrongdoing” by Lewis (a statement the CIoF has since apologised for and removed from its website), she was assured by a CIoF trustee that her complaint relating to 2019 would be taken into account. 

“This has turned out not to be true – my comments were noted rather than my words being acted on as a complaint,” Upton said. 

“I have been let down yet again by the CIoF, its leadership and the agents it has commissioned to provide its services.”

As a result, she said: “I have lost the final shreds of faith in anyone involved in the leadership of CIoF through this process.”

Upton also expressed concern that the report and open letter from the interim chair of the CIoF, Nadine White, lacked “any tangibility to allow members to hold their professional body’s leadership to account”.

She said there was “a lack of capacity within the organisation, both at a trustee and staff level”, to effect change. 

Mandy Johnson, a former fundraiser who was a witness in the investigation, also responded to the report.

In a statement, Johnson said she was “relieved” that the CIoF had “held one of its members to account for what he has done to women at their events” and that she hoped it was “the start of sexual predators no longer being welcome within the fundraising sector and its Chartered Institute”. 

She said she believed there had been a positive shift in communications from the CIoF board since July this year, but that the investigation had been “flawed” and “a long and gruelling experience for many victims, survivors and allies”.

Johnson was initially told that she had “declined to give evidence” in the investigation into Lewis, but the report acknowledged that she had in fact not been contacted in relation to this aspect of the investigation.

She described the idea of another review as “exhausting” and expressed doubts as to whether it would “finally get results”.

But, Johnson added: “I have to recognise that some progress has been made and therefore more is possible.”

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