CIoF has 'lost its way' and is providing insufficient leadership on cultural and safeguarding issues, members say

The Chartered Institute of Fundraising has “lost its way”, feels disconnected from members’ needs and is providing insufficient leadership on cultural and safeguarding issues, according to member feedback. 

The comments were collected as part of a series of roundtable discussions, feedback forums and surveys following prolonged criticism over the CIoF’s handling of allegations of sexual harassment perpetrated at its events. 

Some members did also say they felt they had seen signs that the CIoF was willing to listen to and engage differently with members, according to the summary of responses, which was published on the CIoF website and sent to members this week. 

Katie Docherty, who became chief executive of the CIoF in October,  said in a statement that the responses would form a base for the new strategy. which would launch next year.

In March, an outcry erupted on social media over accusations that the CIoF had been told in 2019 about allegations of sexual harassment perpetrated by a CIoF fellow but had failed to act.  

The CIoF launched an investigation into both the sexual harassment allegations themselves and its handling of them. In August, the investigation concluded, upholding all four allegations of sexual harassment against a CIoF fellow, who was not named, and finding “clear organisational and governance failings in our culture and processes

The investigation and the CIoF’s handling of it, and the communications around the issue, were widely and repeatedly criticised by witnesses, survivors and members.  

The roundtable meetings were organised as part of what the CIoF described at the time as “renewed focus” on two-way communications with members.

About 300 members participated in the roundtables, according to the summary, which also included responses from those who completed a feedback form on the CIoF’s website, a CIoF survey, or attended feedback forum events organised independently by Beth Upton, who was one of the complainants in the sexual harassment case.

When asked what was “not working” at the CIoF, the summary says responses included comments about a “lack of purpose, vision and strategy… Some members feel that the Chartered Institute has lost its way”, that the CIoF “is disconnected from the wants and needs of members, does not have a compelling proposition”, and that it offered “inadequate” support and recognition for volunteers. 

Members accused the CIoF of “not listening” to members, poor communications and “a failure to publicly represent the fundraising community consistently well”.

Responses also described “insufficient leadership” on cultural, safeguarding and equity, diversity and inclusion, saying strong leadership from the CIoF would be needed to make fundraising safer and more diverse as a sector. 

When asked what they felt was working, respondents said the qualifications, resources and guidance offered to members were “valued”, were positive about CIoF events and highlighted the “crucial role” of the volunteer-led regional, national and special interest groups, which were seen as “the face of the organisation”, the summary said.

In addition, the summary said: “New leadership, and signs that the Chartered Institute is showing a willingness to listen to members and engage in a fresh way, has given hope to many.”

When asked what changes they’d like to see in the future, members responded that the body needed to “establish a meaningful, sustainable business model which meets stakeholder needs” and conduct a “wholesale review” of what it currently offers to members. 

They also called for the CIoF to provide a safer, more inclusive environment, raise the profile of fundraising as a profession, as well as improving internal and external communications and infrastructure. 

In her statement accompanying the summary, Docherty said it had been a privilege to hear from so many members and fundraisers, and thanked them for contributing. 

She said the feedback had “given us a rich and informed base from which we will be developing our new strategy that will launch during 2022”.

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