CIoF ‘pauses’ relationship with major sponsors over National Rifle Association links

It follows claims that the software and cloud computing provider Blackbaud, which owns the donations platform JustGiving, has had a longstanding relationship with the National Rifle Association in the US

(Photograph: Rafael Henrique/Sopa Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Photograph: Rafael Henrique/Sopa Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Chartered Institute of Fundraising has “paused” its relationship with major sponsors following revelations that the charity software company Blackbaud has taken money from the US-based National Rifle Association.

In a message to members this morning, Katie Docherty, chief executive of the CIoF, said the choice to pause sponsorship of the body’s annual convention, due to take place in two weeks’ time, had been difficult but had been made in the interest of truly representing the fundraising community.

The statement did not name Blackbaud, which owns the online donations platform JustGiving, but referred to a recent report on the news website TechCrunch.

The TechCrunch story initially stated that Blackbaud had received millions of dollars from the NRA, but in an update, the site said the company had disputed this, placing the figure closer to the equivalent of about £68,000 annually – but had acknowledged the NRA was a longtime customer.

The NRA has been heavily criticised for many years over its opposition to gun control and safety proposals in the US, and faced renewed scrutiny after 19 children were killed last month in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

In her statement, Docherty said: “Following constructive and honest conversations with partners over the last few days, I wanted to let our members know that we have taken the decision to pause some sponsorship relationships of Fundraising Convention.

“We have taken this decision in light of recent news which has highlighted the business relationships that some companies have through their group structures in the US with the National Rifle Association, which has resisted calls to restrict access to firearms, despite the tragedy of mass shootings in the nation.”

The CIoF appears to have removed Blackbaud and JustGiving logos from its emails to members about the upcoming convention shortly after the news of the link between Blackbaud and the NRA broke in the first week of June – but this is the first time it has made a statement on the issue.

The CIoF provided the statement to Third Sector in response to questions about the JustGiving and Blackbaud logo being apparently removed from its list of sponsors.

In today’s statement, Docherty described the sponsors in question as “long-standing partners and valued suppliers to the fundraising community”, but said the pause would “give us time to review the situation in detail, as well as to engage members in discussions about collaborations and how we navigate these challenging issues together”.

She said she had previously pledged to listen to the fundraising community and not be afraid to take difficult decisions in order to represent them.

“As a membership organisation representing the variety of charitable causes and the fundraising community across the UK, our work must be driven by our and our members’ values.”

She went on to say: “Our priority for convention is that our members, delegates, and volunteers, as well as exhibitors and sponsors, get the best possible experience, which includes thinking about everything from their perspective, over and above the financial bottom line.”

A JustGiving spokesperson said: “We wish the CIOF and attendees the best for this year’s Fundraising Convention.”

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