'Disgusted' CIoF committee chair quits over its handling of sexual misconduct claims

The chair of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s Community Fundraising Special Interest Group has resigned over the membership body’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations.

Sarah Goddard announced her resignation yesterday on Twitter, saying the relationship between the CIoF and many fundraisers was “broken beyond repair” and accusing the body of making the survivors of sexual assault feel “unseen, unheard and invalidated” through confusing, unclear communications.

It came after the CIoF published findings from an independent report into allegations that the organisation’s former chief executive had been told of a sexual assault at a CIoF event in 2014, but had failed to act on the information.

The report, conducted by HR agency Tell Jane, was not published, but the CIoF announced the investigation had found no wrongdoing by Peter Lewis, who left the organisation on Friday, having announced his plans to step down in March.

Goddard called for the report to be published, with measures put in place to protect the anonymity of complainants.

The 2014 allegation surfaced on social media in March, prompting an outcry among fundraisers.

The CIoF published an initial response on the same day, but later apologised for that response, and subsequently pledged to follow recommendations laid out in an recent audit of its processes in a bid to ensure its culture was safe for all.

Following yesterday’s announcement, several fundraisers, including Goddard, said on social media that the details that were released only created confusion over whether the investigation had found that Lewis had never received the complaint, or that he had received it and acted appropriately.

In a clarification issued on Twitter today, the CIoF said that Tell Jane had “concluded no complaint was made to Peter in 2014 and he therefore did not fail to act”.

Goddard told Third Sector: “My bigger issue is how appallingly Peter and the CIoF have communicated this and how it may make survivors feel unseen, unheard or invalidated.

“The CIoF needs to understand that the implication of today’s communication is that survivors are again feeling the trauma and awfulness of not being heard, not being believed.

She said many fellow volunteers she had spoken to had been optimistic following the CIoF’s pledge to bring about change in March.

“But now I don’t think there’s anything they can do to win back trust – the relationship with many fundraisers is broken beyond repair,” she said.

Goddard, who has volunteered for the CIoF since 2013, said she was not the only volunteer who was leaving with a “sour taste in their mouth” over this issue.

She said that the CIoF’s response had lacked “humanity and understanding” and failed “to put survivors first or demonstrate that they believe people”.

In a tweet today, the CIoF said the full report into the investigation had not been published “for the anonymity, confidentiality, and duty of care to those involved”.

But Goddard said the report could have been redacted in a way that preserved anonymity but still allowed for greater transparency.

She said the failure to explain the report clearly “flies in the face” of the CIoF’s commitment in March to “listen, learn and work to share progress openly, honestly and transparently”.

She also accused the CIoF of failing to consider the impact of the report on victims of other alleged cases, saying those who have made separate allegations about sexual assault or harassment should have been warned about yesterday’s announcement in advance of its release.

A CIoF spokesman said: “Tell Jane informed everyone who gave evidence to or took part in the investigation as to the outcome of the investigation.”

There was also some confusion about a separate statement issued by Lewis yesterday following the findings of the report, in which he said he had “been clear throughout that no complaint or disclosure was ever made to me”.

Lewis said today: “My statement related to the specific allegation, which was that I had received a complaint in 2014 and not acted on it. I received no such complaint or disclosure.

“Separately during my time at the CIoF, I received other complaints, which I dealt with in accordance with the institute's complaints and disciplinary processes.”

An independent investigation into the complaint from 2014, of sexual harassment against an institute member, is ongoing.

Since this story was published, Tell Jane has disputed the CIoF's claim that Tell Jane was instructed to inform those involved in the investigation of its outcome before it was made public. The CIoF has subsequently acknowledged that this was incorrect and issued an apology. More detail can be found here.

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