Institute needs 'seismic shift in culture' after sexual assault claims, chair says

Claire Rowney says women have been let down by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising and promises action

Claire Rowney
Claire Rowney

The chair of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising has said the organisation needs a “seismic shift in the whole culture” amid a row over its handling of reports of sexual assault and harassment.

In a statement on Twitter today, Claire Rowney, who took up the role of chair of the CIoF board in July, said women had been “let down” by the membership body in relation to reports of sexual harassment.

She acknowledged the organisation had “a long way to go” and said she was committed to bringing about “long overdue change”.

The CIoF came under fire on Friday when former CIoF committee chair Mandy Johnson tweeted that two years ago she had shared an audio recording with the body in which a woman described being sexually assaulted at a CIoF event, but said her report of the incident had been ignored.

The CIoF’s initial response, published on its website on Friday and later updated, was criticised by many fundraisers on Twitter, one of whom described it as “thoroughly underwhelming”.

The institute issued an apology for the statement yesterday, saying it had not been clear enough and had contributed to “confusion and distress”.

A group of the CIoF’s own committee chairs have written a formal letter calling for the body to explain itself further and is expected to meet CIoF leadership this week. A group of CIoF Fellows has also expressed concerns and requested a meeting.

In her statement today, Rowney, who is also executive director of fundraising, marketing and communications at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “I want to start with a heartfelt apology to the women who have been let down by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising in relation to reported sexual harassment and also offer a genuine thank you to all the women who have spoken out this week.”

She acknowledged that raising concerns took courage, and said those who did so deserved to be taken seriously and treated with respect and sensitivity.

“The organisation has a long way to go and, while it’s critical that the processes are fit for purpose and put members' safety at their heart, ultimately we need to create a seismic shift in the whole culture so that everyone is not just safe but able to truly thrive.”

She said that in her first year as chair, she was “committed to doing everything in my power to help bring about this long overdue change and will ensure plans are communicated to address the past issues and the future direction over the coming weeks”.

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