Institute's leadership 'not working to support survivors' of sexual harassment, committee co-chair warns

Dana Kohava Segal, co-chair of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising's Cultural Sector Committee, says she is 'deeply concerned' about the membership body's handling of complaints

Dana Kohava Segal
Dana Kohava Segal

The Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s “leadership, systems and culture are not working to support survivors” of sexual harassment, the co-chair of its Cultural Sector Committee has claimed.

Speaking in response to a CIoF letter sent to its members on Friday afternoon, Dana Kohava Segal said she remained “deeply concerned” about the institute’s handling of historical complaints.

She said that while change for the future was important, there should also be “accountability and action” over previous mistakes.

The letter from CIoF chief executive Peter Lewis to members acknowledged that the institute’s action on sexual harassment in recent years had “clearly not been enough” and apologised to “every member of the fundraising community”.

The letter also included links to a Q&A document about the CIoF’s complaints procedure, which revealed that the body had completed eight investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour since 2019, and that the majority of cases had resulted in sanctions ranging from formal apologies to membership bans “for a period of time”.

In the letter, Lewis said he wanted to reassure members that CIoF trustees, staff and volunteers were “absolutely committed to urgently addressing the issues raised, and delivering the culture change required”.

The Q&A reiterated that the CIoF had commissioned a review of its processes from the HR consultancy Tell Jane, and said the review’s executive summary would be made publicly available, but did not say when.

The CIoF came under fire last week over allegations that it had been presented with an audio recording in which a woman described being sexually assaulted at a CIoF event, but said her report of the incident had been ignored.

The CIoF published an initial response that day, but later issued an apology for the response, saying it had not been clear enough and had contributed to “confusion and distress”.

Much of the criticism of the initial response surrounded what the CIoF deemed to be a “formal complaint” and which complaints were acted on.

The letter to members followed a meeting on Thursday between the CIoF leadership and a group of committee chairs who wrote a formal letter calling for the body to explain itself further.

Kohava Segal, who was one of the committee chairs behind the formal letter, told Third Sector: “While I am pleased to finally see a more detailed public response and Q&A from the institute, I remain deeply concerned about its handling of historical complaints, and complaints that never made it through formal procedures because they were not deemed to be ‘formal complaints’.”

She pointed out that before an CIoF review of its processes in 2019, it did not accept anonymous complaints or complaints submitted on behalf of survivors, which meant “there was no safe way for survivors to raise these issues”.

She said there were “still unanswered questions about the leadership decisions, processes, lack of external oversight and communication challenges (both internally and with survivors) across the cases investigated to date”.

And while she agreed with Claire Rowney, chair of the CIoF, who tweeted on Thursday that a “seismic shift in the whole culture” of the organisation was needed, Kohava Segal said the “pressing issue” was “securing accountability and action for the mistakes made to date”.

Referring to a blog post by the fundraiser Ruby Bayley-Pratt in March 2019 that called for “swift, decisive action” on sexual harassment in fundraising, she said: “Having to wait two years is, quite frankly, unacceptable and sends a message to survivors that they are not a priority.

“CIoF has had since 2019 to get this right, but clearly the current leadership, systems and culture are not working to support survivors if they feel the need to go public for any meaningful change to happen.”

Kohava Segal said she looked forward to seeing “concrete, tangible actions” communicated to CIOF members and volunteers within a week of the body's next board meeting.

The CIoF declined to comment further.

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