IoF should not investigate charities accused of poor practice, says Peter Lewis

The chief executive of the IoF writes an open letter to Stephen Lee, who accused the IoF of failing to ensure its members followed its code of conduct

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising
Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, has said it would be an unnecessary duplication of resources if the IoF investigated organisational members that were accused of poor fundraising practice.

In an open letter to Stephen Lee, the IoF fellow who said at the organisation’s annual general meeting this week that charities guilty of poor fundraising practice should have been disciplined by the umbrella body, Lewis says he is "personally frustrated and saddened" at the manner in which Lee expressed his concerns.

Lee, professor of voluntary sector management at Cass Business School and a former director of the IoF, said at the meeting that the organisation had failed to ensure that its members abided by its code of conduct.

Citing a number of different rules detailed in the IoF’s articles of association, Lee said the body’s trustees had had a responsibility to remove members from the institute who were in breach of its code of practice and code of conduct.

But in the letter, Lewis says that although the umbrella body could take disciplinary action against individual members, complaints about organisational members should be dealt with by the Fundraising Standards Board or, from yesterday, the Fundraising Regulator.

"It would be an unnecessary duplication of resources, and confusing for both complainants and the organisations concerned, if we were to investigate complaints about an organisation at the same time the recognised regulator was investigating," writes Lewis.

Lewis points out in the letter that fundraising works under a self-regulatory system and "it would not serve any purpose to expel an organisation from the system, as it would then cease to be obliged to comply with the Code of Fundraising Practice".

He says that only if an organisation failed to cooperate with the regulator or rejected its findings would the IoF consider taking disciplinary action.

Lewis says the IoF Convention was a good opportunity for fundraisers to come together after an incredibly tough year.

"I am therefore personally frustrated and saddened that, as an honorary fellow and former director of the institute, you chose the floor of our annual general meeting as the first forum to air your concerns about this matter, rather than contact me or a member of my team directly," writes Lewis.

"You will appreciate that as you have chosen to undertake this discussion publicly, and due to the concern and upset your comments have caused members who have been in touch with me since the AGM, I will also need to place this letter in the public domain to provide both reassurance and an accurate account of our approach to maintaining and championing fundraising standards."

Asked how many members had contacted Lewis expressing concerns since the meeting, a spokesman for the IoF said he could not comment further to what was in the letter.

Commenting on the Third Sector website, Dawn Varley, a fundraising consultant and former IoF board member, said Lee was right to ask the questions he did and the AGM was "an obvious opportunity to do it".

She said Lee should submit a formal complaint to the IoF’s honorary secretary if he felt his concerns had not been fully considered or responded to.

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