The independent review into complaints that the Chartered Institute of Fundraising failed to act on allegations of sexual harassment will take longer than originally anticipated, the organisation’s chief executive has said.
In an open letter to the CIoF’s members, Katie Docherty said the work on sexual harassment was a “top priority” for her, as well as for CIoF staff and trustees – but she said the body had “not effectively communicated” this work to members.
In March last year, allegations surfaced on social media that the CIoF had been told in 2019 about a sexual assault by one of its fellows at one of its own events and had failed to act.
An investigation commissioned by the CIoF eventually upheld four allegations of sexual harassment against an unnamed CIoF fellow, and found “clear organisational and governance failings” in the institute’s “culture and processes”.
The CIoF was criticised throughout by witnesses, survivors and members for how it handled the investigation, and Docherty, who was appointed chief executive in October, gave a “cast-iron guarantee” that changes would be made.
In the past few weeks, the CIoF has come under fire over its decision not to offer a virtual attendance option for its annual convention next month, which critics argued demonstrated a lack of progress on fundraiser safeguarding.
Ruth Davison, chief executive of the domestic violence charity Refuge, stepped down as a fellow of the CIoF and Refuge withdrew its organisational membership over the issue, saying there appeared “to be no organisational desire to meaningfully change”.
Other social media users pointed out that the independent review of the CIoF’s processes, promised when the investigation findings were published in August, had still not reported.
In her open letter, published today, Docherty said the independent reviewer had started work in March and had undertaken “substantial work” so far.
“They have advised that there is more work involved than was originally anticipated,” she said.
“The Independent Working Group agreed it was appropriate that the review takes the time necessary to ensure that it is fully comprehensive and extensive.”
Docherty said she wanted to reiterate that this area of work was “the top priority” for her as well as for CIoF staff, board and volunteers.
She also said: “We acknowledge that, while there has been a huge amount of work going on in the background, we have not effectively communicated this work.”
To rectify this, she said, the CIoF would hold a series of all-member meetings to share what it had been doing and give members a chance to ask questions. The first of these would be held on 16 June, she said, and would be about the convention.
On the issue of the in-person-only convention, Docherty said that in consultations with CIoF members, “the main thing that kept coming up was a desire to return to in-person events”.
But, she said, to reflect other members’ desire for an online event, the CIoF would be offering a separate online Fundraising Festival, which will include recorded sessions from the live convention as well as additional online-only material.
She said the CIoF had explored delivering the convention through a hybrid model.
“Our priority, as a charity, is to deliver the very best experience for our members within the boundaries of our budgets and supporting sponsor relationships.
“We have decided then that the best experience possible for convention 2022, within our resources and without compromising quality, will be achieved by delivering separate in-person and online events.”