Two fellows of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising have said they will stay in place to ensure that there is “someone who unconditionally believes women” who have complained of sexual misconduct.
In a joint interview with Third Sector, Ruth Davison and Lucy Caldicott said they believed there was a risk that an investigation into the CIoF’s handling of sexual assault allegations had “silenced” the women who initially complained.
On Wednesday, the CIoF said an independent investigation had concluded that the organisation's former chief executive, Peter Lewis, had been cleared of wrongdoing over allegations that he failed to act on a disclosure about a sexual assault by a CIoF member in 2014.
The full report of the investigation was not released, and the CIoF said that Tell Jane, the HR agency that conducted it, had warned everyone who gave evidence to or took part in the investigation before the results were published. But this has since been disputed.
Responding to complaints that people involved in the Lewis investigation had not been told about the publication of the report, Claire Rowney, chair of the CIoF, said on Twitter that she was "incredibly sorry" and promised to investigate.
"The board were informed that all witnesses had been contacted by Tell Jane – please accept my apologies while I investigate," said Rowney.
A fuller investigation into the allegations of assault themselves is expected to conclude in July.
Davision, chief executive of Refuge, and Caldicott, who is founder of the social justice consultancy ChangeOut, both said they believed the complainants.
But they said they would not resign as fellows over the issue, although they respected anyone who did make that choice.
In a joint statement, they said: “We are choosing to remain as fellows of CIoF [as] someone who unconditionally believes the women in the room, and we’ll use whatever limited power and influence we have to fight for them and to continue to influence for change on their behalf.
“Unfortunately our analysis is that this is required at the moment.”
Both fellows said they would stay until the final report was published and discussed at the membership body’s annual general meeting in July, “at which point certainly we will be reassessing our decision”.
They paid tribute to the women who had come forward with complaints for continuing to fight for themselves and other women, despite the personal cost.
“They should not have been silenced in this investigation,” said Caldicott.
They both urged women who had complaints about sexual misconduct, or the handling of previous complaints, to come to them for help and support if they felt they were struggling to be heard or to get answers.
“This is a sector of women, and this is our obligation to the women who come after us, who we care about a lot,” said Davison.
“Misogyny is rife in our society, it is rife in our sector, and we know that our sector needs to change if women are to be safe.”
Caldicott agreed, saying: “Keeping women safe in fundraising should be the CIoF’s absolute mission.”