Speakers pull out of CIoF convention after 'shambolic' annual general meeting

Two people who were due to make presentations at the convention say they are also concerned about the membership body's handling of sexual misconduct complaints

Two speakers have announced they are withdrawing from the Chartered Institute of Fundraising Convention after criticism of the umbrella body's annual general meeting on Monday.

Matt Zeqiri, trusts and grants officer at the development charity Railway Children, and Hannah Harding, a corporate fundraiser, both said they would no longer be presenting at the event, which is due to take place in September.

Both cited the institute’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct against CIoF members and the CIoF board’s failure to answer questions about the issue at Monday’s AGM as the reasons for their withdrawal.

In a post published on the professional networking site LinkedIn, Zeqiri, who had been due to present a film to the convention, wrote: “This morning, I have withdrawn from the convention, following yesterday's shambolic AGM in which members' questions about the CIOF's handling of sexual harassment complaints were ignored, and discussions shut down.”

He described the CIOF's handling of the issue as “disastrous” and said it had “become worse with every opportunity to put things right”.

Zeqiri said: “The best-case explanation is staggering incompetence. Whatever the reason for the symphony of terrible decisions and responses over a number of years, women have been – and continue to be – badly let down.”

He went on to say he was not comfortable with being a part of any CIOF event until survivors and the rest of CIoF’s membership were satisfied with the handling of their grievances and that “substantive actions are being taken to protect women in the future”.

In response to a tweet by Zeqiri about the post, Harding wrote that she too had withdrawn from convention today “for similar reasons”.

She said: “As a survivor, I am uncomfortable presenting at an event organised by an organisation that isn't taking seriously reports of harassment or concrete steps to support survivors/victims.”

CIoF members have expressed frustration that the virtual meeting offered limited answers to queries, with one accusing the membership body of “blatantly ignoring questions” and another describing it as “a masterclass in question avoidance” and accused the umbrella body of failing to provide answers on key issues.

Late on Monday afternoon, the CIoF said it was “sorry for not getting to all the questions” and promised to arrange an additional Q&A session with trustees next week to “enable more discussion and more time to answer questions than the format of the AGM today”.

In March, allegations that the CIoF had repeatedly failed to act on reports of sexual misconduct by members at CIoF events surfaced on Twitter, and the institute commissioned investigations into both its alleged lack of action and the sexual misconduct allegations.

The CIoF has since faced criticism over the handling of the investigation, the agency chosen to run the investigation, confusing communications around the investigation findings, and failing to notify survivors before announcements were made.

The investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct is due to be completed at the end of the week.

In April, the CIoF said it had decided to move this year's convention back from its usual slot in early July to the end of September so it could focus on issues surrounding harassment in the fundraising sector. The event will be online-only.

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