More speakers pull out of the CIoF's annual convention

At least two more speakers have pulled out of speaking engagements at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s annual convention in the wake of criticism about its handling of sexual harassment complaints.

Jon Cornejo, a consultant at JMB Consulting and organiser at the anti-racism campaign group CharitySoWhite, and the fundraiser Ruby Bayley have both withdrawn from a panel session due to be held at the conference in September.

Cornejo also said CharitySoWhite had pulled out of the online-only event.

Earlier this month, 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.

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 its annual general meeting as the reasons for their withdrawal.

Cornejo said they agreed to speak at the panel before the recent stories about the CIoF’s handling of sexual harassment allegations came to light.

“I have been watching the events unfolding, as have many others across the sector, and I have been shocked but not surprised at the constant gaslighting and denialism that the survivors/victims have faced when speaking out,” Cornejo told Third Sector.

Cornejo said it was hearing of Bayley’s decision to step down that prompted them to withdraw from the same panel session.

“When Ruby stepped down it reminded me that I was also down to speak at the ‘Fixing our sector’ panel and so I decided to step down in solidarity with those fighting for justice and for harassment complaints to be taken seriously," they said.

Cornejo said: “We all know that harassment is a huge problem in our sector, and there are many stories that remain untold.

“It is incredibly hard for anybody to come forward and share their experiences of this, which is why it’s so important that leaders and HR departments take all complaints seriously.

“But we know that often complaints are dismissed and perpetrators are protected.

“In all of this we must centre the voices and experiences of those that have spoken out and shared their own stories and experiences.

“There are many people across the fundraising world that are standing in solidarity with them through all of this, and I hope me stepping back adds pressure for transformative change at the CIoF.”

Cornejo said there was a need for a conversation on fixing issues including racism, sexism, sexual harassment, bulling and homophobia.

“At a time when the focus should be on how the CIoF can transform itself to become a safer space for everyone and take sexual harassment complaints seriously, we do not feel that the CIoF convention is the right space for that conversation,” they said.

“We urge all charity leaders to think about what they can do to build a workplace culture that is safe and welcomes all.”

A spokesperson for the CIoF said: “We’re sorry that they have decided to withdraw, but we respect their decision, and hope to welcome them to a future convention.

“We are listening to members and understand that we need to address the failings of the past and present.

“Our overwhelming priority is to urgently address a number of issues that will make us a better membership organisation where it is safe for anyone who experiences, witnesses or stands up against harassment or abuse.”

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