Zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment on my watch, new CIoF chief pledges

Katie Docherty tells Third Sector the approach will 'filter down through every single aspect of the organisation'

Katie Docherty

The new chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising has given “a cast-iron guarantee” that the organisation will take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment.

In an interview published in the latest edition of Third Sector, Katie Docherty pledges that change would “come from the top” at the beleaguered membership body.

Docherty took up the post in October, following a year in which the CIoF had faced repeated criticism over its handling of sexual misconduct complaints.

In March last year, allegations surfaced on social media that the CIoF had been made aware in 2019 of reports of sexual assault by one of its fellows at one of its own events and had failed to act.

Following an outcry from membership and fellows, the CIoF launched investigations into both its own handling of the issue and the sexual misconduct allegations themselves.

The same month, Docherty’s predecessor, Peter Lewis, announced plans to step down after almost 10 years in the role – but denied that his departure was connected to the allegations.

Days after he stepped down in June, the CIoF announced the investigation had “found no wrongdoing” by Lewis, but later clarified that the investigation “was unable to find sufficient evidence” of a complaint having been made directly to him over a specific incident in 2014, but did conclude a complaint was probably made to someone at the CIoF.

The remaining investigation, which concluded in August, upheld four allegations of sexual harassment against a CIoF fellow, who was not named, and found “clear organisational and governance failings” in “culture and processes”.

Docherty told Third Sector that in the months since the allegations surfaced, the organisation had done “the groundwork to get all the right procedures, tools and resources in place”.

But, she said: “Change has to come from the top.

“I am personally absolutely committed to that, and I have a zero-tolerance approach to any kind of harassment or inappropriate behaviour.

“That will come from me, from the chair of the board and that will filter down through every single aspect of the organisation.

“I give a cast-iron guarantee that I will do that and I am committed to that.”

The organisation is due to launch a new strategy this year, following a series of roundtable discussions and feedback forums with members, staff, volunteers and other stakeholders in the wake of the sexual misconduct crisis.

In the meantime, Docherty said the institute would focus on three key areas: ensuring the organisation is effectively supporting fundraisers, championing the fundraising profession and becoming a leader on equity, diversity and inclusion.

The full interview is available to subscribers in the latest edition of the magazine and will be published on the Third Sector website.

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