Consultant quits Chartered Institute's standards board saying she’s ‘ashamed’

15 Mar 2021 News

Claire Warner has resigned from the Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s standards advisory board in protest at how the umbrella body has handled sexual misconduct allegations.  

She handed in her notice on Friday via Twitter after seeing a discussion claiming that allegations had been ignored. The Chartered Institute says it takes the issue seriously, denies ignoring an allegation, but cannot comment on ongoing investigations. 

The Chartered Institute issued a statement on Friday afternoon, which it updated on Saturday after calls for clarification. 

‘I have never been more ashamed to be associated with an organisation’ 

On Friday Mandy Johnson, who has been a fundraiser and is a former chair of the institute's London committee, criticised the Chartered Institute. She claimed it had not responded to allegations of sexual abuse promptly. 

Others said they were appalled and demanded answers from the Chartered Institute. 

Warner, who is a culture and wellbeing consultant, joined the standards advisory board in October 2019. She also stepped down from her role with the Yorkshire regional committee 

The standards board advises on issues around best practice in fundraising, positions in relation to regulatory and legal matters, and oversees strategy for developing guidance and best practice resources. 

Warner tweeted: “Please accept this tweet as my formal resignation from your Standards Advisory Board and from your Yorkshire Regional Committee. Never before have I been more ashamed to be associated with an organisation.”

Chartered Institute: ‘Anyone affected by harassment must be listened to’

The Chartered Institute’s updated statement says it takes the discussions on Twitter seriously and explained how it is dealing with complaints. It also encouraged people to report issues via Tell Jane. 

However, it says it has chosen not to publish the findings or outcomes of investigations, “often in order to protect complainants”. 

Its statement reads: “It cannot be overstated how seriously we take the discussions highlighted on social media today. Anyone affected by harassment in any form must be listened to.

“We have previously stated that making the fundraising profession a safe place for everyone will always be a priority for us. This continues to be our commitment.” 

The Chartered Institute said it could not comment on speculation about current investigations. “However, we can confirm that when a serious complaint is made against a member we will suspend their membership while we investigate that complaint.” 

A second investigation discussed online involved an audio recording, which “claimed an allegation of sexual assault had been made previously and had been ignored,” the statement said.

“While we wouldn’t normally comment on a complaint where the outcome didn’t result in a sanction, we think it important to place on record that the investigation into the audio recording was conducted immediately, and found there was no evidence that a previous allegation had been made. 

“However, the substantive evidence of alleged sexual harassment that came to light during the investigation of that case is currently being considered as part of an existing and ongoing investigation.” 

Learning lessons 

The Chartered Instituted updated its complaints process in June 2019 and has commissioned Tell Jane to conduct a review of its effectiveness. 

“We will be sharing our learning and next steps with members and with the wider community once the board has had an opportunity to discuss it,” the statement says.

“We continue to actively encourage anyone to come forward to report their experience of any inappropriate behaviour by a member of the Chartered Institute or at a Chartered Institute event, no matter when the incident happened. Our complaints policy can be read here.

“An independent helpline provided by Tell Jane will provide confidential support for anyone seeking to understand how their complaint to the Chartered Institute will be handled. You can contact them on 0800 689 0843.” 

People have been sanctioned

Since 2019, the Charted Institute has “undertaken a number of investigations, several of which have resulted in specific sanctions”, the statement adds. 

However, it has not shared details of who has been involved in investigations, or what sanctions have been imposed.

Members of the Chartered Institute who breach its rules face being expelled from the umbrella body.  

Its statement continues: “Whilst we have not chosen to publish findings, often in order to protect complainants, we want to reassure members that the process has been well used and has delivered important results for the fundraising community.  

“At times we recognise that this may result in the impression that action is not taking place, but we wish to offer all members the utmost reassurance that this is not the case, and that we have chosen not to play out these cases in the public domain. In the future, we will seek ways to update members on actions taken without compromising the confidentiality of each process.” 

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