Scandal-hit Presidents Club to close as charities hand back donations 

25 Jan 2018 News

The Presidents Club, which is under fire over sexual harassment at its recent fundraising event, has said it will shut down, after a number of charities said they plan to hand back donations. 

Yesterday evening the Presidents Club Charitable Trust announced that it would hold no more fundraising dinners and that the charity would wind up, after it was widely condemned by charities, fundraisers, the media and the Charity Commission.

NCVO and The Institute of Fundraising had urged charities to think carefully about whether they should accept donations. Yesterday several charities indicated their intention to give back not just this year's donations but those from previous years.

Refusing donations 

Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, Evelina London Children’s Hospital at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, Child Bereavement UK, and STV Children’s Appeal have all said they will hand back donations.

No charities have indicated that they will accept donations from the charity, and those saying that they will turn them down in future include Anthony Nolan, Treloar Trust, Leonard Cheshire Disabily and the Children's Trust.

In 2016 the Presidents Club made 49 separate grants totalling over £1m to different charities, ranging from £280,000 to GOSH to much smaller amounts of around £5,000. 

It is unclear what the charity’s grantmaking policy was or whether grants were connected to specific auction lots, but one charity said its donation was connected to a celebrity appearance fee which was donated via the Presidents Club. 

MPs call for action  

The issue was raised in the House of Commons yesterday by Jo Swinson, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats. 

She also co-ordinated a letter to the trustees, which was signed by over 40 MPs, raising concerns about the event. 

“There can be no place in 2018 for respectable fundraising events which objectify women and subject them to groping and harassment,” they said. 

The letter said she had she had submitted a complaint directly to the Charity Commission. 

Charity Commission response 

Yesterday the Commission said it was urgently investigating the allegations and would ensure the charity is wound up properly. 

Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, wrote back to Swinson and said: “We will continue to deal robustly with any misconduct or mismanagement that we find and will consider what further regulatory action may be required.”

She also said that the Commission has had no previous complaints about the charity. 

Trustee quits other roles 

Meanwhile David Meller, one of the Presidents Club’s three trustees, has stood down from senior roles with other organisations. 

He has resigned from being a non-executive director at the Department for Education and from being a trustee at the Mayor’s Fund for London. 

 

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