Outcome of investigations into sexual harassment and actions to address organisational failures

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A report from the Board of Trustees, August 2021

Content warning: this page contains mention of sexual harassment.

Overview · Investigations · Organisational Failings · Tell Jane · Actions on Safeguarding · Commitment to change


This report sets out the outcomes of the investigation into several allegations of sexual harassment by a member of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising and that one of these incidents was reported to the former CEO and/or the Institute in 2014 and he and/or the Institute failed to act. It also sets out the organisational failures brought to light during this process and presents the learnings and actions being taken to address them.

We apologise to the survivors who experienced sexual harassment and would like to thank them for continuing to report these issues over many years and participating in a process that was more difficult and challenging than it should have been due to the way the complaints and investigations were handled by the leadership of the Chartered Institute.

Summary of investigations

After careful consideration of the evidence, the investigation concluded that the Chartered Institute member breached the organisation’s Code of Conduct as the behaviour, on the balance of probabilities, is likely to have taken place and to have amounted to sexual harassment as defined under the Equality Act 2010. This has resulted in the individual being immediately and permanently expelled as a member; removed as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute; and banned from all future Chartered Institute events. 

In May 2021, the investigation concluded into a complaint that the Chartered Institute of Fundraising failed to investigate a specific allegation of sexual harassment that was reported to the former CEO and/or the Institute in 2014 and he and/or the Institute failed to act. A public statement was made by the Chartered Institute in June 2021 that there was ‘no wrongdoing by Peter Lewis’. As part of addressing organisational failings and past mistakes, the Board would like to apologise for the wording of that statement, which we have now removed from the website. As CEO of the Institute during the relevant period, he bears responsibility, along with other trustees and staff, for not taking action sooner in tackling these cultural and organisational failings.

In the matter of the specific complaint of whether the former CEO and/or the Institute failed to act on a complaint of sexual harassment in 2014, the Board feels that there was not sufficient evidence available at the time to conclude definitively what happened. All evidence from the specific 2014 investigation and further evidence that is now available from the main investigation, will be passed to the wider independent review being commissioned by the Chartered Institute for new consideration.

Commissioning a new independent review to focus on the issue of concerns, reports, and complaints of sexual harassment not being acted upon appropriately by the Chartered Institute

To give confidence and rigour in reflecting on our past failings and ensuring the recommendations made and actions taken start to achieve the change needed, the Board has decided to commission an independent review which will focus on the evidence of the wider issues of concerns, reports and complaints of sexual harassment not being acted upon appropriately over time by the Chartered Institute.

The independent review will make recommendations to the Board, new CEO and Head of Professional Conduct, and the findings will be shared directly with members and published on the website. We will provide further details on this review, including who will be carrying out the work and the timescales, as soon as possible.

Summary of key organisational failings, actions, and learnings

The Board takes full responsibility and apologises for, the clear organisational and governance failings in our culture and processes that let down survivors.

Key organisational failures include:

This has meant that allegations were not responded to and acted upon at the time they were made and led to individuals involved being able to continue to participate in events, activities and training.

Action and learnings

The Board is committed to tackling harassment, discrimination and abuse in the fundraising community and addressing the organisational issues and failings that have become clear during these investigations. An Action Plan was agreed by the Board in March 2021 which set out the work on new processes, procedures, and cultural change that are needed. This was informed by a Learning Review which was commissioned by the Board in December 2020 to look at the the Chartered Institute’s complaints processes and handling of complaints related to sexual harassment, drawing on the details of a specific case, and asking for recommendations for improvement. These pieces of work, along with the findings of the investigations into sexual harassment, have given a clearer understanding of past failings and have helped us recognise the impact of them. They have also provided us with a clear direction and steps to take to embed the long-term systemic change needed across the organisation.

The Board wants to thank the survivors and allies who have fought so hard over many years. With a new CEO appointed, a new interim Chair in place, and three new trustees elected in July 2021, we are committed to taking all the steps and action needed to remedy the issues that their voices have brought forward.

Timeline of key documents and events referenced in this report

(For details of the timeline from 2014/15 of allegations of sexual harassment against a member and the Chartered Institute’s response, see the ‘Investigations’ section below.)


The Chartered Institute has conducted two investigations in 2021.  Both investigations were carried out by Tell Jane, an HR consultancy, which reported their conclusions and findings as well as recommendations on improvements for the organisation to make.

Complaints of sexual harassment by a Chartered Institute member

The investigation started in February 2021 into allegations made about this member’s behaviour. The allegations about this member relate to:

The investigation found that, on the balance of probabilities, the member’s conduct in relation to each of the allegations “is likely to have taken place and to have amounted to sexual harassment under section 26(1) of the Equality Act 2010”. The 'balance of probabilities' standard of proof means in practice is that it is more likely than not that the allegations are true.

The Investigations Committee reviewed the evidence and found that the member breached our Code of Conduct and that there was a case for disciplinary sanctions. In accordance with section 1.4 of the Complaints and Disciplinary Regulations 2019, the Chartered Institute has imposed the following sanctions on the individual:

The ban will be enforced through the new central screening process for participants in Chartered Institute events and activities, which has been developed through the Action Plan. The 2019 Complaints & Disciplinary Regulations do not cover publishing the name of the subject of complaint. As detailed at 12.2 of the 2021 Complaints & Disciplinary Rules, for future investigations, the Chartered Institute will publish a summary of adverse decisions on its website and this will normally exclude the identities of individuals except the subject of the complaint.

A timeline of the allegations and complaints raised during the investigation

The investigation identified that in addition to the complaint about the incident of sexual harassment at Fundraising Convention 2014, complaints and concerns had been raised about this member’s behaviour over many years by Group event participants. Chairs of the relevant Groups were aware of these concerns, and some had spoken to the member about his conduct.

The timeline and the number of complaints and allegations identified in this investigation highlights the organisational failings that meant that these were not acted upon appropriately over a number of years and let down survivors. The investigation concluded that the Chartered Institute was “aware but took no action to investigate ..; rather they relied on complainants making formal complaints”.

Complaint into the former CEO and/or the Institute not acting on a report of sexual harassment

In March 2021, the investigation that was underway into the member’s conduct was extended to include an allegation that the Chartered Institute of Fundraising failed to investigate an allegation of sexual harassment that was reported to Peter Lewis, then CEO, specifically in 2014. This investigation was completed in May 2021.

The investigation report stated that a potential witness ‘declined to be part of investigation’. However, it has become clear and is important to state that this person was not contacted again after the investigation was extended so the name should not have been included in the ‘Schedule of Interviews’ in the report.

The investigation found that no complaint about sexual harassment was formally recorded in 2014. The Board recognises the culture and processes that were in place at the time did not support individuals raising informal concerns and complaints. Improved safeguarding procedures are now in place, and these are being further strengthened with the recruitment of a Head of Professional Conduct.

The investigation concluded in May 2021 and a statement was made in June 2021 by the Chartered Institute that there was ‘no wrongdoing’ by the former CEO. The Board apologise for the wording of that statement. There was a failure to contact the women involved ahead of making this statement, for which the Board takes full responsibility and unreservedly apologises. The Board wants to clarify that the statement issued in June 2021 was not intended to suggest that the former CEO bore no responsibility for the identified failings in the governance and management of the Chartered Institute.

We recognise that by making that statement before completion of the overall investigation, we gave the wrong impression and caused hurt and distress. We understand that we should have waited for both investigations to conclude before providing any public statement so as to be able to place it in the wider context of the full investigation findings into sexual harassment and the organisational failures identified. The investigation findings in July 2021 included that the incident of sexual harassment at Fundraising Convention 2014 “is likely to have taken place and to have amounted to sexual harassment under section 26(1) of the Equality Act 2010”.

Having reflected on both investigations including additional evidence subsequently provided for the main investigation, the Board’s view is that there was not sufficient evidence available at the time of the investigation (into the complaint that the former CEO and/or the Institute did not act on an allegation of sexual harassment in 2014) to conclusively determine what happened. The Board has decided that the evidence provided for this investigation should be reviewed to include additional evidence that is now available from the main investigation. Furthermore, and given the narrow remit for the investigation that meant that only one reported incident was looked at, this will form part of a new wider independent review which we are commissioning into the issue of concerns, reports and complaints of sexual harassment not being acted upon appropriately by the Chartered Institute.

Organisational Failings

The undertaking of these investigations has brought to light clear organisational failings.

Significant failings were found in the Institute’s processes in 2019 when an allegation of sexual harassment was raised anonymously in Fundraising Magazine and the recorded testimony of the survivor was played by a third party to two members of staff. The Chartered Institute should have investigated the incident of sexual harassment described in the testimony and not have relied on someone coming forward to formally complain or submit the complaint in writing. There was also a clear lack of governance and oversight of the investigation; a lack of understanding on anonymity; a lack of clarity of the complaints process; communication failings with survivors; and a failure to properly record the content of some meetings.

The investigation into sexual harassment concluded: “There is a consistent theme that when complaints were raised, the response was that no formal complaint had been made, or no one had come forward. Where there are patterns of behaviour, as with the respondent [member under investigation], the Complaints and Disciplinary Rules allows for any trustee or the Chief Executive to initiate a complaint where he/she/they becomes aware of any matter concerning the conduct of a member, which in his/her/their opinion warrants inquiry under the regulations.”

The investigation reports made the following recommendations for improvement to address identified failings:

Training for staff and volunteers

Making it easier to make a complaint

Improvements to policies and procedures

These recommendations have either already been accepted and acted upon - as they cover similar areas that were identified in the Learning Review and Action Plan - or will be taken forward by the new Safeguarding Task Group.

Tell Jane

The Chartered Institute of Fundraising has been working with Tell Jane since July 2019 when the specialist HR consultancy was appointed to establish an anonymous reporting helpline service for staff, which was expanded to support members in December 2019.

Through the Learning Review produced by Tell Jane and its suggestions for improvement in conducting two investigations commissioned by the Chartered Institute, the consultancy has provided advice and challenge on the development of processes to help create a culture where people feel safe and supported to speak out against harassment, bullying and discrimination.

Tell Jane has decided to withdraw its reporting helpline service and will no longer carry out investigations on behalf of the Chartered Institute, with the two organisations having agreed to an amicable parting of ways. Tell Jane has been disappointed with how the Chartered Institute has handled the process: an aspect of this is the communication with the survivors and the lack of support provided from the outset of the investigation until this was addressed in June 2021.

Tell Jane will continue to offer its helpline function until the Chartered Institute has completed its recommissioning of this critical service for confidential advice and reporting of concerns and complaints. The Board will make sure that feedback is sought from members and people with lived experience in this process.

Actions on Safeguarding

Staff and trustees have worked hard to implement change, but we understand that this hasn’t gone far enough. The actions of safeguarding in the Action Plan set out the work underway on new processes, procedures, and cultural change.

Recruitment for the Safeguarding Task Group and Professional Conduct Committee will reopen in September and information will be sent to all members. Thanks to all the Group volunteers who have contributed to the interim Safeguarding Task Group and reviewing documents and proposed changes.

The Safeguarding Task Group will ensure that the Chartered Institute provides safe spaces for members and staff to share experiences of harassment, discrimination, and bullying, supported by processes that enable us to respond in a trauma informed way. The Group will report to members on how the suggestions to improvements from these investigations have been addressed as part of the work on the Action Plan.

The Professional Conduct Committee will have oversight of complaints and disclosures, and all subsequent investigations and disciplinary processes.

The Chartered Institute is currently recruiting for the key role of Head of Professional Conduct to manage these processes and we welcome applicants from across the four nations.

Safeguarding at Fundraising Convention

Updated and new safeguarding processes and procedures have been embedded ahead of Fundraising Convention in September:

Commitment to change

The Board has collective responsibility for the organisational failings set out in this report and in taking the actions taken to address these. The Board now has a Safeguarding and Whistleblowing Trustee with oversight of the complaints process and safeguarding work. The current Board includes three new trustees elected at the AGM in July 2021 and will be further strengthened by the new Chair and trustees to fill vacancies once the skills audit has been completed.

Katie Docherty, the new incoming CEO, staff and trustees have committed to the significant culture change needed and the principles that are set out in the Action Plan:

The Board wants to repeat our apologies and thanks to the survivors and allies who have fought so hard on these issues over many years.

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