Claire Rowney, Chair of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, is to step down from the Board at the forthcoming AGM.
She has served as Chair for a year, but has been a Board member since 2018, including service as Vice-Chair. All these roles are voluntary.
Rowney said she was stepping down “with a heavy heart”, but told Institute members that “I hope in small part I have made a positive contribution to the Chartered Institute as a proud fundraiser. I became a Trustee to help a sector I love and to celebrate and promote the dynamic and powerful collective we are.”
In her announcement, she explained that she believed stepping down was “the right thing to do both for the organisation and for me personally” and that “fresh leadership at both executive team and board of Trustees will ‘enable the organisation to finally move forward.”
She added: “I am, and always will be, a passionate advocate for women in fundraising and I want every single woman affected by this to know that I believe them and am here to support them.”
Appointed Chair in June 2020 she has served in that role throughout the pandemic, a period of challenge both for the Institute and for many of its members and the organisations they fundraise for.
This has also been the period when the Chartered Institute has faced internal and public criticism from some members for its handling of allegations of sexual harassment going back to 2014. Its Chief Executive Peter Lewis, who stepped down in March this year after nearly 10 years in the role, was criticised too, although an independent investigation recently “found no wrongdoing” on his part in this regard.
Rowney quickly apologised personally when one fundraiser and member complained that, having contributed information to the investigation, she had not been contacted about the outcome before it was announced publicly.
Rowney said: “I’m incredibly sorry that you weren’t contacted about the outcome and that others who courageously participated in investigations have not been… Please accept my apologies while I investigate.”
Tell Jane, the specialists in preventing workplace harassment, bullying and discrimination which carried out the investigation, confirmed that “it is not the role of an investigator to communicate the results of an investigation with witnesses. This is the responsibility of the CIoF on receipt of a full investigation report, which we provided.”
At no point did we receive instruction by the CIoF to notify victims or witnesses involved in the investigation into Peter Lewis nor did we confirm that we would do so. It is not the role of an investigator to communicate the results of an investigation with witnesses. This is the responsibility of the CIoF on receipt of a full investigation report, which we provided.
Indeed, the Institute’s handling of the allegations and its announcements of its actions and decisions have received strong criticism from some members, with at one point the voluntary Chairs of the regional and special interest groups publishing their joint criticism.
Dhivya O’Connor, Interim Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute, who was appointed just last month, thanked Rowney for her leadership and contribution, saying:
“On behalf of the Chartered Institute, I would like to thank Claire for her leadership and contribution to the fundraising community in this role. In the brief time that I have got to know her, I have been inspired by her vision, passion and dedication.”
Other Board members to step down
Current Trustee Ian Wilson will also step down from the Board at the AGM for personal reasons.
The Board have also confirmed that “as part of their commitment to continually refresh the Board”, current Trustee Liz Tait has volunteered to step down at the end of the year.
The CIOF’s Annual General Meeting takes place on Monday 5 July at 14:30 via Zoom. Claire Rowney will remain in her role until then.
Chair’s message to members
Claire Rowney has been Executive Director of Fundraising, Marketing and Communications at Macmillan Cancer Support for two years.
Before that she was Executive Director of Fundraising and Marketing at Save the Children for two years, following 10 years at Cancer Research UK where she was Head of Events, followed by Head of Corporate Fundraising, and then five years as Director of Innovation, Campaigns and Events.
Today she sent this message to members of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising.
“After three years as a Trustee, Vice-Chair and most recently Chair, I hope in small part I have made a positive contribution to the Chartered Institute as a proud fundraiser. I became a trustee to help a sector I love and to celebrate and promote the dynamic and powerful collective we are.
“However, it has been a very difficult year as Chair, spending much of the time addressing failings of the past and present and not being able to move the sector or the organisation forward in the way I had hoped. So it’s with a heavy heart that I have decided to step down and make way for a new Chair, which I believe is the right thing to do both for the organisation and for me personally.
Currently, the role of Chair at the Chartered Institute needs someone who can dedicate more time to drive the change that is so badly needed and it is with regret that I have come to realise that individual is not me. Fresh leadership both on the executive team and board of Trustees will enable the organisation to finally move forward and I hope that by stepping away this new leadership will come forward and make the Chartered Institute a professional body the fundraising community can be proud of.
“I would like to wholeheartedly apologise for the hurt and disappointment that victims of harassment and abuse have had to endure and for any mistakes that happened during my time at the Chartered Institute. I am, and always will be, a passionate advocate for women in fundraising and I want every single woman affected by this to know that I believe them and am here to support them.”
Editor’s note: 18 June 2021
Part of a tweet by Claire Rowney quoted above was removed, regarding where responsibility lay for informing witnesses and victims of the investigation’s report and conclusions. A quote was added from Tell Jane, the investigating organisation, clarifying this.