Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) can't say whether it will actually be able to give back donations it received from the Presidents Club, which it vowed to return when the club's fundraiser found itself at the heart of a sexual harassment scandal in January.
The London-based children's hospital had received £530,000 worth of funds raised by the charitable trust between 2009 and 2016.
An investigation by the Financial Times revealed a string of sexual harassment allegations at a Presidents Club fundraiser at the Dorchester hotel in London, leading some charities to reject donations from the organisation, including those that had already received money.
GOSH was not due to receive money from the last event. "We would never knowingly accept donations raised in this way," a spokesperson for GOSH, a major beneficiary of the charity, said at the time. "We have had no involvement in the organisation of this event, nor did we attend and we were never due to receive any money from it."
But it turns out that returning the funds is not straightforward, and GOSH is currently unable to confirm if and when it will give money back to the Presidents Club, which, following the FT's revelations, has shut down.
Sky News has reported that the trustees of GOSH's fundraising arm are discussing whether to overturn the pledge. A spokesperson for GOSH told BuzzFeed News that they were in discussions with the Charity Commission, the UK government's regulating body for charities, and that a final decision on what to do with the money would be made by GOSH's trustees next month.
"Guiding all our thinking is our aim to maximise the support to the hospital and the families it cares for," the spokesperson said.
"We can confirm that we are in discussions with the Charity Commission and are scheduled to meet them later this week.
"Following this meeting and taking into account the latest developments with the Presidents Club Charitable Trust and feedback from our supporters, we will consider our position at our March Trustee meeting.”
According to the Fundraising Regulator, an independent regulator of charitable donations, the Charity Commission's approval could be needed to return funds in a situation such as this, particularly if "it is not immediately clear what the ‘best interests of the charity’ are in relation to the proposed donation of large sums of money."
Following GOSH's announcement that it would return funds from the Presidents Club, members of the public flooded the children's hospital with donations to account for its loss. In guidelines issued in January, the Charity Commission said it may not always be legally possible to return donations that had already been received.
"Depending on the terms of the donations and how the funds were raised, there may be restrictions on whether a donation can be returned and the Commission may need to authorise such returns," the guidelines read.
"Charities should seek the Commission’s advice about whether our authorisation is required in their specific case."
A spokesperson for the Charity Commission said that the organisation was in discussions with trustees of GOSH to offer guidance on the return of donations from The Presidents Club, but did not confirm whether or not the money was due to be returned.
"It is up to a charity’s trustees to make the difficult decision as to whether they want to return a donation," the spokesperson said. "If they wish to do so they should seek advice from the Commission about whether our authorisation is required in their specific case."