Protecting people who could be vulnerable: Policy for Fundraisers

Introduction

Giving to charity should be a positive experience, whether someone is an existing or a new supporter. At Dementia UK, we are committed to fundraising in an honest and responsible way, so we take care to ensure we act appropriately with people who may be in vulnerable circumstances.

Dementia UK is a member of the Institute of Fundraising (IoF), is registered with the Fundraising Regulator and is committed to following the Fundraising Regulator Code of Practice. The standards set within this code outline the behaviour that is expected of fundraisers.

This policy outlines how we protect supporters who may be in vulnerable circumstances, identifies how we can identify such potential vulnerability and what action we will take.

The Fundraising Regulator Code of Practice states in the General Principles that:

i) “Fundraisers MUST take all reasonable steps to treat a donor fairly, enabling them to make an informed decision about any donation. This MUST include taking into account the needs of any potential donor who may be in a vulnerable circumstance or require additional care and support to make an informed decision.

ii) Fundraisers MUST NOT exploit the credulity, lack of knowledge, apparent need for care and support or vulnerable circumstance of any donor at any point in time”

An individual who may need additional care and support, or may be in a vulnerable circumstance

An individual who may need additional care and support, or may be in a vulnerable circumstance, can still have capacity to choose to donate to a charity.

All people  may, at some stage in their life, be in a vulnerable circumstance or require additional care and support. The reason for using the wording ‘an individual who may be in a vulnerable circumstance or require additional care and support’ rather than ‘a vulnerable person’ is to avoid labelling and defining people as being ‘vulnerable’, and to recognise the broad range of issues which may impact upon someone’s ability to make a decision to donate.

It is the context and circumstance they may be in at the time of making a decision about donating that is relevant. For example, a recently bereaved person may be in a vulnerable circumstance following the death of a family member, but this may change as time progresses. At the time of bereavement they could still have the capacity to make a donation, but may need additional support to help them make their decision.

Additional support may include: delaying acceptance of the gift to give the donor further time to consider their donation; including a ‘cooling off’ period if the donor changes their mind; or suggesting the donor gets advice from family/friends.

Capacity to make a decision

A person’s capacity to make a decision could be affected by personal circumstances and the context of the situation. Unless we have reason to believe otherwise, we will communicate with each of our supporters based on the assumption that they possess full capacity to make decisions around their own finances. However, we will look for indicators that could show an individual needs additional care and support or may be in a vulnerable situation.

 We will identify people in vulnerable circumstances through conversations and written communication. For example:

  • A supporter tells us they need additional care and support around decision making and are in a vulnerable situation.
  • The supporter’s family member, carer or person acting on their behalf indicates that they need additional care and support around decision making and are in a vulnerable situation.
  • Where we suspect that a person may be in vulnerable circumstances even though we have not been told so.

Key point: when a member of staff of the charity has concerns that that an individual might need additional care and support, or may be in a vulnerable situation, they should seek advice from one of Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurses (specialist dementia nurses). 

Where we have reason to believe an individual is in a vulnerable situation and lacks capacity to make decisions around their financial giving, we will immediately ensure this individual no longer receives fundraising communications from Dementia UK, including appeal letters and emails. If it is believed that an individual lacks the capacity to make a decision about the donation, then a donation should not be taken.

If after the donation is taken, the charity receives evidence that a person was in a vulnerable situation and lacked capacity to make the decision to donate, then the charity will return the donation, because it will be deemed that the original donation was invalid. The supporter database will be updated with the information that the donation has been refunded, and a note made that the supporter should not receive communications for the foreseeable future.

 How we will respond to an individual who needs additional care and support or who is in a vulnerable situation:

  • Be patient and don’t rush the conversation – it’s better to have a longer conversation than cut this short and leave the person confused or agitated in any way.
  • Ask if the person would prefer another method of communication e.g. offer to send information in the post or via email, so they have time to take in the information.
  • Ask the person if they need to speak with anyone else before making a decision.
  • Check their understanding of what they have agreed to – for example, ask them to repeat this information back to us.

All of the above will help to make sure that the person comes first and we give them time to make an informed decision, if they are capable of doing so.

Acting on behalf of an individual who needs additional care and support who is in a vulnerable situation (or family members / carers / Attorney)

If we are contacted by a family  member, carer or Attorney regarding an individual who they believe or know to be in a vulnerable circumstance, we will assume that they are able to make decisions on that individual’s behalf.

If, for example, they are concerned about a person who is receiving requests for financial support, we will act upon this, asking what kind of communication, if any, is acceptable. Our database will then be updated to reflect their wishes.

Age as an indicator of vulnerability

Age does not indicate whether a person is vulnerable or not. When communicating and fundraising with older people we will be mindful of the above indicators that may raise concerns that an individual could need additional support or be in a vulnerable circumstance.

However, if a supporter is identified as being under the age of 16, then we will immediately stop them from receiving fundraising appeals and calls.

Contact us

If you would like to speak to us about this policy or if you have any feedback please contact the Supporter Care team. You can do this via telephone (0300 365 5500), by email (supportercare@dementiauk.org), or in writing (Dementia UK, Second Floor, Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, London N7 6PA).