Supporters in Vulnerable Circumstances Policy

At Breaking Barriers we are committed to offering the very best standards of supporter care, including for supporters who may be in vulnerable circumstances.

Share this

1.    Introduction

Breaking Barriers is committed to offering the very best standards of supporter care and protecting our supporters’ privacy, dignity and well-being. The ways in which we will respect, and protect, our supporters’ privacy are included in our Privacy Policy. That policy also explains supporters’ rights related to the use of their personal information, and how they can exercise those rights. 

Due to the nature of Breaking Barriers’ mission we also work in a trauma-informed way across all our activities, including fundraising. We seek to ensure a flexible, person-centred approach to identify and meet the individual needs of both clients and supporters.

Additionally, we know that, whether or not they have been impacted by trauma, occasionally some of our supporters might need a little extra help. And, if we think a supporter may be in vulnerable circumstances that could affect their capacity to make a decision about supporting us financially, or in other ways, we will do all we can to assist. 

Our guidelines for managing these situations are based on the Code of Fundraising Practice maintained by the Fundraising Regulator, which specifies the following: 

“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.” 

“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.” 

2.    Defining vulnerable circumstances

Vulnerability is not determined by factors such as age or sex or personal experience. Anyone can be in a vulnerable situation, at any point of their lives. And vulnerability will also vary from one person to another. Some examples of circumstances that might impact on a supporter’s capacity to make an informed decision are given below: 

  • Physical and mental medical conditions (both permanent and temporary)
  • Disability
  • Learning difficulties
  • Times of stress or anxiety (e.g. bereavement, redundancy)
  • Financial vulnerability (where a donation may impact a supporter’s ability to sufficiently care for themselves or leave them in financial hardship)
  • Homelessness
  • Poor understanding of English
  • Influence of alcohol or drugs

The impact of these circumstances will vary. Some supporters may retain full capacity for decision-making, but some might not. So, if we know that a supporter is in one of these circumstances, or another situation that might suggest vulnerability, we will assess their ability to make an informed decision on a case-by-case basis. 

Older people 

Older people are disproportionately affected by conditions such as dementia or hearing loss, which may make it harder to make an informed decision. However we do not assume vulnerability based on age alone. When communicating or fundraising with someone who is older, we will take reasonable steps to ensure that they understand the information and donation. We will look for signs that may indicate that the individual needs additional care and support to make an informed decision, and take appropriate steps to meet that need. 

People of refugee background 

We recognise that refugees may, in particular, be experiencing financial difficulties, stress or anxiety, or have a poor understanding of English, all of which may impact an individual’s ability to make an informed decision about supporting Breaking Barriers. However, we do not assume vulnerability based on refugee status alone. When communicating or fundraising with someone of refugee background, we will look for signs that may indicate that they need additional care and support to make an informed decision, and we will take appropriate steps to meet that need. 

3.    Behaviours suggesting possible vulnerability

We won’t always know if someone is facing a vulnerable circumstance. So our staff might need to make a decision based on the way a supporter behaves. Some examples of behaviours that may indicate a lack of capacity to make an informed decision are given below: 

  •  Unable to hear and/or understand what is being said 
  • Unable to read and/or understand information they are provided with 
  • Displaying signs of ill-health like breathlessness or making signs of exasperation or discontent 
  • Making a statement such as ‘I don’t usually do things like this, my husband/wife/son/daughter takes care of it for me’ 
  • Saying that they are not feeling well or not in the mood to continue 
  • Indicating in any way that they are feeling rushed, flustered, or experiencing a stressful situation 
  • Having trouble remembering relevant information, for example forgetting that they are already a regular donor to the charity (e.g., have an existing Direct Debit) or have recently donated 
  • Donating an unexpectedly large gift, particularly with no prior relationship (N.B. Many legacy and major donor gifts are given to charities on the basis of a fully-informed decision and in the absence of a previous relationship with the charity. But, when assessing vulnerability, if an unexpectedly large donation is made we will take this into account alongside other factors)

4.    What will we do if we think a supporter could be in a vulnerable circumstance?

If a Breaking Barriers member of staff feels that a supporter may be in a vulnerable circumstance, they should respond in the way that most suits that supporter and their situation. Our first priority is to help the supporter to understand the decision they are making. Some examples of ways we may do this are given below: 

  • Talk or write in clear language, avoiding words and phrases that may be hard to understand 
  • Talk clearly and slowly (but avoid shouting) 
  • Repeat information 
  • Try to reflect the terminology used by the donor which may help to increase/speed up their understanding 
  • Be patient and do not rush the individual 
  • Be upfront and tell the person why we are communicating with them and check they are happy to continue 
  • Check their understanding at relevant points in the interaction and ask if there is anything that needs further explanation 
  • Ask if they would like to talk to anybody else before making a decision 
  • Ask if the supporter would prefer to be contacted in a different way. E.g. If the conversation is taking place by phone, offer to send an email or letter 
  • Offer to contact the supporter at a different time 
  • Provide alternative formats of fundraising or campaigning materials (E.g. in different languages, in accessible formats) 

If the Breaking Barriers representative still believes the supporter is not able to make an informed decision about their support, they will:

  • Bring the interaction politely to a close 
  • NOT take a donation 
  • Flag the concern, and the reason for it, to the Head of Public Fundraising who, in conjunction with Breaking Barriers’ Safeguarding Team, will decide whether and how to proceed regarding future contact with the supporter 

After a donation 

If we receive information after a donation that makes us think the supporter’s capacity to make a decision about donating was impaired, we will assess whether the donation should be returned. 

5.    Supporting Breaking Barriers whilst in a vulnerable circumstance

Supporting a charity can be a very positive and rewarding experience, and we don’t want to stop supporters from engaging with us if they want to. We won’t therefore automatically assume that someone in vulnerable circumstances should not receive any further contact from us. 

However, in this situation we might decide to restrict contact of certain types, especially requests for financial support, or certain content if we think a supporter might find it upsetting. And, of course, if we are asked not to make any further contact, we will act on this request immediately whilst advising of any correspondence that may already be in process and therefore may still be received. 

If you feel yourself to be in a vulnerable circumstance, it is entirely your choice whether or not to mention this to us. However, if you do wish to discuss your circumstances, to help us engage with you in an appropriate way, we will agree with you what information you would like us to record and we will hold this information securely. 

If you have any questions about this Policy, or would like to discuss how Breaking Barriers engages with you, please contact the Head of Public Fundraising:

  • By post: Breaking Barriers, WeWork, Aldwych House, 71-91 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4HN  
  • By phone: 020 4541 0155 (select the ‘supporter care’ option from the phone menu)
  • By email: [email protected]