All staff and Trustees should take reasonable and appropriate steps to identify vulnerable supporters and take appropriate steps to ensure they are treated appropriately and with dignity.
As fundraisers we connect individual supporters with the street children they support through a variety of communication channels including mail, email, phone and in person.
We work to protect the dignity of some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children and this protection of dignity also applies to our supporters in the UK who choose to donate or raise funds for Toybox. Fundraising should be a positive experience for the supporter and one that leaves them knowing their voluntary donations have impacted on the lives of the children they are supporting.
It is inevitable that we will come into contact with people in the UK who are vulnerable and not able to make informed decisions about their giving. This can happen either through our own communications or through the agencies who work on our behalf.
This policy outlines how we take all reasonable care to identify supporters who may be vulnerable, and what action we take if we suspect a person is vulnerable.
Our Supporter Promise
Detailed below is our general supporter promise which cements all our interactions with Toybox supporters and the public. These are the foundations on which our Vulnerable Persons Policy is built on.
Your personal information:
- We will always process and store your personal information in line with the Data Protection Act of 1998.
- We will store your personal information securely and only use it for the purposes for which it was given to us – your support of street children.
- We have not and do not sell or otherwise share your data with any third party outside of our own rigorously assessed suppliers – and then only with regard to your support.
- These suppliers will then destroy this information once it has been used for the purpose Toybox stipulated.
- We will carefully research and train any third party working on our behalf to ensure that they are operating in a way that is appropriate and compassionate.
- We will disclose your data if required to by law.
- We will use your donations carefully and responsibly in the best interests of the street children we support.
- We will fundraise with transparency, minimising costs wherever possible.
- We will fundraise in line with the policies and requirements of the Fundraising Regulator. - We do not engage in cold telephone calling and will only call people who already support our work.
- We will show you the difference that you have made, in line with your personal communication preferences.
- We will be honest in the stories we tell and how we tell them, without exaggeration.
- If you decide to discontinue your support we will respect this decision and take the necessary steps in line with your requirements.
We abide by the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Fundraising Practice, which state:
“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.” “Organisations MUST consider the needs and situation of vulnerable individuals before embarking on face-to-face legacy fundraising activity.” If one of our staff members or fundraisers reasonably believes that a supporter is unable to make a decision or is in a position which does not allow them to make a donation, then a donation is not to be taken or accepted. We have a duty to treat supporters fairly and respond to their needs. See below for definitions of vulnerability and ways in which vulnerability can be identified.
Types of Vulnerability
By vulnerable, we mean those who are lacking the ability, either temporarily or permanently, to make an informed decision on their own.
It is not feasible to provide a comprehensive set of characteristics which would always identify an individual who is considered to be vulnerable. We follow best practice as laid out below to cover the main indicators and have faith in our staff and fundraisers to identify vulnerability when it lies outside these parameters.
There are a number of factors which can contribute to vulnerability. The following can be classed as permanent vulnerability according to the British Medical Association’s ‘safeguarding vulnerable adults’ paper:
- A particularly frail person
- An individual with a mental disorder, including dementia or a personality disorder
- An individual with a significant and impairing physical or sensory disability
- An individual with a learning disability
- An individual with a severe physical illness
- An individual who is homeless
In addition we define an individual as vulnerable in the case of the following factors:
- An individual who is experiencing financial vulnerability
- An individual with a severely reduced understanding of English
Where an individual is permanently vulnerable – we will flag their record on our database as “vulnerable person” and they will not be contacted again. In the case of a face to face meeting – the fundraiser will not continue the ask for a donation to Toybox
The following can be classed as temporary vulnerability:
- An individual who is experiencing a time of stress or anxiety, e.g. bereavement, unemployment, family breakup, etc.
- An unpaid carer who is overburdened, under severe stress or isolated
- Where an individual finds the subject matter of the call upsetting
- An individual under the influence of drugs or alcohol
In the cases of temporary vulnerability, we opt the person out of a phone call and as with a face to face meeting we do not continue with a fundraising ask. However, temporary vulnerability does not necessarily mean that the person does not want to be contacted again.
Therefore, the supporter will be asked if they will allow us to call them or contact them by other communications in the future. The specific communication timing and channel is recorded.
How we Identify a Vulnerable Person
There are several indicators which can help to identify vulnerable adults by different communication channels.
Communicating by telephone or face to face
Indicators that a person may have a mental health issue:
- Asking irrelevant and unrelated questions
- Responding in an irrational way to simple questions
- Asking for questions or information to be repeated
- Taking a long time to respond or finding it difficult to respond
- Repeating questions they have asked
- Wandering off the subject
- Displaying signs of forgetfulness
Indicators of physical difficulties:
- Unable to hear or understand what is being said
- Unable to read and understand the information provided to them
- Displaying signs of ill health e.g. breathlessness or discontent
We can at times identify vulnerable adults through written communications:
- A supporter who has emailed or written to us to tell us they are permanently vulnerable (see earlier definitions)
If a supporter keeps on sending multiple gifts to an appeal
- The supporter’s family member or carer has indicated that they are vulnerable
- Letters we receive from people where their thoughts and wishes are not clear or consistent.
Family members / carers We may also be alerted to a supporter being vulnerable by a family member or carer. This is assessed on a case by case basis as we need to ensure we comply with the Data Protection laws as well as acting to protect the vulnerable person in question. Where we are given information we act upon this and our database is updated to reflect this. We cannot disclose any information to the family or carer in regards to the supporter unless they have power of attorney.
Telephone Agencies All agencies are provided with our Vulnerable Persons Policy and telephone calls are monitored regularly.
Do we use age as an indicator of vulnerability?
No. Age does not indicate whether a person is vulnerable or not. There are many older people who are active and leading comfortable lifestyles. So we will not make a judgement based on age. Equally a much younger supporter could be in a vulnerable position. Vulnerability needs to be assessed on the individual’s circumstances.
If a supporter is identified as being under the age of 16, then we must remove them from fundraising appeals and calls.
Responding to the needs of a vulnerable person
- Be patient and do not rush the conversation – it’s better to have a longer call or conversation than to cut this short and leave the supporter confused or agitated in any way.
- Ask if the individual would prefer another method of communication, e.g. offer to have some information sent in the post or via email, so they have time to take in the information.
- Ask if they need to speak with anyone else before making a decision.
- Check their understanding of what they have agreed to – e.g. ask them to repeat back what they have agreed to.
All of the above will help to make sure that the individual comes first and give them time to make an informed decision, if they are capable of doing this.
What we do if we suspect a supporter is vulnerable
We follow the Institute of Fundraising guidance if we suspect that a donor lacks the capacity to make a decision about making a donation: a donation should not be taken. If after a donation is taken the charity receives evidence that the person lacked capacity to make the decision to donate, then the charity can and should return the donation because the original donation was invalid. If a donor is found to lack capacity, the organisation should put in place measures to ensure that donations are not solicited from them in the future.
Basis for this policy
This policy is based upon the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Fundraising Practice.
This policy is relevant to the work of all Toybox staff that has any dealings with supporters.