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Articles > Fundraising Ideas > An insight into: Engaging with Vulnerable People

An insight into: Engaging with Vulnerable People

Read our round-up of our recent webinar which provided advice for fundraisers, charities and development offices on engaging with vulnerable people, hosted by Jenny Robertson.

This July, as part of our mission to power communication with your community, we ran an insightful webinar which challenged the way that we approach supporting vulnerable people. 

Hosted by Jenny Roberston of Silver Marketing, the session provided advice on implementing and improving processes for fundraisers, charities and development offices. 

In the current climate, it has become even more necessary to rethink our strategy for supporting vulnerable people. While COVID-19 has created a difficult giving environment for charities and schools, we should be aware that many regular supporters' lives have been disrupted and they may now find themselves in a vulnerable position.

Define it: What is vulnerability?

As Jenny explained, many people may at some stage of their lives be considered vulnerable for a whole host of reasons, and this is often a temporary state. The main reasons that someone may become vulnerable include: health conditions that affect the ability to carry out everyday tasks; major life events that have a negative impact; having a low ability to withstand financial or emotional shocks; or having low knowledge and confidence in dealing with financial matters. 

As part of the Code of Fundraising Practice guidelines, you must take into account the needs of any possible donor who may be in vulnerable circumstances or need extra care and support to make an informed decision. Therefore, your fundraising team should ensure they are looking out for any signs of vulnerability to accurately assess a supporter’s ability to make a donation. 

Signs to look out for may include: appearing disconnected and responding irrationally to simple questions; confused and finding it difficult to focus or comprehend information, forgetful of the reason for the call or who you are, uncomfortable with the conversation or displaying signs of poor health. If a supporter indicates that they may be vulnerable, your team should implement processes to appropriately support them.

Communication tips and responding to vulnerable supporters

Noticing that a supporter may be in a vulnerable position shouldn’t have to equal closing the conversation, but there are communication processes you should follow to ensure your supporters are treated fairly and respectfully. Below are some best practice tips for if you are fundraising over the telephone:

  1. Be upfront and ensure that your supporters are aware of the reason for the call, and give them the option to be contacted in a different way (for example, through email or post)

  2. Reflect their terminology, speed and pitch; remain adult-to-adult in tone and speak clearly

  3. Be patient and don’t rush the conversation, and focus on the difficulties they may have with deciding to donate

  4. Listen carefully and summarise all key information, and check understanding throughout so that they can be informed to make their own decision

  5. Ask if they would like to speak to someone else before making a donation and follow up with emails or calls to give detailed information. Remember that the decision is always for the customer to make

For some people, this source of communication from a charity or school they regularly support will go a long way to providing some people in a vulnerable state with a sense of normality. Therefore, if you are having a conversation with someone that you think may be vulnerable, you may not need to end the conversation, but you should ensure that you follow the correct process for accepting donations.

Processes for accepting donations

  1. If a supporter appears vulnerable, or notifies you that they are, but you don’t have any further concerns, you can delay acceptance of a gift or include a cooling off period to ensure the donor has further time to consider their donation

  2. If a supporter appears vulnerable but you have concerns about their donation, consider implementing a process in your fundraising team to reassess the donation and engage your trustees. It may be necessary to decline the donation if the charity is reasonably satisfied that the reputational damage caused by accepting the donation will outweigh the monetary benefits. 

  3. If a supporter lacks capacity to make a decision, any donations should be refused or deferred. A donation may be returned as invalid if evidence is later received that the person lacked capacity to make the decision to donate.

Keeping records of vulnerable supporters

In line with the Data Protection Act, information regarding a person’s mental or physical condition can only be held with their consent. However, identifying supporters that may be vulnerable is important to ensure you can appropriately meet their needs during this time. All individuals can freely give information for charities to keep a note of which can be recorded on a database to help manage communications. 

For those that may be considered vulnerable but have not submitted any information, ToucanTech can help organisations to more easily identify supporters who may need extra support. By attaching a ‘quality assessment’ to a record which does not include any information about an individual’s condition or circumstance, fundraising teams can flag individuals to help guide fundraising actions. This can be reviewed periodically to keep records up to date and inform future interactions. If you would like more information about this function, email our team to let them know.

Shifting your mindset 

The spotlight will, no doubt, be focused on vulnerable customers as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, however as Jenny explained, you can use this time to shift your thinking and in line with your ethos and objectives, discuss and create a policy about how you can embrace and support those vulnerable people within your community. 

For more insightful advice, read this article about the key to telephone fundraising to make the most of your remote fundraising activity. 

If you would like to join us for a live webinar, click here to see our virtual events calendar. 

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