Henshaws Vulnerability Policy

Read Henshaws Vulnerability Policy which covers Henshaws commitment to fair treatment of supporters that demonstrate vulnerable circumstances. It is applicable to all staff, volunteers, trustees and anyone acting on behalf of Henshaws.


This policy covers Henshaws commitment to fair treatment of supporters that demonstrate vulnerable circumstances. It is applicable to all staff, volunteers, trustees and anyone acting on behalf of Henshaws.

Giving to your favourite causes should be a positive experience for all, whether an existing donor or potential new supporter.  Henshaws recognises that some of the many people that we engage with through our fundraising activity will not always have the capacity, at the point of the interaction, to fully understand the nature of the donation they are being asked to give to Henshaws, or the consequences of making that donation. Henshaws also understands that people in vulnerable circumstances may need further support before making a decision about whether to make a donation.

As a member of the Fundraising Standards Board we have committed to following the Code of Fundraising Practice. The standards set within it outline the behaviour that is expected of fundraisers and form the basis upon which the Fundraising Standards Board can investigate and adjudicate complaints about fundraising practice.

The IoF’s Code of Practice states in the General Principles:

  • 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.
  • If a fundraiser knows or has reasonable grounds for believing that an individual lacks capacity to make a decision to donate, a donation MUST NOT be taken.
  • A donation given by someone who lacked capacity at the time of donating MUST be returned.
  • Organisations MUST NOT engage in fundraising which:
    • Is an unreasonable intrusion on a person’s privacy;
    • Is unreasonably persistent;
    • Places undue pressure on a person to donate.

In all our dealings with supporters Henshaws fundraising team adhere to the following principles:

  • Respect – treating all members of the public respectfully. This means being mindful of and sensitive to any particular need that a donor may have. It also means striving to respect the wishes and preferences of the donor, whatever they may be.
  • Fairness – all donors should be treated fairly. This includes not discriminating against any group or individual based on their appearance or any personal characteristic.
  • Responsiveness – this means responding appropriately to the different needs that a donor may have. The onus should be on the fundraiser to adapt his or her approach (tone, language, communication technique) to suit the needs and requirements of the donor.
  • Accountable – it is up to fundraisers and charities to take responsibility and care to ensure that their fundraising is happening to a high standard.

Our approach has been informed by the Institute of Fundraising document:

Treating Donors Fairly –


Vulnerable Supporters

The fundraising team are always sensitive to signs that may indicate that an individual is in vulnerable circumstances and needs support to make an informed decision and take appropriate steps.

If we reasonably believe the individual lacks capacity to make that decision then a donation will not be taken or will be returned.

What does ‘vulnerable circumstance’ mean?

 It is not possible to provide a comprehensive set of factors or characteristics which would enable fundraisers to be able to always identify an individual who is in a vulnerable circumstance, may require additional support, or lack capacity. Instead, what follows is a (non-exhaustive) list of indicators which could signal that someone may be in a vulnerable circumstance or lack capacity:

  • Asking irrelevant and unrelated questions
  • Responding in an irrational way to simple questions
  • Asking for questions or information to be continually repeated
  • Saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at times that it is clear they haven’t understood
  • Taking a long time or displaying difficulty in responding to simple questions or requests for information
  • Repeating simple questions such as ‘who are you, what charity is it, what do you want
  • Wandering off the subject at hand and making incongruous statements
  • Displaying signs of forgetfulness

The displaying of physical difficulties by the donor does not necessarily indicate any issues of vulnerability or mental capacity. However, if a donor is experiencing or exhibiting any form of physical difficulty or distress, this could impact on their ability to make an informed decision on their donation at that time and should be addressed by a fundraiser acknowledging and addressing that need. Indicators that the individual may have physical difficulties are:

  • Unable to hear and understand what is being said
  • Unable to read and understand the information they are provided with
  • Displaying signs of ill-health like breathlessness or making signs of exasperation or discontent

Older people, particularly those over 60, are increasingly the most generous when it comes to giving. As such, it is likely that they will be contacted and engaged by fundraisers. When communicating and fundraising with older people we are mindful of the above triggers which may indicate that an individual could need additional support or be in a vulnerable circumstance. We do not avoid approaching or engaging in fundraising with people because of their age. If we were to actively avoid someone on the basis of their age, this would be denying someone the opportunity to give a donation because of their age and may be taken to be discriminatory.

If we suspect vulnerable circumstances

 How we respond to the needs of an individual will be dependent on the nature of the interaction and engagement. Fundraisers should be responsive to the needs of an individual and adapt his or her approach to suit those needs and the context. Examples of how a fundraiser can respond to the needs of an individual:

  • Talk in clear language, avoiding words and phrases that may be hard to understand
  • 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
  • Provide alternative formats of fundraising materials where appropriate
  • Be upfront and tell the person why you are communicating with them and check they are happy to continue
  • Ask if they would prefer to be contacted in a different format and offer to contact them at a different time
  • Ask if they would like to talk to anybody else before making a decision
  • Check their understanding at relevant parts of the interaction and ask if there is anything that needs further explanation
  • If they are in financial difficulty, suggest other ways of making a difference and supporting our work without putting themselves in financial hardship

We never wish to offend supporters. However, the risk of taking donations from someone who is unable to make an informed decision outweighs the risk of causing offence by asking additional questions.

If the fundraiser has reasonable grounds for believing that the individual that they are fundraising with lacks the capacity to make a decision about the donation then a donation will not be taken. If after the donation is taken we receive evidence that the person lacked capacity to make the decision to donate, then we will return the donation.

Henshaws must weigh up the benefits of receiving a donation i.e. increasing the pool of funds available to potential beneficiaries versus the reputational damage that may be caused by accepting the gift. For a donation to be refused, or returned, the charity must be reasonably satisfied that the damage caused by accepting the donation will outweigh the cash benefits.

If a donor is found to lack capacity, Henshaws will put in place measures to ensure that donations are not solicited from them in the future. An individual who may need extra help and support or is in a vulnerable circumstance at one point in time may not be in that position later on in their life. For example, medical conditions, or times of particular stress (such as financial hardship) may improve over time. Rather than a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’, we will take a pragmatic and common sense approach allowing flexibility which enables appropriate fundraising according to the individual and the circumstance.

Third party contact

We follow the Institute of Fundraising guidelines that state:

If a third party contacts the charity e.g. a family member of the donor, the charity must be satisfied that the third party making the request is entitled to act on behalf of the individual. It is the third party’s responsibility to provide evidence of this entitlement. This might be a written authority on behalf of the donor, or might be a more general power of attorney for the third party to administer the donor’s affairs. In some cases a formal power of attorney may not be in place and the charity may instead have to rely on a written authority on behalf of the donor.

If the supporter is suffering ill health or does not have the capacity to notify us of changes to their contact details, donations etc. we may, if appropriate, act on requests by the family member. But we will always confirm our action in writing to the supporter directly in case they did not wish the family member to act on their behalf.

Henshaws will not return a donation where the donor simply made a bad decision and was not in a vulnerable circumstance.  Where it is felt a case for an exceptional “ex-gratia” payment might exist please contact the Director of Fundraising, fiona.ashcroft@henshaws.org.uk. Such payments may require the consent of the Charity Commission before they can be made.