To ensure that we take all reasonable care to protect vulnerable adults, Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET) is registered with the Fundraising Regulator, adheres to the Fundraising Code of Practice as held by the Fundraising Regulator, and complies with the Institute of Fundraising’s guidance set out in ‘Treating Donors Fairly: Responding to the needs of people in Vulnerable Circumstances’.
These guidelines do not cover children and young people under the age of 18, and we do not actively seek donations from them.
PET relies on donations from individuals and organisations to fund our work – without our donors we could not provide essential educational opportunities to people in prison. We aim to communicate with supporters in the ways in which they are most comfortable and this includes mail, email, phone and in person.
Every donor is an individual with a unique background, experiences and circumstances – and every interaction between a fundraiser and donor is different. PET does not define vulnerable adults based on broad personal characteristics such as disability or age. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to donate if they are willing and able to do so, and that denying people the chance to give based on appearance, age or behaviour may be considered discriminatory.
It is inevitable that we will come into contact with people who are vulnerable and not able to make informed decisions about their giving. This document 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.
The Code of Fundraising Practice standards relating to vulnerability (Treating Donors Fairly, page 8) are:
“1.3.5. Your fundraising must meet equality law as it applies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. You must not discriminate against people with characteristics protected under the law of these countries. You can get more information from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
1.3.6 You must take all reasonable steps to treat a donor fairly, so that they can make an informed decision about any donation.
1.3.7 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.
1.3.8 You must not exploit the trust, lack of knowledge, apparent need for care and support or vulnerable circumstance of any donor at any time.
1.3.9 You must not take a donation if you know, or have good reason to believe, that a person lacks capacity to make a decision to donate, or is in vulnerable circumstances which mean they may not be able to make an informed decision.
1.3.10 If a donor makes a donation while they do not have the capacity to make an informed decision, you must return the money to them.”
PET fundraising practice abides by the four key principles of ‘Treating Donors Fairly’ (page 6), namely:
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.
Fundraisers need to be ready to adapt their approach and be flexible to meet the needs of individuals. It also means being prepared to ask questions or take additional steps when necessary.
Fundraisers should not make decisions based solely on a particular characteristics such as a person’s appearance, the way they talk, any medical condition, or disability. Fairness means responding to people as individuals.
Fundraisers should take responsibility for their actions, ensuring that their work is carried out in line with the Code of Fundraising Practice.
As stated in ‘Treating Donors Fairly’, all individuals may, at some stage in their life, be considered vulnerable or require additional care and support, depending on their own personal circumstances, health, bereavements, life events and more. These factors could affect people differently and for different periods of time. For instance, an individual could manage a family bereavement without obvious long-term distress, whilst somebody else may need more substantial support for a prolonged period of time.
An individual who may need additional care and support, or may be considered to be in a vulnerable circumstance, can still have capacity to choose to donate to a charity.
What is relevant is the context and circumstance that they are in at the time of making the decision about whether to donate. For example, a recently bereaved person may need additional support, but this may change over time. At the time of bereavement, they could still have the capacity to make a donation, but might 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 it; including a ‘cooling off’ period to allow the donor time to change his or her mind; and suggesting the donor gets advice from family/friends.
The following are examples of indicators which could mean that an individual is in a vulnerable circumstance or needs additional support:
It is not feasible to provide a comprehensive set of factors or characteristics which would enable fundraisers to always identify an individual who is in vulnerable circumstances. We therefore use the checklist set out in ‘Treating Donors Fairly’ (page 15) to help identify signs in verbal and written communications that an individual may be in a vulnerable circumstance (it should be noted some signs are more relevant for verbal communication than written):
Is the individual:
Having difficulty processing information:
Showing signs of distress or discomfort:
Indicating they are overwhelmed or not capable:
If one or more of these signs are noted, we may contact the donor to assess in more detail whether we believe the donor to be vulnerable. This contact would be made in line with our data protection policies and adhering to any communication preferences the donor has stated.
In some instances a supporter may actively declare their vulnerable status, or a family member of carer will alert PET. Where we have been given this information we act upon this, by asking the supporter or their family member/carer what kind of communication, if any, is acceptable.
If PET believes that an individual may be in a vulnerable circumstance or unable to make an informed decision, we will politely and carefully end our interaction with that individual, and make a file note of the engagement, including time, date, name of supporter, and the name of PET volunteer or staff member who was interacting with the donor. The Head of Fundraising & Communications will also be informed to assess whether there is a need for any further action.
If PET has reasonable grounds for believing that a supporter lacks the capacity to make a decision then their donation will not be taken.
If after a donation has been given, PET receives evidence that the person lacked capacity to make the decision to donate, then the charity will return the donation because the original donation was invalid.
If a donor is found to lack capacity, PET will put in place measures to ensure that donations are not solicited from them in the future. We will note the circumstances on our supporter database, mark the individual as “No Mail” and retain their information in line with data retention and financial control policies.
If appropriate, and as recommended in ‘Treating Donors Fairly’ (page 19), if an individual is expressing signs of being distressed and tells us that they are in a particular situation (e.g., they are recently bereaved, or have been diagnosed with a medical condition) then part of responding appropriately may be to let them know that there is a charity or service which might help them and passing on a phone number or website address if the individual is interested.
Should you wish to discuss any aspect of this policy, or would like to raise a concern about a supporter of PET whom you believe to be vulnerable, in the first instance, please contact Cassie Edmiston, Head of Fundraising & Communications:
T: 020 3752 5670
Prisoners’ Education Trust, The Foundry, 17 Oval Way, London, SE11 5RR
Fundraising Regulator: https://www.fundraisingregulator.org.uk/
Fundraising Code of Practice: https://www.fundraisingregulator.org.uk/code-of-fundraising-practice/code-of-fundraising-practice/
Chartered Institute of Fundraising ‘Treating Donors Fairly’: https://ciof.org.uk/events-and-training/resources/treating-donors-fairly
PET Vulnerable Donors Policy
Drafted: March 2017
Adopted: March 2017
Review date: May 2022
Next review date: May 2023
© Prisoners' Education Trust 2023