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Vulnerable Person Policy

Policy Statement

Fundraising activities, public support and public trust are all essential to Barnardo’s ability to achieve its overall objective of delivering better outcomes for more children.

We believe that giving to your favourite causes should be a positive experience for all, whether an existing donor or potential new supporter. Everyone should have the opportunity to donate if they are able to, but Barnardo’s recognises that it is inevitable that some of the many people that we engage with through our fundraising activities  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 Barnardo’s, or the consequences of making that donation.

Barnardo’s also understands that people in vulnerable circumstances may need further support before making a decision about whether to make a donation.

Barnardo’s recognises that it has an obligation to protect those in vulnerable circumstances. Whenever we suspect that someone we engage with is lacking capacity or is in vulnerable circumstances, we will take steps to terminate the contact in a way which seeks to protect that person while protecting their dignity and having due regard for any desire they have expressed to support Barnardo’s.

In particular, we recognise that some fundraising activity (such as telephone fundraising or door to door fundraising) carries higher risks in balancing the right to give and the need to protect. In these circumstances, whenever a fundraiser suspects that a person may be vulnerable; our approach is to immediately end the engagement. This should always be done politely, and without making a request for a donation or any direct enquiries about the individual’s capacity to make a decision or the existence of vulnerable circumstances. This approach applies in all fundraising areas whether delivered by our direct employees and volunteers or through a third party or agency. Barnardo’s will provide alternative options for the individual to engage with us once the conversation has ended, thereby upholding the right that everybody has to donate if they wish to and are able to do so.

Sector Guidance

The Institute of Fundraising’s (IoF) Code of Fundraising practice states that:

  • 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.

Barnardo’s recognises that it may be difficult in some situations for fundraisers to make a clear-cut decision as to whether or not someone is in a vulnerable circumstance or lacks capacity. The person is likely to be a stranger to the fundraiser; the interaction can be short-lived and may not be in person. Barnardo’s provides guidelines for fundraisers but our approach is always to err on the side of caution.

Our approach has been informed by guidance from the Institute of Fundraising (IOF), in particular, their document:

  • ‘Treating Donors Fairly’  - Guidance for fundraisers responding to the needs of people in vulnerable circumstances and helping donors make informed decisions. Click here for more information.


Vulnerable Supporter  – an individual that finds it difficult to immediately make an informed decision about the choices offered to them.  A vulnerable supporter may experience all or none of the following:

  • a diagnosed condition such as dementia
  • a recent bereavement
  • an undiagnosed or temporary mental health condition such as severe anxiety
  • learning difficulties
  • difficulty understanding the language

What the policy involves

Barnardo’s is compassionate towards its supporters and will never exploit vulnerability.  We will always do everything we can to assist supporters to make informed decisions about the support they choose to give to Barnardo’s.

We fully comply with the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Fundraising Practice and, when dealing with supporters via telephone, we follow guidance provided by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), specifically:

  1. Barnardo’s only works with telephone fundraising professionals that agree and follow the DMA’s guidelines for call centres dealing with vulnerable consumers (August 2015).
  2. Barnardo’s allows supporters or those acting on their behalf to declare vulnerability.
  3. Barnardo’s will not contact supporters with the aim of asking for an increase in their giving where the supporter’s records indicate a declaration of vulnerability.
  4. Regardless of if a declaration has been made or not, Barnardo’s does not accept donations where it has reason to believe that a supporter may be experiencing vulnerable circumstances and accepting the donation would be ethically wrong and/or harmful to the donor.
  5. Should a situation arise where Barnardo’s becomes aware that it has unknowingly accepted donations from an individual during a time that he or she was experiencing vulnerable circumstances, it will endeavor to return all donations accepted during this period.
  6. Should Barnardo’s receive information regarding a supporter’s vulnerability from a third party, it will not act on any request to alter the supporters’ preferences unless the third party can provide evidence that he or she has authority to act on behalf of the supporter.

If Barnardo’s becomes aware of a situation where a third party agency acting on its behalf has not acted in accordance with this policy, it may stop working with the agency or ask that individual fundraisers responsible for non-compliance with the policy be removed from Barnardo’s campaigns.

Barnardo’s recognises that it may sometimes be difficult for fundraisers to assess the vulnerability of a supporter.  In cases where a fundraiser is unsure, they must ask their manager for a second opinion and approval to accept any donation.

If you believe you have interacted with a vulnerable supporter and you are concerned about their welfare, you must follow Barnardo’s Safeguarding Policy.