It’s time to recognise how fundraisers empower donors in vulnerable circumstances

08 September 2021
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In this blog Charlotte Sherman, Policy and Information Officer, gives some advice on the best way to work with vulnerable donors and says that it is about making sure these donors are empowered, not just supported.

Most fundraisers will have worked with a donor in vulnerable circumstances at least once in their career – whether they are a long-term supporter or finding out how best to give. Fundraisers’ knowledge of their charity’s services and continuous work to improve supporter experience means they are proactively creating frameworks that empower donors to make the best decision for themselves. This is why we have recently updated our guidance on Treating Donors Fairly, to capture the latest developments on best practise and regulation.  

As this has been a priority for the charity sector, we are now in a position to showcase our learnings and encourage others to adopt similar practises to guarantee anyone who finds themselves in vulnerable circumstances receives a great experience across the board. We were really pleased to be able to respond to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s consultation on vulnerable consumers to share our learnings and highlight opportunities to collaborate with fundraisers.

What can sectors new to this area learn from charities?

Every sector is moving at a different pace, but by adopting tried and tested methods used by charities, we can guarantee there is a consistent approach all-round. We hope the advice we shared with CTSI from the Treating Donors Fairly guidance – which includes questions to help establish if a donor is in a vulnerable circumstance, advice on how to adapt your communications quickly, and step-by-step guidance on creating an organisation-wide policy – will act as a blueprint for organisations who are still developing their own frameworks and policies.

Overall, the best way to support donors in vulnerable circumstances to make the best decision is by tailoring communications to the individual. The acceleration of digital transformation means fundraisers have more channels on which to communicate with donors. They also have more content to choose from to ensure supporters receive clear information and can make an informed decision. The key is understanding their preferences and needs, then communicating with them on their terms. As guidance in this area progresses, we hope to see personalised multi-channel communications become the norm.

How can fundraisers collaborate with the private sector?

Many charities who have close ties to people in vulnerable circumstances are developing shared-value partnerships with corporates. The Samaritans’ partnership with Paddy Power Betfred shows us that this and can lead to much needed funds, whilst achieving the organisation’s mission. Equally, Mind’s workplace wellbeing offering highlights that charities can develop content in different formats to help businesses train staff. As more and more sectors start to prioritise the needs of consumers in vulnerable circumstances, charities from many causes – from mental health to homelessness – could start to consider how their knowledge can add value to existing and new partnerships.

What next?

Although charities have made huge progress in this area, as a sector we are still working to make sure donors in vulnerable circumstances are not simply supported, but empowered to fully feel the benefits of fundraising. Feedback from our members indicates donors in vulnerable circumstances want to give back, especially if they have accessed the charity’s services. Now, fundraisers need to consider the next steps in creating inclusive frameworks that deliver great supporter experience:


Have you got a great example of fundraisers empowering donors in vulnerable circumstances? We would love to hear it, please email 

Charlotte Sherman
Charlotte Sherman
Information and Policy Officer at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising
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