Keeping fundraising safe

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This page provides an introduction to safeguarding and provides key questions every charity should consider. It also links to further guidance.

What you need to do to help keep fundraising safe.

What is safeguarding?

Safeguarding is the approach, or actions taken, in order to protect people from potential harm.

Keeping people safe is vital for every fundraising organisation. Regardless of the core focus of your charitable mission or objective, the Charity Commission’s safeguarding strategy underlines that safeguarding is always a priority. 

For fundraising, this means thinking about what reasonable steps could be taken to safeguard employees, volunteers, beneficiaries and supporters. If your organisation works with children, young people or adults in vulnerable circumstances, you will likely have more rigorous safeguarding requirements than others and there are some specific rules and standards within the Code of Fundraising Practice for doing so. 

When it comes to safeguarding, nobody can afford to turn a blind eye. We all have a duty to consider how we can help protect those we come into contact with. This is not only about protecting those at risk of harm and abuse, but promoting a positive, supportive and accountable culture that nurtures the general health, safety and wellbeing of all those we work with. Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising 

Although it is critical that all trustees, employees and volunteers seek to protect beneficiaries, this mini guide focuses on safeguarding in relation to fundraising, rather than charity’s interaction with beneficiaries. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO KEEP FUNDRAISING AND FUNDRAISERS SAFE

Safeguarding will mean something different to each and every charity, depending on the different audiences you work with, the focus of your work, who you work with and how you fundraise. This is a short summary of the key questions you many need to consider to keep your fundraising safe:

Key questions to consider

Assessing risk

Safeguarding in fundraising requires a thorough but proportionate approach to risk. This might include considering health and safety concerns, the potential for harm in the office premises and for lone workers, guidelines for site, beneficiary or donor visits, travel arrangements, fundraising events and activities, cyber attacks, data breaches and individuals’ health or medical conditions. 

To complete a thorough risk assessment, charities will first need to identify what the main risks are for fundraising in a safeguarding context. One approach is to grade each risk on a scale of 1-10 by likelihood and severity, and multiply these two figures together. The highest scoring risks are those that need to be prioritised in any safeguarding plan, identifying what can be done to minimise those risks.

When it comes to minimising risk, you might want to consider introducing some general principles, which might include advising fundraisers to avoid meeting potential supporters alone in a private setting, increasing security on confidential files, logging employees and volunteer whereabouts, updating the organisation of any allergies or medical concerns that may arise. 

For more information, see the Charity Commission’s guidance for Charities and Risk Management (CC26) and Sayer Vincent’s guides to Risk Assessment and Risk Management.

Making safeguarding an organisational priority

At the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, we believe that every fundraising organisation should offer a safe and supportive working environment and culture for staff and volunteers alike; an environment where there is a zero tolerance approach to discrimination, bullying and harassment, and where people’s privacy and right to confidentiality is respected. 

Typically, this will mean incorporating relevant recruitment, training and health and safety procedures, as well including safeguarding clauses within relevant organisational policies. Some organisations will require a standalone safeguarding policy, and every organisation will need to consider safeguarding within the following organisational and fundraising policies.

Organisational policies and safeguarding

This section includes links for to our own guidance, as well as resources from the Fundraising Regulator, NCVO (Knowhow Nonprofit) and Acas.

  • Equal rights and diversity; ensuring nobody is discriminated against on account of their race, religion, gender, disability or any other factor.
  • Sickness, stress and absence; the organisation’s approach to managing absence or poor health, supporting staff and their colleagues.
  • Managing volunteers; implementing appropriate recruitment, induction and training processes, supervision, guidance and support for all fundraising, paid and volunteers.
  • Data protection; never compromising someone’s privacy or using someone’s data in a way that contravenes their wishes or legislation.
  • Accepting or refusing donations; being fair, responsible and consistent in terms of the donations that your charity will or will not accept.
  • Vulnerable people; always treating people fairly and never pressurising someone into giving.
  • Handling donations; providing safe and secure collection facilities that safeguard donations and limit the opportunity for fraud.
  • Alcohol & drugs; stating that fundraising under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs is not acceptable.
  • Bullying & harassment; taking a zero tolerance approach to bullying or harassment from anyone (including employees and volunteers, board members, beneficiaries or supporters).
  • Complaints; having a transparent and accountable approach to complaints, focusing on addressing any problem areas and learning from them.
  • Disciplinary and grievance; having a robust disciplinary and grievance process in place for dealing with misconduct or any behaviour that puts another’s safety at risk.
  • Whistleblowing; employees should be encouraged to raise any safeguarding concern with their manager or external authorities, without fear of repercussion.

What to include in a safeguarding policy

If your organisation works with ‘at risk’ groups, which include children or young people and adults in potentially vulnerable circumstances, you will need a specific safeguarding policy and procedure.

  • State your commitment to safeguarding; that you will protect your beneficiaries, supporters, employees and volunteers from any abuse (physical, emotional or sexual).
  • Make it clear who is responsible for what, emphasising that everyone in the charity has a commitment to play their part in protecting people from harm.
  • Set out the procedures for reporting and recording any concerns and/or incidents.
  • Include practical guidance for staff and volunteers about what they should do.
  • Detail the complaints and disciplinary procedures for handling concerns.
  • Underline that there will be disciplinary action for those who fail to follow procedure for recording safeguarding issues.
Recruiting and training fundraisers and volunteers

Safeguarding starts before potential fundraisers (paid or voluntary) are recruited. This means ensuring the right processes and checks are carried out and that everyone receives the support and guidance they need to carry out their work safely and effectively. DBS checks are required to help prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children. Find out which DBS check is necessary for what roles.

What you need to know about DBS checks

 

  • England and Wales and can be useful to help assess if a candidate is suitable for a role. 
  • DBS checks are needed for any role where someone will be coming into contact with children, young people, the elderly or vulnerable (including fundraisers making school visits, public collections etc) 
  • It’s an offence to apply for a DBS check if it’s not needed. 
  • You can apply for DBS checks from DBS umbrella bodies, – if you complete more than 100 checks a year - directly from the DBS. 
  • If someone has a past conviction, this may not mean they cannot work or volunteer with you.
  • DBS checks are only part of the safeguarding requirements for checking someone’s suitability for a role. References and other relevant background checks are advised.

Criminal records can also be checked by Disclosure Scotland or Access NI in Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

A thorough induction programme and training is needed to brief fundraisers about all the relevant parts of their role and how the organisation works, including its approach to safeguarding and what this means for them. Clear guidance should be given for what is expected of staff in terms of acceptable behaviours and the values of the organisation. 

When it comes to volunteering, children and vulnerable adults may need additional support and guidance (see Treating Donors Fairly). Specific safeguarding induction training is mandatory for those who work with at-risk groups. 

Safeguarding training courses are available from the NCVOEducare and SAFE, with bespoke training courses available through Leonard Consultancy.

Protecting supporters

People of all ages and abilities find it incredibly rewarding to support charities and their local community through volunteering or donating. But charities need to be particularly mindful when working or coming into contact with potentially vulnerable people, children and the elderly, to ensure that they treat everyone appropriately, respectfully and fairly, remain alert to any particular needs the individual might have and never take advantage of the situation. 

Good fundraising should always be: legal, open, honest, respectful, responsible and accountable (see the Fundraising Promise). This means always treating people fairly, never placing anyone under undue pressure to give or taking advantage of someone’s lack of knowledge or need for care.

Treating Donors Fairly

  • Make fundraising information clear and accessible.
  • Always treat a donor fairly, taking into account any additional needs they have to enable them to make an informed decision about donating.
  • Never pressure someone into making a donation.
  • Be alert to signs that someone may be confused or vulnerable and need additional support.
  • Take care not to take advantage of mistakes by donors or to exploit their lack of knowledge or need for care. 
  • Don’t accept a donation from an individual if you believe he/she lacks capacity to make the decision to donate.
  • Avoid asking for a donation if a person clearly indicates that they do not wish to engage with the fundraiser. 
  • Don’t deny someone the right to give on account of their age or other factor, so long as this is what they want to do.

See our Treating Donors Fairly guidance, and the following sections on Working with Volunteers and Working with Children.

Protecting people's privacy

  • What personal data do we process?
  • How can we use that data?
  • What permissions do we have?
  • How will we keep that data safe?
  • What data can be shared and with whom?
  • How will it be kept up to date?
  • How to handle any breach?
  • When should we delete data?

For more information, see the IoF’s online resources, the Fundraising Regulator’s guide to Personal Information and Fundraising or contact the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Responding to safeguarding incidents

Everyone has a duty to look out for the safety and well-being of those around them. Depending on the nature of a safeguarding concern, you might report it to your line manager or a trustee. Trustees have a duty to report any serious incidents promptly to the Charity Commission.

If you’re not comfortable with raising the incident internally, issues can be raised externally by making a complaint to the Police, Information Commissioner’s Office, Fundraising Regulator, Charity Commission or the Adjudication Panel for Scotland, as relevant. The organisation should have a whistleblowing policy in place, which sets out an individual’s right to raise concerns in this way, without any fear of reprisal.

Tips for responding to safeguarding incidents:

• Make sure you know what processes and policies are in place to determine how to handle any safeguarding issue (including whistleblowing).

• Report any safeguarding concerns promptly to your line manager or trustee, or raise the matter externally.

• Any criminal acts, allegations of abuse or serious incidents should be reported to relevant statutory authorities or regulators promptly. This responsibility sits with the charity trustee board.

• Prioritise safeguarding as a key governance priority (in line with the Charity Commission’s recently revised safeguarding strategy), protecting your staff, volunteers, beneficiaries and more.

• Keep records of any safeguarding incident and file them safely and securely.

Fundraising activities requiring closer safeguarding

When it comes to specific fundraising techniques, there are certain areas that will inevitably need greater consideration for safeguarding. This will include any form of fundraising that includes direct contact between fundraisers or volunteers and the public, such as:

  • Public collections; ensuring that anyone who collects funds publicly or on the doorstep has been authorised to collect on your behalf and that appropriate background checks have been carried out.
  • Events; taking all reasonable measures to protect the safety of anyone involved or attending a fundraising event.
  • Major gifts and legacies; never getting involved in drafting an individual’s will or accept a personal donation without reporting the situation to a line manager, and be alert to potential money laundering issues.
  • Fundraising overseas; carrying out due diligence in researching travel, accommodation, the location and venue of any overseas fundraising activities (or working with approved third parties) to protect the safety of all those involved. 

Further resources for support

There’s a wide range of guidance and information (much of it freely available) to help you in this area. Below are just a few that we’ve picked out that can help charities in this area for further reading and more information: 

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