Will we, won’t we?

by | Jul 19, 2016

Here’s a little dilemma for you. I’m going through some data and find an address for a supporter that is in a nursing home. A look shows that donations have been received and there’s been no communication from the supporter or their family asking to us to stop contact. Should we continue to contact the supporter or should I add a do not contact flag?

I think I’m writing this to try and solicit some opinion, because for the life of me, I just don’t know the answer. You’d think it would be easy, but I can give you another example to try and illustrate that this is anything but black and white.

A record on a database is run through external suppression and comes up with a deceased marker. The record is duly marked but the regular gift continues to be paid each month. If it’s a standing order do you contact the address to try and cancel the gift? If it’s a Direct Debit, do you transmit a cancellation notice through BACS?

Let’s take some time to pick these apart. The generation of people who are now starting to age are more independent than previous generations. Whereas it used to be the kids that ‘carted’ Mum or Dad off to a home. Nowadays more people are making that decision for themselves. A drive through any town of late will always present at least one retirement village; designed specifically to meet our changing needs as we get older, from active retiree to older person needing medical and living assistance. It is a conscious decision to relocate to somewhere like this. Who are we to be so presumptions as to assume this relocation also ends the era of rational, lucid thought for this person.

In a similar vein, the regular gift was always a joint donating decision by the couple, paid from a joint account. The donations were in one name so Gift Aid could be claimed, because they were astute enough to understand this. The surviving spouse continues to donate because it’s a cause they supported together and he or she wants to continue to support. Cancelling the gift would be deeply insulting.

Like I said, I don’t know the answer. I’m not even sure there is one. For every older person who is independent and decision making, there’s going to be another who isn’t. For every regular gift paid after death, there’s one that should be cancelled. Having lived through the death of a parent I know that it can be distressing to receive mail in their name, although after several years of being contacted it just gets annoying. This is why I’m so concerned about causing offence, but have no idea how I can avoid it one hundred percent of the time.

Most organisations I work with have a policy to deal with these types of situations, but always with the unwritten understanding that there’s absolutely no way of getting it right all the time. When faced with impossible-to-get-right situations like this, it’s no wonder the charity sector is in such turmoil. Whilst I believe there’s a lot that can be done to improve supporter care, this is an issue I believe will never (and can never) be resolved.

So if you’ve got any ideas on how to handle these intractable situations let us know. We really are listening.

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