Professionals involved in financial transactions with older adults, including those working in the charitable sector, have a responsibility to be aware of their client’s capacity to make a financial decision.  This can pose difficulties since each individual situation is unique, however, there are some red flags that will suggest more information is required prior to completing a transaction.
 
A change in choice of charity
There is a pattern to personal charitable givings.  This includes the dollar size of the gift as well as the frequency of giving (such as monthly or end-of-year givings).  Changes in these patterns may arise if a charity has experienced some recent challenging public relations, however, these types of changes are fairly obvious to the charity.  Other changes may occur if the individual has recently undergone a life event such as a loss of a spouse.  When neither of these situations is apparent and a regular donor changes their giving patterns it often warrants further exploration by the charity.  Ignoring unusual changes in giving can place the good reputation of the charity at risk as well as result in the older individual completing a transaction that is not representative of their personal values or wishes.
 
Overlooking Tax Considerations
Most donors who make regular or larger gifts will understand personal tax deductions for charitable giving.  Someone who has been a longer term donor to a charity is likely to understand that stocks can be donated through transfers rather than cashing them in, thereby legally avoiding tax.  If a donor has made a sudden and seemingly unusual financial transaction that could have been conducted in a more tax efficient manner, the transaction warrants a closer scrutiny.  Take time to discuss with the individual the reason for their urgency.  Ask why they didn’t consider exploring tax avoidance options.  Watch to determine if this person has been pressured to make a donation by a third party.  Also consider that moving money quickly may be a strategy to keep it out of someone’s reach.
 
At the very least, do not proceed with a financial transaction involving an older person if you have any concerns about their capability in making a decision or the possibility that there is undue influence taking place.  Your willingness to represent the needs of the individual donor first before your organization’s quest for donations is the only ethical approach to take.
 
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