The Krishnamurti Foundation Trust: June 2021

Name and type of organisation: The Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Ltd (registered charity no. 312865)

Fundraising method: Legacy

Code themes examined: Vulnerable donor, fundraiser behaviour, complaint handling

Code breach? Yes

The complaint 

The complainant was concerned about the role of the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Ltd (the charity) in their relative’s (the testator’s) decisions about their will. The complainant said their relative’s bequest of their home to the charity amounted to around 18 times as much as the sum left to the other beneficiaries. 

What happened?

The testator was a long-term supporter of the charity and had developed friendships with members of its staff. When the testator died, the charity received a six-figure sum from their estate. 

After the testator’s death, the complainant approached the charity on behalf of their relatives and other beneficiaries named in the will. This correspondence set out some of the testator’s history with the other beneficiaries and said that the bequest to the charity was disproportionately large compared with the sum left to the others. The complainant asked the charity to consider returning a sum to them. 

The charity responded to say that it had followed all the required laws and regulations and it did not intend to engage in any further communication about the matter. The complainant then brought the case to the Fundraising Regulator. They were particularly concerned about the extent to which the charity had influenced their relative’s decision to leave such a large legacy donation and the apparent lack of consideration given to providing for the other beneficiaries. 

Our decision

We found no breaches of the Code of Fundraising Practice (the code) by the charity in relation to the individual’s decision to make a substantial bequest to it. We noted that the testator had access to independent legal advice throughout the process. However, we found that the charity should have recognised that a fundraising relationship existed between it and the testator. Had it done so, staff treated as friends by the testator in discussing the will could have removed themselves from any actual, or appearance of, fundraising. Adequate record-keeping would have included noting any consideration given to, for example, the sensitivities of the testator’s other beneficiaries and what it had done to assure itself that the testator had had the freedom to provide for them.

We found that the charity had breached the section of the Code of Fundraising Practice about adequate record keeping while engaging in face-to-face legacy fundraising. The charity also breached two sections of the code regarding complaint handling. We came to this decision because the charity:

  • did not keep adequate records about its legacy fundraising relationship with the testator;
  • did not have a fundraising complaints procedure and did not apply the principles of the complaints process it did have;
  • did not recognise that someone without a history of friendship with the testator needed to respond to the complaint;
  • did not provide a comprehensive response to the complaint. 

Recommendations

We recommended that the charity puts in place written fundraising guidance for all of its fundraisers to follow and implements procedures to ensure that it complies with the standards in the code.

Outcome

The charity accepted our recommendations. We asked that the charity write to us within two months of our final decision to outline the action taken in response to our findings and recommendations.