Returning Donations

Fundraising and Supporter Development

Purpose & Scope

The purpose of this document is to outline our policy on returning donations and the framework for deciding whether to return a donation to a donor.


Donor: The individual who is making the donation

Fundraiser: The individual raising money by requesting donations from third parties.

The Charity: Maudsley Charity

The Fundraising Team: The team raising money for Maudsley Charity


In accordance with the Charity Commission’s advice, keeping or returning donations is the decision of the Charity Trustees. Trustees need to think carefully about, and be able to demonstrate, what is in the best interest of the Charity.

It is the responsibility of the Fundraising Team to pull together the relevant information and documentation for the donation in order for the Trustees to make a final decision.

Depending on the terms of the donations and how the funds were raised, there may be restrictions on whether a donation can be returned and the Charity Commission may need to authorise such returns. The Fundraising Team will seek advice from the Charity Commission on behalf of the Charity about whether their authorisation is required on a case-by-case basis. Trustees may wish to seek their own legal advice. The Commission does not expect the Charity to return funds raised for charitable purposes but understands if they wish to consider doing so.

When would we consider returning a donation?

When a donation has been made in error

We would return a donation if money had been taken in error. Examples include:

  • If a donor has double-clicked on the online payment page and the donation had been processed twice.
  • If an additional zero was added in error to the donation, or the wrong amount was processed
  • If there is a technical error on our online payment forms that caused donations to be taken in error
  • If there is a mix-up with the name of the Charity and they actually meant their donation to go somewhere else. For example, there may be special purpose funds with similar names to external charities.

Under the Direct Debit Guarantee

If an error is made in the payment of a Direct Debit the Fundraising team e.g. a higher payment or more frequent payments than agreed are taken then the donor is entitled to a full and immediate refund.

If the agreement with the donor can no longer be fulfilled

There may be occasions where we cannot fulfil the terms of the Gift Agreement with a donor.  It may be that the project ceases to exist or the funds are no longer required for that area. In this case, we would have in-depth discussions with the donors to see whether their funds could be re-directed to support another area of the Charity’s work. If no agreement can be reached then the funds would be returned to the donor.

For reputational/ethical reasons

The Fundraising team exercise due diligence in the acceptance of all donations. The Charity will not accept donations which are judged to be unethical or put the reputation of the Charity at unacceptable risk. This is outlined in our Gift Acceptance Policy available for download below.

For the same reason, the Charity may choose to review the acceptance of a donation if they believe circumstances have changed since the initial risk was assessed.  These donations will be escalated to the Fundraising Ethics Review Group for review if:

  • They are judged to have been unethically or illegally obtained
  • An unacceptable conflict of interest has arisen
  • The donation/donor’s input is compromising academic or clinical integrity
  • The Charity would face a level of public opprobrium disproportionate to the advantages gained from keeping it
  • Is the person judged not to have the ability to make independent financial decisions?

If the Fundraising Ethics Review Group agree the money should be returned, advice will be sought from the Charity Commission and final authorisation will lie with the Charity Trustees.

When would we not consider returning a donation?

We would only consider returning donations in line with the criteria outlined above. Additionally, to make it completely transparent we would not return donations for the following scenarios:

Where the funds have already been spent

We are unable to process any requests for refunds once the funds have already been spent. It would not be in the best interests of the Charity to have to re-route other funds in order to return money to the donor.

Where an appeal has surplus funds

Occasionally in our Direct Marketing Appeals, we include a specific target needed for an area of work or equipment. If the target is reached and no further funds are needed in this area the Fundraising team will work with the Charity to find a suitable alternative to direct the funds.    

Force Majeure

In the case of a force majeure preventing the Charity from meeting a donor’s wishes then no refunds will be made.