“Be prepared!”

As well as these preventative measures, it is a good idea to have policies and processes in place for those times when things are beginning to get tricky. While there may well be an organisation-wide complaints procedure, the definition of “complaint” that it uses may not cover all the situations we encounter as Legacy Administrators. Because of that, it is a good idea for all of us (whether part of a team or working on our own) to have procedures in place that provide guidance when it seems that a problem is about to arise. 

Sometimes, of course, the angry letter, email or phone call will come completely out of the blue, so we have to move quickly to respond. This means our procedures should be living documents that can be implemented quickly when the need arises. 

The procedures we adopt will vary from charity to charity and will often depend on the size of the charity involved. Some will have Press and PR departments, who will need to be involved early in the process, others will be working on their own.

At very least, we should think about some definitions of the sort of issue we are talking about and, probably, some examples too. A bit of time spent on scenario planning could help with this. 

For instance, we may have someone who thinks we have behaved “uncharitably” because we have refused to entertain their claim for an ex-gratia payment. It could be the local paper ringing for a comment because they have been told that we are accused of “turfing out on the street” (imagine the paper’s headline) a “vulnerable person”, who is actually someone who only lived with the deceased for 18 months and who was left a large enough legacy to buy a flat. 

As well as thinking about what the complaint might be, it would be a good idea to work though who it was sent to (was it you, was it the CEO, was it a trustee who was on holiday and has only sent it to you three weeks later?); how it was sent (was it a letter or an email or was it something that a colleague spotted being shared on social media?) and when it arrived. Anecdotally at least, these things have a tendency to surface at 4 o’clock on a Friday. 

Sometimes the complaint or adverse comment will relate to something that is already the subject of court proceedings. In these cases, it is important to have to hand an emergency number for your legal advisors. 

It is important to involve managers early on, in order to ensure that decisions and responses are handled at the right level in the hierarchy. This should also mean that the Legacy Administrator who is on the front line is given the support that s/he needs in what is often a stressful situation.