When you donate to Interval House, your investment goes directly towards bettering the lives of women and children escaping abuse. It’s an amazing thing you do, showing survivors of intimate partner violence and their children that there is a light at the end of the dark, long tunnel of abuse. And sometimes, your involvement with Interval House gives you the opportunity to meet and interact with the people you support as they heal and grow.
It’s a privilege for donors and clients to meet face-to-face, seeing common values in one another’s eyes. It’s a unique and paradoxical connection. The two parties are simultaneously closely linked, while also being complete strangers most of the time. And there’s inherently a power dynamic between supporters and their beneficiaries. What’s the best way to navigate such a relationship? We suggest following these three golden rules when it comes to donor-client relationships. They serve to help both donors and clients maintain their privacy and boundaries, so that they can comfortably socialize and share space.
Golden Rule 1 – Respect Boundaries
At Interval House events, we often invite clients to share their personal stories to demonstrate the impact supporters have on the lives of those escaping violence at home. It takes great courage to share these stories and often, clients will work with a staff member to compose the speeches they make. When interacting with clients, we urge you to be careful about asking for more detailed information about their circumstances and situation. Of course you can thank them for sharing and congratulate them but asking for more personal details could make a client feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. It’s best to keep topics of conversation light and to pay close attention to any physical or verbal cues that the client is feeling ‘over-exposed’.
Please don’t invite clients to connect privately with you for any reason. Sharing contact information can be a slippery slope that has the potential of eroding a client’s right to privacy and a donor’s right to offer and withdraw their support from an organization at any time. This ‘distance or boundary’ protects both the client as well as the donor from unwanted contact.
Drawing boundaries can be very challenging for survivors of intimate partner violence. Learning to navigate new relationships is particularly difficult and a client may not feel comfortable articulating what she really feels or needs. Keep that in mind when engaging with Interval House beneficiaries.
Golden Rule 2 – Want to do More? Talk to a Staff Member!
If you connect with a client in a way that inspires you to do more to help, or to follow-up for any reason, please touch base with an Interval House employee. Any staff member will be happy to answer questions and take suggestions, or direct you to someone who can.
Golden Rule 3 – Be Discreet
Finally, Interval House staff are trained not to interact with clients publicly, so as to respect their privacy.
We ask you to abide by this rule as well. If you recognize a client outside of Interval House or an official Interval House event, please don’t greet them or act familiar. It may feel strange, ignoring someone you’ve met and interacted with before but there’s a good reason for doing it in this case.
Many clients don’t want it to be public knowledge that they have been in an abusive relationship, stayed in the shelter, or accessed services for survivors through BESS. Greeting clients in public when they are with others can put them at risk. They may be with their past abuser’s family or friends and may be forced to disclose or lie about how they know you.
Even if a client is alone when you see them in public, they may associate you with Interval House and their recovery from abuse. Interacting could bring up episodes of sadness and anxiety. So we encourage donors to treat our clients as strangers, unless they approach you first.
Hopefully these tips are helpful reminders of how to be respectful when interacting with clients, for their privacy and yours. Be kind, show your support, keep conversation light, and remember that whether they say it or not, Interval House clients are very grateful for the healing and growth you facilitate with your generosity. By supporting Interval House, you support countless families in ending the cycle of violence.