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7 go-to response handling tips for charities


A Team member opening an envelope as part of response handling and charity support services.

By definition, response handling is simply the process by which you manage interactions with your charity supporters.


Responses from your supporters can come in a variety of formats, including a completed form, a cash or direct debit payment, a letter, survey, email, request or question.

A well-executed response management strategy – for example, by providing a unique donation experience – can have an incredible impact on your charity’s overall success. Conversely, poorly handled response management can be a risk to your charity’s reputation.

As noted by Ed Coke, founder of Repute Associates in this CharityComms article:

“Charities rarely struggle in communicating their values, given the life-enhancing purposes so many of them are founded on. However, if you lack a reputation for competency, such as efficient service delivery to end-users, it can cause real problems.”

What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on supporter behaviours and expectations – namely, donating online far more frequently than in cash – and sadly, complaints about digital fundraising more than tripled last year.

In summary, this means that having an effective response handling strategy in place for your charity is now more important than ever before.

Response handling is something that we have extensive experience of helping charities to deliver here at Woods Valldata! We’ve therefore pooled our knowledge into the seven top tips below to help you ensure your response handling is the best it possibly can be..

1. Strike the right balance between speed and accuracy

Speed is vital in any response handling scenario. In terms of processing donations and forms, this will ensure you remain in control and have the time you need to focus on your charity’s growth.

What’s more, the sooner you react to contact from a supporter, the greater the sense of value and importance to your charity they will feel.

This includes, for example, picking up the phone after just a couple of rings, answering emails within a short time frame, sending thank you letters as soon as possible after receipt of a donation, and processing returns in a timely manner.

However, ensure that this speed doesn’t affect the quality of your response handling; this will only lead to more time being lost trying to recover from any errors made.

Here at Woods Valldata, we have the best technology in place to support with this, and our experienced client team are on hand to get things up and running quickly and accurately to ensure the best possible outcomes for your charity.


2. Keep data protection and compliance at the forefront

This may seem obvious, but the importance of data and donation security and the repercussions of this going wrong are not to be underestimated.

Ensure your team are trained up on all your security measures and know the steps they need to take and regulations they must abide by to ensure data and donations are kept tightly under lock and key.

If you’re undertaking a weekly lottery or raffle specifically, you’ll also need to ensure your charity and team remain compliant with Gambling Commission gambling regulations.

Here at Woods Valldata, for example, we own purpose-built, state-of-the-art facilities and processes that keep everything secure – from data to direct debit transfers and more. Compliance also lies at the heart of our work, and we have gained and maintain a number of certifications and accreditations over the years to reflect this.


A woman on the phone as part of the response handling and charity support services


3. Combine the powers of automation and human intervention 

Automation is a truly useful tool to harness for response handling, saving you significant time, energy and funds processing responses manually.

However, nothing beats human intervention for ensuring that your responses are processed with the ultimate care and consideration that they deserve.

Our blend of automation with human intervention at Woods Valldata, for example, ensures that our charity clients’ responses are processed quickly and efficiently, but with the care and consideration that only human oversight can bring!


4. Have a disaster recovery plan in place.

As the pandemic quickly revealed, disaster can strike at any moment. In these situations, it’s essential that your charity is able to adapt as quickly as possible.

For example, if your servers go down, your direct debits do not process properly or coronavirus restrictions on office working suddenly return, it’s important to know that you have systems in place to keep your response handling processes on the go.

During the pandemic at Woods Valldata, we were able to keep working during the lockdown while many of our clients had to close their office doors, this meant we could help them keep their vital services operating.


5. Optimise for the donor experience 

Making the donation and contact process as easy as possible for your donors plays a huge role in the success of your response handling.

From making your online donation swift to deploying quick and easy sign-up to your weekly lottery or raffle, and ensuring your creatives are simultaneously engaging and easy to understand, there are numerous ways you can ensure your donors are satisfied with your processes and (therefore) likely to keep donating to your cause well into the future.

Our in-house studio designers, creatives and experts on form content here at Woods Valldata have an abundance of skill in this area to ensure your supporters are consistently informed and delighted with your communications.


6. Prepare for fluctuations in responses

Depending on your fundraising campaign, your response handling is likely to fluctuate between quiet and busy periods. Essentially, you need to be able to maximise your responses when something’s working well, or if an unexpected deliverable needs funding; for example, an emergency appeal.

If you’re struggling with your donor response management, we have processes in place here at Woods Valldata that will enable us to quickly pick up where your team or others have left off, so that we can provide a seamless service for your supporters.


Male hands holding red wallet with bank plastic cards, representing response handling as part of charity support services.


7. Remember to thank your donors!

Although there’s no direct way to measure the impact of thanking your supporters, there’s plenty of research out there to suggest its benefits!

Whatever format they present themselves in, every supporter response should be seen as an opportunity to engage your sponsors further. Keep your supporter personas in mind, and use empathy to get the right messaging across and tap directly into their emotions.

You should ensure that you reflect your brand tone and voice. This will help to make you instantly recognisable, and put your supporters at ease.

Just some of the ways we help our charity clients to achieve this at Woods Valldata include supplying handwritten responses, and getting to know your charity’s branding inside out so that we can replicate this seamlessly.

We also make sure that our records are accurate, so that when we thank your respondents for their support on your behalf, we can do so with the right level of detail (and quickly) to make them feel truly valued.


In conclusion...

There are numerous things your charity will need to do to ensure your response handling is as successful as possible – and sometimes this can result in the need to reach out for additional support, particularly when responses start flooding in!

Moving your charity response handling to a third-party team can feel like a big step. However, this is one of the charity support services that we have many years experience of delivering here at Woods Valldata.

From keeping the supporter experience at the forefront and managing our communications with the same care and attention as your own team, to taking every step to ensure they feel valued (and more), we’ll always go the extra mile to give you the peace of mind you need to focus on your charity’s growth.

In fact, we are often the first port of call for our charity clients. We work as a partnership, so that if they have an idea they would like to talk through or a problem they need to solve, they know that they can always rely on us to listen, learn, and offer insightful advice and continuous improvement opportunities from our expert team!

If this sounds like a service you’d benefit from, connect with us today or read our website page on Response Handling for more information!


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