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Published by Helen Halahan

Rising to meet the storm: Woods Valldata’s response to COVID-19

Woods Valldata office as we talk about the response to Covid-19

At our webinar looking at the Impact of COVID-19 on Individual Giving, Jayne George of RNLI spoke about weathering the storm. An analogy absolutely appropriate for the work of RNLI, but perhaps we all feel a little like we’ve been weathering a storm for the last seven months or so and Woods Valldata is no different.

I spoke to Ian Scarr, CEO of Woods Valldata about his experience of the pandemic and his response was both reassuringly calm and poignantly emotive. This is a man, backed by a committed team, that cares passionately about his people, his business and the work Woods Valldata do to support the charities they work for. You can see Ian’s address to the sector about Woods Valldata’s response to COVID-19 in this short video.

Implementing the plan

On 26th February 2020 the management team at Woods Valldata announced a Major Incident as a result of the pandemic. The Incident Management Team immediately leapt to action, or more accurately they walked confidently into a room to calmly talk it through. Woods Valldata is an organisation that plans: painstakingly thinks through scenarios and puts processes in place to manage any eventuality. Yes, the lockdown was a crisis, but it was one for which Woods Valldata were already prepared. They talked through their business continuity plan, put key elements into motion and discussed actions to:
– keep their employees and the families of their employees safe
– protect the long-term viability of the business
– protect long term job security

Mobilizing home-working

Around 80 of the 150 Woods Valldata employees were able to perform their jobs from home. Laptops were ordered (apparently some of the last available) and the IT team made sure everything was set-up and ready to go within a matter of days. 80 staff mobilized to work from home, safe, secure, compliant and without a hitch.

A safe, secure office environment

To continue providing services for our charity partners, 70 employees needed to remain in the office: performing printing, enclosing, mailing, post opening, scanning, banking, fulfilment tasks. The Incident Management Team met daily to ensure the correct measures were in place to keep everyone safe. Two-metre distancing was enforced before it became a requirement from the government. The office space was completely reworked. Work spaces were allocated to every other desk keeping everyone separated, half the chairs were removed so no one would be tempted to break the distancing. Machinery cleaning rotas were established and upheld. Archie was employed full time to clean all surfaces and handles, all day, every day, to stop any risk of contact spread. Posters, signage, regular communications, and updates were all established. All measures will remain in place until at least January 2021.

Unforeseen staff pressures

The first two weeks of working in these pandemic conditions were tough. Everything was different. Alien. The atmosphere was one of fear and uncertainty. Worry abounded, not just about contracting the virus, but about everything else that was happening around them: childcare and home schooling, job security of partners, worry about elderly parents and dependents, the stigma associated with coming in to work. Some employees were even abused by neighbours for leaving for work.

Record responses

And then the work kicked in. Charities needed emergency funds. Emergency appeals were launched. People responded in record numbers. April and May for Woods Valldata were the busiest on record, akin only to Christmas appeal time, but this time there were no temp-staff to take the strain, a reduced workforce due to those choosing to isolate or shield, and less efficient working conditions due to social distancing measures.

Pulling together

Amidst the personal worries and difficulties, the team at Woods Valldata did not shrink from the task ahead of them. They understood the necessity of the work they were doing to keep the charitable sector going. “The people smashed it,” explains Ian proudly, “1500 hours overtime was recorded in April and May. The team were relentless. Everyone pulling together, even those who could work from home came in to help out. It was hard. It was exhausting, but you know, I now look back fondly at what it created. A sense of purpose and unity within the company.”

Morale-boosting messages

Their hard work didn’t go unnoticed either. “Messages of encouragement and thanks came flooding in from charity partners,” says Ian. “Age UK even sent a video from the Individual Giving Team telling us what our efforts meant to them all. Marie Curie wrote a letter to our local MP talking about how integral Woods Valldata, and companies like ours, are to the charity sector. It made a massive difference to the morale in the company.”

Doing what we can

Ian gets quite passionate when he talks about his staff. Their dedication and teamwork. You can see how much he and his senior management team cares. Throughout no one was furloughed. No one made redundant. Care was shown through every measure put in place to protect them at work, every thing they did to make life easier even down to providing up to three hours of one-on-one remote home schooling for the children of employees to take away that pressure on top of everything else.

Humanity shines through adversity and that was definitely true for the people at Woods Valldata.

Where are we now?

So where does Woods Valldata stand now, as we traverse the next chapter of COVID-19. Restrictions are lifting but a global recession is starting. How will Woods Valldata weather this next storm?
“We’re in a strong financial position,” Ian is confident, “the coming together of Woods and Valldata three years ago meant that we became bigger, stronger, more robust. Our financial planning has put us in a safe position to ride this out and keep operations going.” There‘s that planning again. It goes to show how proper planning has paid dividends when it comes to coping with the unknown.

Supporting business continuity in the charity sector

Ian sits forward. “What’s important is that we keep going. We keep providing our services to the charity sector. Keep the income coming in for them. Their services are going to be even more in demand!” He can see charities are looking for ways to find cost savings and efficiencies whether that’s through outsourcing more activity or consolidating suppliers to fewer more reliable and robust partners.

“In a storm people look for a safe haven.” Ian continues. “Somewhere they know they will be protected. That’s what Woods Valldata can provide.”

It’s a strong statement but I know it’s one Ian lives by. If you’re looking at your business continuity planning right now, it’s definitely worth giving him, or one of his team, a call to find out how they can help you weather the next storm.

About Woods Valldata

We’re passionate about helping you help your beneficiaries. We believe in what we do and make it our mission to be the best. So whether you’re interested in establishing, growing or developing prize-led fundraising streams through raffle and weekly lottery programmes, facilitating fast responses to donors through response handling and fulfilment services, digital scanning to keep records up-to-date and digitised for ease of access or having the peace of mind from working with a compliant Direct Debit bureau to process regular giving payments, Woods Valldata are your trusted partner.
We have a team of 200+ sector specialists and help charities raise over £100 million in fundraising income per year. We offer an unparalleled level of service, with the strategic insight to identify opportunities and inform innovation.
We take your reputation and your data seriously. To this end, we’re proud to follow the highest compliance standards for GDPR, PCI, ISO and the Gambling Commission.
Whatever you’re looking to achieve with your fundraising, Woods Valldata are there for you.

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