Complaint and response procedures
A self-assessment questionnaire for your organization
Variations on the checklist below have been used by different organizations in the process of setting up a complaint and response procedure. It has been adapted from relevant work undertaken by the One World Trust and the Charity Commission. The questionnaire is meant to be used as a starting point for discussion within your team on: areas where the organization is performing well and not so well (if yes and partly); changes needed to improve current practice (if no); and areas where there is a need for better information sharing within the organization (if don’t know).
Not all statements will apply to all types or sizes of NGOs. For example, an NGO that is simply involved in grant provision may need a less detailed procedure than one that provides direct services to vulnerable users.
1 The basics
1.1 Does your organization have a clear definition of a valid complaint?
1.2 Does your organization make a commitment to respond to all valid
1.3 Do you have a clearly defined policy and procedure for managing
1.4 Does your procedure have set timelines?
1.5 Are potential complainants fully aware of the procedure?
1.6 Have you considered the needs (format, language, etc.) of your
1.7 Do you try to deal with complaints locally, i.e. where and when they
are first received?
1.8 Does your procedure involve at least two stages?
1.9 Does it include input from an independent person or organization in at least one stage?
1.10 Does your procedure ensure that complaints are managed in a fair
and impartial manner?
1.11 Does it respect confidentiality of the complainant?
2 Governance, management and resources
2.1 Is a named member of staff (independent of potential complainants)
responsible for receiving and handling complaints?
2.2 Does your procedure make clear who is ultimately accountable for
2.3 Is a leadership staff responsible for oversight
of in this area?
2.4 Are adequate resources assigned for the implementation of the
policy, which cover staff and operational costs?
2.5 Is everyone who may be involved in managing a complaint, at any
stage, fully aware of their role in the process?
2.6 Is your complaints procedure explained as part of the induction process for volunteers, including trustees, and staff?
2.7 Does everyone who may be involved in managing a complaint have
access to training in complaints management?
2.8 Do you have a system for recording the number of complaints you
receive and what they are about (investigation timelines and findings, redress details, etc.)?
2.9 Is your complaints management system integrated with other
systems within the organization, such as your annual report, annual general meeting, staff training, quality assurance, or duty of care?
2.10 Do you review your procedure regularly, taking into account any
issues that have arisen since the last review as well as any changes to best practice in complaints management?
3 Outcomes of a complaint: for the complainant and for your
3.1 Do you analyze and publish information about the number, nature
and outcome of the complaints you have received?
3.2 Do you use this information to review and improve the services you
offer/ activities you undertake / processes you have in place, etc.?
3.3 Are any learning points from complaints communicated throughout
3.4 Is your organization clear about the type of responses it offers to
3.5 Do successful complainants receive suitable and proportionate redress?
3.6 Do you seek feedback from complainants about their experience of
your complaints procedure and use this to improve the way you manage complaints?
3.7 Would you be able to offer any support or advice to another organization in setting up a complaints management system and/or managing complaints?
4 Managing expectations
4.1 Do you ask the complainant, at the earliest possible stage, what
they want as an outcome of their complaint?
4.2 Are you confident that your complaints management system will
operate consistently at different times and/or in different situations?
4.3 Does your procedure include information about how to stop a
complaint if it has become unhelpful to the complainant and the organization?
4.4 Do you offer practical or emotional support to complainants?
4.5 Do you offer support to people who are complained about?