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Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting the National Office and Affiliates on the Same Page

While reading an article in The Washington Post about the resignation of several regional and national officials at Susan G. Komen, what caught my attention wasn’t that this is happening in light of the fallout from the Planned Parenthood controversy. The fact that staff is leaving the charity after the policy flip-flop and PR fiasco, isn’t so surprising. Likewise, I wasn’t shocked to learn that the charity is now working on a contingency budget under the theory that donations will be down post-crisis, given the loss of trust in the brand. We could see this coming.

What caught my attention was the fact that the local affiliates are saying that they essentially do not have a seat at the table (with 122 affiliates, they only have one affiliate representative on the nation board). The executive director at one of the affiliates was quoted saying “the affiliate leadership wants to be part of the decision-making.” Well, yeah, of course! Especially, in situations, like Komen’s recent policy changes regarding Planned Parenthood, that are likely to galvanize the public and have a substantial impact on the affliates' image and fundraising capabilities.

To be fair, this is an issue that I’m sure lots of charities structured in this way – such as the American Red Cross , YMCA, United Way, Girl Scouts  - struggle to manage. For its part, Komen says it will address the problem by creating a group of affiliates to work with the national board on setting policies and priorities, but it doesn’t yet have any concrete details as to how that will work. Rebuilding its relationship with the local affiliates while rebuilding the public's trust will be no small task. It will be interesting to see where Komen goes from here.

Image: mangostock via Shutterstock.com

Update: The Chronicle of Philanthropy's April 15, 2012 issue takes a look at how charities manage the relationship between the national headquarters and affiliates.

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