It takes both a local and national presence to implement the strategies that will allow a nonprofit to make an impact. The mission of an organization is to be carried out by the national office and local affiliates, however each is charged with implementing different tactics to accomplish that mission. Local affiliates are working tirelessly at the grassroots level to support their community, while national tends to focus on larger initiatives like supporting research that can have a global impact.

Large, national nonprofits with local affiliates are all challenged with similar tasks: How do we ensure our brand is consistent while tailoring the message to donors who give nationally versus locally?

There are donors who may not know the difference. Meaning, when a donor has intentions to give to a nonprofit, whether they make the gift by participating in a local event or giving online, in their minds, they are supporting an organization without making the local national distinction. There are other donors who prefer to only give locally, to support the services and programs that local nonprofits provide to the community. Vice versa, there are donors who want to support expanded research and larger programs managed by the national office.

To help ensure brand consistency for national and affiliate organizations, here are tips on tailoring the message that benefits both the nonprofit and the constituent.

Below are a few tips on the information a nonprofit needs to better tailor its communications to these various donor groups while still maintaining a consistent brand and message to all donors, whether local or national.

1. Defined Strategy & Tactics

A full understanding of the strategies and tactics of the organization’s strategic plan and who is responsible for implementing those tactics. As mentioned above, providing programs and services within a community is typically managed by the local affiliate within that community. On the flip side, it is common for a national office to manage the nationwide marketing of its mission given it typically has a larger budget and more resources compared to local affiliates (check out this example of how Dress for Success managed their Giving Tuesday campaign on a national and local level).Understanding who does what allows you to begin to tailor your marketing communications, while still staying within your organization’s approved branding guidelines. For example, it’s easier for a local office to share the impact it’s having and how many community members are benefitting from the services provided. Those are the kind of statistics donors who choose to support locally really care about and should be shared by the office providing that support within its marketing collateral.

2. Donor Insight

How do you know if a donor is only giving locally? If data is not being shared across an organization on a regular basis it is almost impossible to answer this question, without directly asking the donor. A good first step may be to survey donors and understand why they support your organization. Have they benefitted from a local service you’ve provided? Are they interested in having a larger, nationwide impact? By gaining an understanding of why they give, you can not only alter how you communicate, you can work with your national or local office to more collaboratively target different individuals with marketing communications and fundraising asks that may be better suited to come from one of you versus the other.

3. Collaboration

As mentioned above, national and local offices have different capacities and capabilities, each lending themselves to sell your organization to donors based on what donors care most about. As an example, when a national office is working with a major donor to identify an initiative they would be most interested in supporting, if that interest is a local program or service, it would be wise to collaborate with that local office. This would allow the local office to share more intricate details about the program of interest and give the donor more insight into why their support is so important. At the end of the day, a large gift to a nonprofit benefits the entire organization and its mission, and no one should shy away from working together, no matter the revenue sharing principles that exist.

Collaboration is a win-win for your organization and mission

By understanding your organization’s strategic plan and the steps you’re each taking to carry out your mission, a local affiliate and national office should work to market its individual core strengths to constituents in the community and nationwide.  Working together to tailor your communications based on your donors preferences can result in improved engagement and revenue results.


Lisa Wettstaedt is a Solutions Consultant with Blackbaud’s Enterprise Customer Business Unit.

Current and prospective nonprofit clients rely on Lisa to identify novel, effective and efficient paths to improved fundraising through business intelligence reporting and marketing automation. Prior to joining Blackbaud Lisa spent more than 10 years managing highly successful direct response and donor services teams for large, national nonprofits.

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