A long standing belief has been that charities in the UK benefit from having a National voice. A centralised and core identity.
This is true, in part.
The problem with this however, is that many organisations operate like a franchise.
A brand exists, yes...but many subdivisions or local 'branches' who are completely independent of each other, apart from sheltering under a brand umbrella.
Now, I've been to a Wildlife Reserve, owned by a Wildlife Trust and seen RSPB members rock up, proudly show their Wild Fowl and Wetland membership badge and expecting free parking...
(which you're not entitled to as a Wildlife Trust member anyway, never mind a completely different charity...but that's another brand/membership minefield).
My point is that's not uncommon for a committed supporter to get three organisations mixed up.
Imagine how confusing it is for the general public to see a compelling (and expensive) central brand advert on TV and think that by responding directly to that appeal, they are supporting a local charity?
A cause close to their heart that has a real local and social impact maybe supporting people to either live and age well, or improve the communities mental health, perhaps feeding local homeless people and struggling neighbours or a cause dedicated to making your local environment a better place to be.
I've wrestled with this branding issue many times, and most recently it's resurfaced again as a brilliant local service delivery client has successfully generated press attention regarding their lack of funding, explained how they are in huge demand and their plight has been broadcast on national TV.
Unfortunately, this small division of the bigger brand are in crisis mode right at the same time the national brand releases a slick and hard hitting TV ad with a direct link to making a donation to the central brand.
Yes, the way our government system works encourages having one big national voice, yet the devil really is in the detail and that fine print often means a supporter can give to the brand machine and not the local delivery team.
We see this with Legacies too.
In the UK alone there are over £166K charities with more causes being set up everyday.
I hope the future will demand a more collaborative way of working and one that insists donations are fed through to the grassroots where they are needed.
I'd like to see not-for-profits working more effectively together and this is a challenge when the pressure is on to simply get through the day.
Hopefully by equipping local charities with strong and distinguishable brand messages, we can overcome some confusion...but it really is a continuing conundrum and challenge.