October 1, 2012; Source: Lexington Herald-Leader

What happens to local affiliates of a national organization when the national group’s image is called into question? The fall from grace may be particularly difficult when you have been something of a media darling—a big name nonprofit brand. Thousands of United Ways and Red Cross affiliates had the opportunity to find out in the Aramony and donor intent scandals respectively. It does not matter what the local affiliate’s relationships are; “you’ve got to take the heat with the brand.” So says Danielle Clore at the Kentucky Nonprofit Network, commenting on the local Komen affiliate in Lexington. She says that the reputation of local affiliates are sometimes severely impacted by the acts of national groups and that it is advisable to know how to respond on a dime because, “Regardless of how you feel about the issue, the power of social media is absolutely critical,” Clore said. “Ultimately, when Twitter and Facebook are on fire, they’re off.”

In Komen’s case, an explosive daisy chain of revelations and reactions was detonated quickly with long-lasting effects to the national group in terms of leadership turnover and loss of credibility. It is still dealing with the fallout in the press but that is of its own making. However, there have been a number of reports of funding losses by local affiliates who did not have any part in the making the now-rescinded decision to stop funding to Planned Parenthood. The Komen affiliate in Lexington does not have funding relationships with the local Planned Parenthood, and it appears from this article that their relationship is cooperative, but it will find out what the blowback from the national organization’s behavior may be this Saturday when they sponsor their local annual race.

Planned Parenthood of Kentucky CEO Patti Stauffer says that it has felt a ripple of its own (but a positive one) and has been able to capitalize on the protective focus on the Planned Parenthood brand that the incident created but she says this doesn’t mean that they felt they were in any conflict with the local Komen affiliate. “We have a mutually supportive relationship with the Komen group,” Stauffer says. “Both the Komen group and us want to make sure that women have access to health care.”

Clore’s point about understanding and being prepared to respond in a 24/7 media environment is a good one. Has your organization considered its ability to respond in a crisis—however unexpected? Tell us about it. –Ruth McCambridge