Branch development

Our extensive network of over 160,000 local branches ensures the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) remains firmly rooted within local communities.

Through our branches, the IFRC is present in virtually every community on earth. Branches bring communities and volunteers together. They are the service arms of our organization within communities. They are centres for resilience. And they keep our network grounded in local needs.

Strong branches are key to a strong and relevant National Society. As part of Strategy 2030, we have committed to increasing our support to National Societies, including their networks of branches, so our work is as locally led as possible.

We will help National Societies shift their structures, systems and approaches to meet people’s evolving needs. And we will support them to move beyond resilience so they can address root causes of crises and prevent them from occurring.

Watch: What is branch development?

What do branches do?

Branches are incredibly diverse because they adapt to local contexts and needs. But they fulfil many common functions such as:

  • Acting as a first point of contact during a crisis and coordinating local operations during humanitarian emergencies.
  • Coordinating the delivery of long-term services such as crisis preparedness activities and community health projects.
  • Working hand-in-hand with their communities to understand people’s specific needs. Branches relay this community feedback to their National Society to inform national services and policies.
  • Providing a physical and social hub for volunteers and staff. We engage, train and mentor our members through our branches to help them develop their skills.
  • Conducting local fundraising. During a large scale emergency, branches also help channel regional, national and international resources to affected local communities.
  • Promoting our network and Fundamental Principles to local communities, authorities and institutions.

Some branches operate in a support or coordination capacity—usually those at the state, provincial, city or district level. Sub-branches and first aid posts are embedded within remote communities and are usually involved in front line operations. We have also seen a rise in online branches as digital access increases around the world.