Donaldson, currently head of sales research at BBC World, will join the Newspaper Society in the New Year.
His responsibilities will include overseeing research and working with agencies and advertisers to promote the benefits of the regional press as an advertising medium.
Donaldson, who has been with the BBC since 2001, has a long track record in sales, having worked for media buying agency Mediavest and Saatchi & Saatchi in the past.
Marketing director of the Newspaper Society, Robert Ray, said: "I am delighted to have Keith on board and his experience across a range of communication channels will be a huge asset."
A new study into how readers use and rely on the regional press, commissioned by the Newspaper Society, is due to be published next year.