Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Charitable Mergers: A recipe for change, challenge and opportunity

Here’s a recipe we should all be thinking about… Take thousands of charities, dozens of great causes, and bring to a boil through limited financial resources and increasing demand. Blend in a desire to leverage for-profit best practices around mergers and you have the potential for a tasty dish to serve many new stakeholders. But how do you ensure that the dish ever even gets made, and if so how do you ensure it doesn’t boil over to make a huge mess?

Corporate mergers often fail. And charities that have been poorly merged have failed too. Moreover, the same passion that is at the core of every successful charity can actively resist the kind of change required for a merger. Worse yet, very real issues of maintaining donors and ensuring long-time supporters don’t leave can scare off even veteran Boards and charitable leaders.

Here are three top ways to help make this process less intimidating and more likely to succeed.

First, seek what is common in the charities in question as opposed to strictly what is different. Craig Dearden-Phillips’ article http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/feb/17/charity-merger-journey
sheds light on this perspective.

Second, seek engagement from corporate funders in particular early in the process. With the growing trend towards Collective Impact http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/collective_impact/ corporate funders are beginning to "reward" organizations that are considering ways to "do more" with combined resources.

Finally, consider all your stakeholders and communicate a vision that underscores benefits (even if it may only be survival) for all concerned. Collaboration, transparency and openness have helped other organizations achieve success http://www.insidetoronto.com/print/43149 and are the key ingredients of successful corporate mergers as well.

Not undertaken lightly or without risk, a charitable merger – even of one function or via shared space – might be worth your consideration on the menu at least as “food for thought”.

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