Which organisations do charity chief executives think should merge?

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Earlier this week consultancy Firetail published an analysis, based on qualitative interviews with a small number of charity leaders, looking at attitudes to charity mergers.

The analysis is published here and it makes interesting reading.

The analysis identified many now-familiar themes from the merger debate. Essentially, everyone in the charity sector thinks someone else should merge. The biggest barriers are identified as individuals – chief executives and board members – who are determined to do things their own way, and are worried about their jobs. Structural challenges, including lack of merger funding, are also an issue. When charities do merge it’s usually because of a crisis.

I wonder about selection bias in this sort of situation. If people agree to be interviewed about merger, it’s probably not because they’re in favour of the status quo. So these surveys, as well as all the ones we carry out, probably overstate the enthusiasm for change. And it’s striking how often mergers look good in theory and turn out to be iffy in practice. But even so, it seems obvious that we could do with more mechanisms in the sector to encourage a few more mergers.

I don’t want to dwell on this subject too much because my colleague Gareth Jones has just written a much more thoughtful and considered analysis of this issue as the leader of Charity Finance magazine, which you can read here.

So I’ll just say that the most interesting element of the Firetail analysis is arguably the charities which are picked out as having potential for mergers. Charity leaders obviously see synergies here, and the interesting element is the focus on mega-charities.

Action for Children is a prime target for several. It should merge with Barnardo’s, say some. It should merge with NSPCC, say others.

If the Barnardo’s merger happened the new entity would be one of the biggest names in the sector – around £400m of turnover.

“AFC and Barnardo’s do the same thing and are in competition,” one charity chief executive told the consultancy. “So, support costs, management costs would reduce, expertise and focus would be complimentary/added impact, policy voice is stronger.

“NSPCC have voluntary income and Barnardo’s have a strong trading arm. A mega-merger would be powerful and benefit funders, clients and be a stronger voice to government.”

A merger of Crisis and Shelter is also mooted, as is Anthony Nolan and Bloodwise, Macmillan and Marie Curie, Oxfam and ActionAid, and RNIB and Guide Dogs – an idea which was actually proposed by Lesley-Anne Alexander when she was chief executive of RNIB, but was shot down by Guide Dogs pretty swiftly.

There are obvious synergies to all these proposals, although it’s also worth asking whether there are good reasons for them not to go ahead. If there is only big charity in a particular field and it loses its way, or faces financial trouble, that sector could be left pretty bereft.

I suppose it comes down to what you think about mega-charities. Are they a force for good, or are there too many existing massive entities in the sector? Many of them, like Cancer Research UK, already formed from merger.

Full list of suggestions:

  • Action for Children and Barnardo’s
  • Action for Children and NSPCC
  • Bloodwise and Anthony Nolan
  • Carers Trust and Carers UK
  • Comic Relief and Children in Need
  • Crisis and Shelter
  • Cancer Research UK and 250+ new cancer charities
  • Epilepsy Society and Epilepsy Action, Epilepsy Research UK
  • Hope and Homes for Children and Lumos
  • Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK
  • Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie
  • Meningitis Research Foundation and Meningitis Now
  • Migrant Voice and Migrants Rights Network or JCWI
  • Migrants Rights Network and JCWI
  • Military (most) and Military (most)
  • One and Global Citizen
  • Ovacome and Ovarian Cancer Action
  • Oxfam and ActionAid
  • Pancreatic Cancer Charities and 72 other pancreatic cancer charities
  • Refugee Council and Refugee Action
  • Restless Development and YMCA
  • RNIB and Guide Dogs
  • SafeLives and Women’s Aid
  • SANE and Rethink Mental Illness
  • Teach First and Ambition School Leadership
  • Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent
  • The Brain Tumour Charity and Brain Tumour Research
  • Turning Point and Addaction
  • Youth United and Step Up To Serve


– See more at: https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/voices/which-organisations-do-charity-chief-executives-think-should-merge.html#sthash.DsY7mytg.dpuf

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