Checklist: collaboration and mergers

By governance expert Rodney Buse

Focus is key - As the recession bites harder and a range of funding streams are squeezed, charities will not be able to do everything they want to. They are likely to have to focus on core activities if the quality of their services is not to suffer.

Maintaining quality will require action - If a charity's beneficiaries are to receive a holistic service, there will be an ever greater need for cooperation with other voluntary groups. There can be few moral arguments for putting the needs of a single charity before the needs of the community it serves.

But don't rush into mergers - It is collaboration, not necessarily merger, that provides the way forward. There are many barriers to a successful merger: overcoming them requires financial advantages, support from key stakeholders and cultural empathy between merging organisations.

It's hard to get all three without collaborative working first. Financial gains alone do not usually lead to good mergers unless one of the organisations is in distress.

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