Checklist: How to handle charity mergers

By governance expert Judith Rich

Judith Rich
Judith Rich

Mergers between charities are being actively encouraged by the Charity Commission and, to an increasing extent, by the public at large.

In some cases, the reasons for merging are obvious and, if the chairs and chief executives concerned are prepared to put forward a sensible, well thought-out proposal, it will often go through with little objection.

But what of the staff in the two charities? Suddenly, there are at least two people potentially heading one department and, further down the line, duplicated roles. This can lead to unrest among staff, which, if allowed to be discussed widely, could harm the organisations' public image.

The chairs and trustees of charities considering merger must ensure they consider the impact on every level of their organisations.

They must also be prepared to take external advice and spend time advising staff throughout negotiations about how they can be supported and protected. Without such input, both boards could end up with disaffected employees who could jeopardise the success of the combined charities.

This is a fairly unusual undertaking for trustees, but one that can - if handled wisely and sensibly - lead to a much stronger organisation, with huge future potential.

Topics:
Governance Advice

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