9 Responses

  1. David Guy
    David Guy October 21, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    This process might perhaps be better described as polarisation than fragmentation The larger agencies have tended to merge (presumably to foster growth and reduce overheads) while smaller agencies are being established and closed all the time. Much of the innovation in NGOs tends to come from smaller agencies because they can often respond more quickly to changing needs and priorities and pick up on new approaches. Larger NGOs inevitably become more bureaucratic, whether they wish to or not.

    Being taken over is not necessarily a sign of failure. Brand names are important. A reputation is hard earned and translates into revenue, but the support base will often follow the organisation into a new format. In the corporate world there are many examples of both plural and consolidated brands. VW Group, for instance, trades under several brand names (VW, Audi, Skoda, SEAT), while BMW and Daimler Benz have a single brand. Many small NGOs reach the limits of what they can do with the resources available to them and can benefit from being absorbed into a larger entity with greater resources. In addition, many smaller entities are driven by the one or two people who established them and often cannot survive the demise or retirement of these key people.

    In my corporate experience (I was for more than a decade a market analyst and corporate strategist) there are some mergers (the Brown Boveri-ASEA merger to form ABB is an example), but they are actually rare. Most mergers are in fact takeovers and if this is not the case the internal disputes over power, administrative systems and culture can soon bring the new entity down.

  2. Andrew R
    Andrew R October 20, 2016 at 11:17 am

    It would also be interesting to know of any lessons from the ActionAid/Austcare consolidation a few years ago? My outsider perception is that both this example and Janet’s CAA/FFH example looked more a takeover of a weaker agency by a stronger, rather than a merger of equals. Others will have more direct knowledge.

    Sitting in an Australian member of an international confederation, I can see there would be fantastic opportunities if two strong well-aligned global agencies chose to join forces – more effective work, greater reach, cost efficiencies, better appeal to the public. But I can also see the practical difficulties that the respective confederation structures would present in nutting through the issues raised by a process of merger. There would be winners and losers, and Boards and Members would need to concede power and take risks. While I’d like to keep such mergers in mind as a longer term vision, maybe the first step is to actively pursue closer cooperation in country where feasible, such as through more joint office facilities, consortium projects or other resource sharing?

  3. Janet Hunt
    Janet Hunt October 14, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    One of the most significant mergers in Australia was the Freedom From Hunger merger with what was then Community Aid Abroad – which subsequently rebranded (in stages) to become Oxfam Australia. No-one would know Freedom from Hunger any more – it’s very good brand just disappeared over the years. As one who observed it from the outside, that ” merger” was quiet a takeover really.

  4. Rod Reeve
    Rod Reeve October 11, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    Great article thanks Ashlee and Stephen. One of Philanthropy Australia’s 2016 Action Plan is ‘to facilitate member collaboration and co-funding opportunities through our digital channels.’
    This is certainly required, with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) currently registering over 37,000 charities in Australia. A great infographic that explains the profile of Australia’s charities is here. It reports that $1 billion of Australia’s $103 billion of charity income is in the international sector.

  5. Anthony Swan
    Anthony Swan October 10, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Yes. Every class in the school my kids go to (Majura Primary in Canberra) is named after a different type of pulse in recognition of the year of pulses!

    More seriously, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more brand proliferation with large NGOs using their back-office scale to start up a number of related NGOs. Regulation may explain this or perhaps large NGOs haven’t been nimble enough compared to new independent start ups. Is it really the case that in a hypothetical merger of ChildFund and Plan that one of the brands would be scrapped? Apart from regulatory issues, I don’t see why this would be any different from Google and YouTube.

    1. Stephen Howes
      Stephen Howes October 10, 2016 at 11:54 am

      I think the basic issue is that in the charitable world a brand has to equal an organization. If there was a merger, there would only be one organization, and therefore one brand. Perhaps brands and organizations could be de-coupled. But when you look at tax deductibility criteria as well as criteria to access government funding they are both very much focused on assessment of the organization concerned, so I think it would be hard to get government support for a separate brand without a separate organization.

  6. Janelle
    Janelle October 10, 2016 at 7:49 am

    The competition that exists among NGOs, would be better replaced or infused with collaboration. I draw on many experiences in dealing with them in difficult situations including among others, Timor-Leste, and Burma. It is no different domestically. I once brought four youth organisations into one, as they serviced the same people but did not collaborate. It took two years. Perhaps funding agreements could include a collaboration clause? No easy answers but leadership is required.

Leave a Reply