The Association of Charitable Foundations and the Community Foundation Network are exploring a possible merger, though the ACF has ruled out a ‘fast-track merger’ following consultation with its members.
And CFN chief executive Stephen Hammersley confirmed it would be “the back end of next year” before any further steps are taken towards a merger, if at all.
CFN, the membership body for independent community foundations throughout the UK, invited ACF to consider the idea earlier this year and ACF trustees commissioned an exploratory study to identify potential synergies and risks, involving several interviews with ACF members.
According to ACF chief executive David Emerson, the results of this study showed that while members demonstrated “considerable support for the work of community foundations and for CFN itself”, their main priority was that ACF should clarify its own strategy in light of the fast-changing external environment.
“Only then was it felt that it would be appropriate to establish whether a merger with CFN would be a way of taking forward the new strategy,” he said.
“ACF’s trustee board was consequently not persuaded that a fast-track merger was an appropriate course at this point, and ACF will not be taking that proposal further.”
In a letter to members, Emerson said that over the summer the ACF will survey its members to tease out the strategic issues it should address in its next strategic plan.
Meanwhile, it will continue to work closely with CFN on their joint development of Philanthropy UK, funded to the tune of £742,500 over three years by the Office for Civil Society.
This will enable the two organisations to demonstrate they can work together and manage a joint project successfully, Emerson added.
CFN not yet approached members with the idea
Stephen Hammersley (pictured) told civilsociety.co.uk the two organisations were at the “very early stages of exploring whether a merger is something we want to pursue”, and that although the CFN board were fully aware of the prospect, the organisation had not even raised the subject with its members yet.
But in the current financial environment, “we need to explore all the ways open to us of maximising the amount of our income that ends up as services to our members as opposed to paying overheads”, Hammersley said.
It is the second time the two umbrella bodies have looked at merger; the first exploration six years ago concluded that it wouldn’t be in either organisation’s best interests to proceed, though they also decided they should collaborate in other ways, which they have done.
“We like ACF, we get on well with them and many of our members already use their training,” Hammersley added. “It would be irresponsible not to explore all possible ways of working with them.”