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Fadi Itani: If we’re really stronger together, could it be time to partner up? 

17 Jun 2021 Voices

Fadi Itani from the Muslim Charities Forum suggests that if done well charity mergers can be positive and innovative, rather than seen as a last resort

Throughout Covid-19, many of charities have faced a rising wave of challenges. As we move slowly and hesitantly towards a post-Covid world, partnership working is worth considering to future-proof and strengthen defences.  

Covid-19 certainly changed the charity world. With reports that many charities went into the pandemic with only one month reserves and some have barely enough to survive a few days these have been and continue to be very challenging times. 

As with most problems, recognition is important, but worry can only take you so far. At some point and before too long, the only way to resolve a concern is to face it head on and try and get ahead of the curve.  

As we celebrate Small Charity Week 2021, discussing and forming meaningful partnerships can be the solution to safeguarding against future calamity. 

We are moving hesitantly and slowly towards the end of lockdown but as we know, nothing is guaranteed and depends a lot on the data.  The recent Delta variant shows us that we can’t relax just yet and that the future remains uncertain. 

Riding out this storm is the way forward but how small charities do this can depend upon resources, staffing and funding.  Digitalised services mean that responding and adapting to pull in income through new funnels has worked for many. Taking offline events online and developing new and innovative ways of working has and will continue to help. Applying for emergency grant funding is also essential but competition is rife – applications to rounds through April – July are in their thousands. But with furloughed staff and ever decreasing reserves, this won’t be enough for many to survive. 

If you can’t beat them…join them! 

One option that charities would be wise to seriously consider is mergers. Sometimes seen as a ‘last resort’ and something which is not sought out but by which circumstances force, charity mergers or partnerships could be realistic answer.

Charities of similar sizes and operating within similar geographical areas or sectors, would be wise to start talking. Sometimes a competitiveness creeps in within the sector, whether it’s generating the most donor income from a campaign or garnering the most media coverage – similar charities can see each other as competition. Unfortunately, this unspoken truth can detract from the real point: to serve the most amount of people, most effectively by meeting and preventing need.  

Together We Can. 

This is where sincere and balanced partnerships based on communication and sharing, can really help smaller charities to join forces and come out stronger. 

Covid-19 has brought many things and opportunity for change is certainly one of them. Mergers of charities can be positive and innovative, rather than seen as a last resort. Collaboration of reserves, skills and expertise can ensure that aid can be delivered more securely, with more stability and ultimately serve people better. Mergers can secure staff and skills, share resources, practice and reach new people that otherwise slipped between the cracks. With news of a £10bn funding gap and the predicted loss of 60,000 jobs over the next 18 months (PBE), considering a merger now could be the smartest move that charities’ leadership should consider. 

Some may argue that there is no need to merge and that variety within the sector is a good thing – and of course it is. A choice of charity means those in need do not feel they have only one avenue for help. Different expertise or a different approach will suit different folk and being in need doesn’t mean that personal preferences don’t count. 

But Covid-19 has changed so much and the level of need has dramatically risen. This need will not go away when lockdown does end. Those already struggling are now in dire straits. Those teetering on the edge have fallen over. And those who never thought they would be near the edge, are balancing on it in disbelief. Joining with others to merge of governance and collaborate, could be what is needed to catch and support as many people as possible. 

Those charities who are struggling and wish to be proactive could start by looking around at who is working in similar ways. Is there mutual benefit in joining forces? Could discussion take place? What would compliance and legal requirements look like? If, following serious consideration with another charity, a merger is not possible – then no fear. At the least, organisations will have learnt from one another and had opportunity to build a relationship and share support for the benefit of those in need. 

Maybe Covid-19 is change that is needed to truly bring about togetherness in the sector. It’s an option worth exploring in a positive light.  This Small Charity Week, small does mean mighty but together means we can. 

Fadi Itani is chief executive of the Muslim Charities Forum 

Civil Society Voices is the place for informed opinion, and debate about the big issues affecting charities today. We’re always keen to hear from anyone, working or volunteering at a charity, who has something to say. Find out more about contributing and how to get in touch.


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