Rebecca Packwood: Why other small charities should consider a merger like ours

For small charities like ours, the concept of a merger might seem a bit daunting, especially if it’s with a much larger organisation.

Let me share with you how Age Exchange, a small charity in Blackheath, chose to partner with Community Integrated Care, a large charity with a national footprint.

Just over two years into my tenure as CEO at Age Exchange, in 2017, I was faced with a challenge. With the positive evidence of the incredible impact of our reminiscence arts and dementia intervention, we looked at how we could increase the number of people we support and grow the organisation.

Our trustees had a clear aim: to expand and enable us to reach more people across the whole of the UK, not just in our lovely corner of London. However, we were too small to manage the growth without major investment, which could potentially put the charity at risk in the longer term – so we agreed to start to look formally for a partner.

With the help of a grant from the Office for Civil Society, we teamed up with Eastside Primetimers, a specialist management consultancy, who conducted the search for us – identifying organisations to approach, helping us whittle down the selection and setting up meetings with a shortlisted few.

We met at our community hub because we felt it showed what we were about and enabled potential partners to feel the warmth of the organisation. Contrary to my initial expectations, it became apparent that partnering with small local charities was not the answer. The key to the long-term sustainability and growth of the charity would only come with a larger national organisation, who could offer a much greater scope for expansion without compromising on our values and would help us retain our individual identity.

Our merger with national charity, Community Integrated Care, is the perfect partnership. Age Exchange brings expertise on volunteering and fundraising to Community Integrated Care, not to mention the scope for us to work in their care homes. In return they have an infrastructure that can bring a multitude of benefits to the way we work – from HR to finance. It is a relief that I no longer had to be the expert on everything and could concentrate on the big issues.

For me, there are three reasons why this has been a successful and fulfilling merger; firstly, we did this as a long-term plan, looking at how we can grow the charity whilst securing our future. Secondly, trustees and colleagues kept their eyes firmly on the need to continue to provide services and bring the benefits of our work to more people. Finally, we were clear about our strengths and what we had to offer in a partnership. If you believe and love what you do, you need to be able to get others to believe and love it to – and Community Integrated Care do just that. They get us.

I would whole-heartedly encourage more organisations to join hands with a charity like Community Integrated Care. They understand what makes a partnership work and have the ambition to change the face of social care for the better – over the coming years, I hope to see more charities following our recommendation and partnering with Community Integrated Care.

The social care sector is a changing landscape. The charities that come together, will not only be stronger as a result but will increase the reach of their incredible impact – that’s what I’m excited about.

Rebecca Packwood is the CEO of Age Exchange

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