Call to merge charities to beat donor fatigue

Call to merge charities to beat donor fatigue

The peak body representing non-profit organisations is calling on charities to seriously consider merging with each other.

The peak body representing non-profit organisations is calling on charities to seriously consider merging with each other.

The Community Council for Australia says the current climate is leading to donor confusion, and it wants more organisations to share resources.

Manny Tsigas reports.

Christmas is a time for giving.

But with at least 54,000 charities operating in Australia, how does a person decide who to donate to?

"(Whoever) doesn't have a lot of overheads. And (the money) doesn't go to management, it goes to the people."

"It's probably more about what's close to your heart, I think, for most individuals ... personal circumstance."

"You'd like to give to everything, but you can't. I see similar charities and think, 'I'm already giving to something like that,' so I don't give to that one."

In the lead up to Christmas, the Community Council for Australia is warning of what it calls "charity fatigue."

Its chief executive, the Reverend Tim Costello, says multiple organisations are overlapping on each other's work and needlessly compete for donations and government funding.

"There is an argument for scale, and there certainly is an argument for merging. There's enough blindness, poverty, homelessness to go around for all of us as charities. Let's find a way to make it simpler for the donor."

Reverend Costello is also calling for a system where new charities should prove their causes are not being met by existing ones.

If they are, he suggests, the new charities should be urged to join other groups.

But the head of the Australian Charities & Not-For-Profit Commission, Susan Pascoe, says that raises a legal predicament that is common worldwide.

"Because we implement the law as it exists, if a candidate meets the criteria to be a charity, then we have no grounds on which to refuse them. We've all pretty much got the same approach."

A recent study surveyed nearly 3,000 not-for-profit directors.

It found nearly one-third of them had at least discussed the possibility of a merger this past year.

Seven per cent said they were in the process of merging, while another 7 per cent said they had already done so.

Mohan Gunasekara is the head of migrant-resettlement group Illawarra Multicultural Services, based in Wollongong, New South Wales.

He says he is considering whether a merge with similar organisations, including charities, would deliver services around Wollongong more efficiently.

"It's more about maximising, or better utilisation of, cost. It's about being able to respond in areas that we don't normally respond or provide services by the savings that come from some sort of amalgamation."

Jayne Meyer-Tucker was chief executive of Good Beginnings before it merged with Save the Children earlier this year.

She says, while losing her position was not ideal, it had to be done.

"Are we in these roles to grow organisations and ourselves, or are we in the roles to achieve outcomes? It's encouraging everyone to put aside some of the ego, and the 'organisation growth' part of it, and really staying focused on the purpose."

She is in the process of bringing more charities together, in the hope that even more would follow them.



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