The recent announcement that GAIHN and United Ministries, two high-impact nonprofits serving Greenville County, have begun the process of merging is exciting and positive news for our community. It also triggers a great discussion about collaboration and how/why nonprofits join forces to do their work.
When is the right time to consider merging operations with another organization? In the nonprofit sector, a merger often happens when a struggling nonprofit is absorbed by a larger, healthier nonprofit so that the work of the smaller entity can continue. This kind of merger is often the last act of a desperate agency, hoping to relieve its financial stress by being acquired by a larger, healthier organization.
But this is not the only kind of merger. What would make two high-functioning, high-impact, healthy nonprofits sit at a table and discuss joining their operations?
When United Ministries and Greenville Area Interfaith Hospitality Network (GAIHN) began that discussion, they didn’t know what would happen. But Ethan Friddle, the interim executive director of United Ministries, and Tony McDade, the executive director of GAIHN, did know one thing; that the pre-existing partnership between United Ministries and GAIHN had been very helpful to both organizations, and further integrating their programs would create an even bigger impact on the populations that they served in the community.
What was it that prompted the staff and Boards of Directors of these two organizations to begin discussions about the possibility of merging? Ethan and Tony found that the more they looked into the possibility of merging, the more favorable it seemed.
GAIHN and United Ministries had been in conversation about co-locating services for some time when the idea of a merger was first floated. Ethan and Tony had a mutual desire to co-locate services, as it was already apparent to both that their programs complemented each other. Upon investigation during the merger process, it was also revealed that both agencies shared many of the same community resources, with both receiving funding from many of the same churches and foundations. It made sense to merge in order to help donor dollars go even further.
GAIHN had recently moved out of the West End, where United Ministries is located, and both organizations wanted to make sure that their connection was not lost and that the work that they both engaged in would continue to complement one another. In addition to this, United Ministries was going through a leadership transition as the board sought a new executive director. Ethan was serving in the interim and looking for an opportunity to pass off the reins, and so reaching out to his trusted friend and colleague was readily accepted by the board at United Ministries.
United Way of Greenville County strongly supports collaboration among agencies, and it is especially exciting to see two very strong, high-impact organizations working closely together. The blending of United Ministries and GAIHN will produce an even stronger single organization that provide an even greater array of services to the clients it serves, and will help United Way achieve our vision of a Cycle of Success for everyone in Greenville County. Congratulations on your union, and we wish you the best of luck as you make our community stronger.