Imagine Canada reports that in 2003 there were 45,000 not-for-profit/charitable organizations in Ontario or 369 per 100,000 population. Since 2003, the number of organizations has grown despite the challenges facing these organizations: Ontario’s difficult fiscal environment, increasing demands for transparency and accountability by both stakeholders and funders, a shortage of skilled volunteers and a deficit in experienced senior management staff. Seventy five per cent of not-for-profit agencies in Canada have fewer than 10 staff. Virtually all agencies are facing challenges recruiting volunteer board members who have the requisite skills and expertise to govern.
The not-for-profit sector is a vital contributor to the Ontario economy and for this reason the sector needs to remain vibrant and sustainable. The vast majority of not-for-profit agencies are found in the health and social services sectors. Faced with these significant challenges, one should ask the question: Why are so few agencies actively engaged in examining strategies for merging their talent with the talent of like minded agencies and move into a position of enhanced sustainability?
I would suggest that there are a number of reasons. Agencies do not want to lose their independence and their “mark”. They don’t want to lose their history. Often times, they don’t want to lose power and control. Perhaps they don’t see the benefits or feel the driving need to talk about merging or amalgamating. Perhaps they are waiting for additional government funding to ensure their stability. Perhaps they don’t know how to approach a discussion with another agency or group of agencies. Or, perhaps they will wait until forced to seek alternatives.
The integration of agencies does not have to be a win/lose proposition. There are many proven strategies that can be employed to ensure that agencies engaged in “joining up” will be highly successful and stable organizations at the end of the process. However none of these strategies will work unless a leader emerges that asks the question “Why Not?”.