Working with other charities

(November 2009)

The Charity Commission encourages charities to look regularly and imaginatively at what more they can achieve for their beneficiaries by working with others. The ultimate aim of any charity must be the provision of the very best services for those who benefit from its work and one way that this can be achieved is by joint working.

Collaborative working

Collaboration can lead to improved organisational effectiveness, reduced duplication, better use of resources and more value for money, all of which enable the charity to better help its beneficiaries. Trustees should consider frequently whether there are any aspects of their work that can be better delivered in partnership with others. This could be as simple as sharing a minibus or providing joint training or may involve more complex arrangements.

Charities can approach us with queries of a technical nature or for good practice advice and assistance on general aspects of collaboration.

Mergers

Some charities may decide that merging with other charities is the best way of meeting their current and future beneficiaries’ needs.

However, it is not part of our agenda to push charities towards merger. Diversity and independence are important strengths in the charitable sector and we recognise that every charity has its own distinctive contribution to make to society.

The Commission’s role in facilitating mergers focuses on the legal and constitutional aspects. The majority of mergers do not need our consent. A charity’s governing document will usually contain the powers needed to allow a charity to merge with another. However, we must be involved if a charity does not have the power it needs or if its governing document specifies our consent is necessary. At the end of the merger process, we must be informed in order to keep the Central Register of Charities up to date. We are also happy to offer charities good practice advice on general aspects of merger.

What help does the Charity Commission provide on collaborative working and mergers?

The following materials will be of use for charities considering collaborative working and mergers:

Charity Commission guidance

The guidance highlights key issues for charity trustees and their staff on the subject of collaborative working and mergers. It concentrates on the role of the Charity Commission in both partnership working and mergers and outlines the support we are able to offer.

Toolkits and checklists

The toolkits are a practical resource for charities staff and trustees that take them through the process of collaboration or merger from initiation to evaluation.

The following checklists are for use by trustee boards and charity staff and set out the key questions to be addressed when considering collaborative working or merger. We recommend that trustee boards look at these alongside the toolkits above.

Register of mergers

Following the Charities Act 2006, the Charity Commission has been tasked with setting up a register of mergers:

Research and evaluation

Copies of Charity Commission research reports on mergers and collaboration, based on our casework experience, can be found below:

There have been some notable examples of mergers and/or collaborative working and learning continues on both the positive and negative aspects of merger. We undertook an evaluation of Volunteering England, a charity which came about as a result of the merger of three charities. This evaluation identified a number of factors affecting the success of the merger and some lessons learned that may be of benefit to other charities considering merging.

Contacting the mergers and collaborative working unit

The Charity Commission has a Mergers and Collaborative Working Unit which acts as both an internal and external focal point for mergers and collaborative working issues. The aim of the Unit is to help facilitate complex mergers and collaborative working arrangements and to disseminate useful information about the subject.
In some cases, trustees will need to seek advice or help from the Commission in order to take forward their decision to merge. To consider a proposal we will need some background information and have prepared a checklist of the information which we will usually need to see.

The Collaborative Working Unit at NCVO complements the Commission’s work in this area with charities and may also be a useful source of support. Information about this Unit can be found at http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/.

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