Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Charity merger: Operation Smile Train

I was thrilled to receive a call from a colleague yesterday sharing the brilliant news about the merger of two wonderful organizations, Operation Smile and Smile Train.

Brilliant news because it will, if successful, give smiles to more kids around the world. Plain and simple.

Brilliant also because good, robust and successful charity mergers are few and far between.

There have been a handful of leading case studies over the past decade in the UK. Cancer Research UK is a cancer research organization formed in 2002 by the merger of The Cancer Research Campaign and Imperial Cancer Research Fund.

Before they merged, they generated around £225m between them. They've now more than doubled that to over £500m. Not bad in less than 10 years. More than twice as much pioneering research delivered, lives saved. Case in point.

More recently Age UK was formed, the coming together of Age Concern England and Help the Aged.

So what's the point?

Done correctly, well thought through mergers allow collaborators to further their great work. To quote the leaders at Operation Smile Train they're mission is simple, believing they can "capitalize on each other’s strengths to:

- Reach more children than either of us could on our own
- Launch more medical missions and train more local doctors
- Operate more efficiently so we can accomplish much more."

Simple, but inspiring, right?

If it works, yes. The reason I think this coming together is so important is it is the only one I know of (I'm sure there are more) when the organizations have a checkered history. It isn't any secret that things haven't been rosy in the past between Operation Smile and Smile Train.

But who cares. They've seen through all of the reasons mergers don't typically happen: ego's, territorial-ism and inability to see the bigger picture (and long term impact of coming together).

They've done it purely and simply because it is the right thing to do, ensuring Operation Smile Train will do what they do better than anyone else. No other reason.

And that means more smiles for kids who otherwise wouldn't been able to do what we all take for granted. Smile.

My colleague Sean Triner wrote a great piece about charity mergers a couple of years ago, worth a read.

That's not to say charities should merge merely for the sake it. There are arguments against it. Like losing your ability as independent organizations to be nimble, and as a result becoming less effective. But usually examples like this are hurdles. And hurdles are meant to be overcome.

Those who ignore it because its too hard or will put our own jobs at risk are doing those we're out to help a disservice.

And that means less of what Operation Smile Train will no doubt so better than anyone else. Create more smiles like the one below.



Anonymous said...

You are so naive. Read

Jonathon Grapsas said...

Thanks for your comment and pointing out this article.

My post was based on the coming together of these two organizations and their vision to help more children who need it.

Not to cast dispersions on any backroom politics, or motivations behind the proposed merger.

The proof will be in the pudding if the merger goes ahead.


Anonymous said...

Jonathon, if the world has more people like you, it would be a much better place. The merger was to help kids and that was simple but its always the grown ups who tell us otherwise. They should really be ashamed of themselves.

Anywy. Keep the faith!!

Jonathon Grapsas said...

Thanks :)

Definitely keeping the faith. As I mentioned earlier Im not interested or bothered in backroom dealings. Interested in seeing more kids with the smiles they deserve.

Thank you for your positive response.

Anonymous said...

We are so proud of the work of Smile Train, and as an example of the recent activity it is important for you to understand the scope of our operations. Smile Train partners in South Asia reported record-breaking quarter-end results, having performed 13,734 free cleft repairs, and worldwide Smile Train had its third highest performing quarter in 12 years with a total of 29,466 surgeries. We are poised to continue at these rates and with your continued help will be able to save so many more children from devastating lives.

GossipGrl said...

Smile Train is such a inspirational charity on it on.. it seems hard to imagine it being able to outdo itself with a merger. Mergers often end up very difficult and technical..

Redspect said...

"If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it Help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save live"!