By: Christina Wu, The School Fund
The charitable sector has become increasingly diverse with organizations serving all kinds of mandates in traditional and niche areas of the social impact sector. With the proliferation of charities registering, organizations can find themselves working towards similar objectives. Competition is not a bad thing. In some cases, it encourages us to discover new solutions or better ways to do things. In other cases, we may find ourselves diluting each other’s efforts to benefit society. Merging operations and IT infrastructure can sometimes better serve donors and stakeholders who are ultimately impacted.
Why should two crowdfunding platforms merge?
For The School Fund (TSF) and Education Generation (EdGen), IT is a tool that facilitates connection between donors, NGO partners and students. Through crowdfunding, we provide scholarships to high-achieving students in the developing world. Both TSF and EdGen operated fundraising and communications platform for education-focused partner organizations, which allowed donors to directly fund student scholarships. We decided to merge with the goal of delivering a better donor experience, concentrating our strengths, and expanding our reach to fund more student scholarships in more countries all over the world. We realized that we had both been experimenting with and maintaining a scholarship crowdfunding platform over the years. Through merging, we could reduce duplication of efforts and mistakes made, so long as our visions were closely aligned.
We are a technology-based NFP considering a merger. Now, what?
If your technology-based nonprofit or charity is considering joining forces with another organization, consider a few lessons we learned along the way.
1. We must all come to the table.
A merger of any two organizations does not just involve the Executive Directors or Founders. Leadership and staff in both organizations will need to play an active role. Be patient. It will take time to discuss how a merger will be structured and how it will impact staff, donors, and, most importantly, the mission and people your organizations serve. If you determine a merger is the best move, it is important to maintain donor base continuity by utilizing management, IT and communications expertise from both organizations. When you start mapping the merger, remember to be honest and upfront. Communicating your unique challenges, fears and non-negotiables will make it much easier for both parties.
2. Be aware of the user experience.
You may decide to collectively abandon one platform and migrate your donors over to another, as we did. In this case, your programmer(s) should be aware that when new donors move to a new platform, they are likely not familiar with how to navigate your donation platform. Remember to consider building a user experience that will make the transition as seamless as possible for supporters to continue to do what they do best: make donations! The less you disrupt their ability to make donations, the better. Set up their new user accounts for them or make it very easy for your new donors to find the login information to set up an account and start donating. For your most highly engaged donors, experiment with crediting some donation funds, which they can use to support the initiative/individual of their choice.
Create a merger landing page to allow new and existing donors to easily understand the merger and act on new initiatives or opportunities, as a result of the merged organizations.
3. The technical aspects will be more complicated than you imagine.
Expect that each organization’s technical languages and databases will be different. As a result, porting data from one platform to another may take longer than you expect. Build in extra time before your merger launch date, so data can be organized on one side and prepare for it to be ported to the new platform. It is difficult to know exactly how long the process will take until your programmers have a chance to look at the other organization’s data. As in all components of a merger, communication is crucial!
4. Reward, welcome, celebrate your supporters.
Incentivize your supporters to move from one website to another. Find ways to attract your donors to your new online presence after merging, so they can take action towards your cause. This could be through contests, online promotions, or hosting an event. In our case, we budgeted funds for a matching campaign to encourage donors to move from one platform to another. These strategies will help maintain donor continuity.
5. Have an internal and external communication plan, but be flexible.
Have a communication plan ready to roll out the merger activities on both sides, but be prepared for launch delays. Whatever you do, make sure you have the organizational and technical pieces in place before anything is communicated externally. This includes internally preparing all staff, volunteers, partner organizations and other stakeholders for the day of the merger. You will have peace of mind knowing that your platform has been tested and technically running smoothly and that your stakeholders are properly informed, before a rush of new donors start exploring your donations platform.
While Education Generation has fully merged with The School Fund, we all continue to learn. Know that not all tactics you utilize to bring both platforms and donor bases together will be effective. Experiment, and keep testing and measuring your results. Once the organizations are merged, don’t lose sight of the unique strengths that both sides brought to the table.
Christina Wu managed communications for Education Generation and continues to promote educational access with The School Fund.
About The School Fund
The School Fund provides a fundraising and communication platform to partner organizations for the purpose of providing scholarships to high achieving students in the developing world. Our partners are NGOs that have staff on the ground in the places where their students are, and support student scholarships as a component of their mission. Partners use The School Fund to enhance their donor experience, as well as to give their students access to a global community of compassionate students and donors with whom they can communicate and learn.