EDITORIAL: Mergers build up charity strength

The general public's perception that there are too many charities is the harsh reality for PROs working in the voluntary sector.

The general public's perception that there are too many charities is the harsh reality for PROs working in the voluntary sector.

Competing for column inches can all too often be outweighed by the battle for funding. As a result, mergers are inevitable. In a report published by NGO Finance, one in seven charities claimed to be considering merging with another in its field.

Some causes have been harder hit than others as public opinion considers them less worthy. Research by Trust Monitor shows that Aids charities ranked last in a popularity league table of 24 charity groupings.

It is fitting then that the biggest ever merger in the sector includes the two largest HIV charities - the Terrence Higgins Trust and London Lighthouse. The merger - the eighth time the trust has merged in the last year-and-a-half - is a sign of a maturing charity sector.

The sector has grown from a large number of small regional direct action groups to larger, more financially secure bodies effectively promoting care for an illness that has fallen from the national news agenda since the late 1980s.

At the same time the issues involved have changed from dealing with death to living with HIV and promoting combination therapies.

The wisdom of Terence Higgins Trust Lighthouse is there for all to see.

Services will continue under the two separate identities while central functions such as PR, finance and human resources will be provided by THTL. The savings in combining infrastructures can be invested in improved services. From a PR point of view, the effects for both are doubled since rather than competing for coverage, the two will be working under the same banner.

This is significant as projected figures predict a 50 per cent increase in the number of people with HIV over the next five years. In a climate of charity overkill, these organisations are better equipped to handle the future's challenges together than apart.





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