Two of the nation’s premier nonprofits in community service and volunteering – the Points of Light Foundation and the Hands On Network – are trying to merge.
Each organization’s board of directors has voted to explore a merger, because “a consolidated organization might better serve our affiliates and achieve greater capacity than either organization previously enjoyed,” according to a memo last month from their board chairmen.
Leaders at both organizations have long discussed such a move, because they focus on the same issues, albeit with distinctive approaches.
“Both organizations do a number of similar, if not the same, activities, focused on the same client group and service providers,” said Bill Bentley, who was executive vice president and chief operating officer at Points of Light (POL) until last month, when he became president of Voices for America’s Children. “I think the impetus is to try to minimize duplication in the sector, minimize confusion on the part of the public, and maximize resources to get the job done.”
POL was founded under the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1990 to implement the community service strategy of President George H.W. Bush. POL, headed by Bob Goodwin, advocates volunteerism and helps to mobilize volunteers for projects, and is known primarily for its daily Point of Light awards, which recognize service by individuals.
The Washington-based organization reported $22 million in revenue in fiscal 2005. It reported a deficit of $419,700.
The Atlanta-based Hands On Network was founded in 1992 by its current CEO, Michelle Nunn. Its work is more, well, hands on.
The network is made up of 58 national and international volunteer organizations that “act as entrepreneurial civic action centers,” the network says. It says that it creates and manages nearly 50,000 projects a year. The local organizations develop volunteer projects with community-based agencies, then recruit and manage teams of volunteers to staff the projects, with continuing help from the network.
The network reported $7.8 million in revenue in fiscal 2005. It reported excess revenue of $679,700.
One element the two share is relationships with “volunteer centers” around the country, some of which belong to both organizations. Points of Light merged with the National Volunteer Center in 1991, and runs in partnership with the Volunteer Center National Network.
In recent years, POL has relied on annual congressional earmarks of about $10 million – about half of its budget – but Congress eliminated such earmarks for fiscal 2007. POL might get the funding anyway, through the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The organizations have created a Joint Merger Exploration Task Force, headed by board chairmen Brady Lum of the network and Steven Miller of POL. In their memos last month to partners and affiliates, the chairmen said the task force will explore whether there are “any compelling reasons not to merge,” as well as “what is the value added of a merger for each of our organizations, the affiliates that we serve, and the larger sector?”
The memo outlines a three-phase process that begins with an agreement in principle in April and ends with implementation in October. Contact: POL (202) 729-8000, www.pointsoflight.org; Hands On Network (404) 979.2900, www.handsonnetwork.org.