The World is a Mess

There's an incredible video making its way around the internet called "The Girl Effect," and it starts with this statement: The World is a Mess. I've watched this short clip a bunch of times, and it never fails to give me chills. Check it out here:

Pretty powerful, isn't it?

As the video closes, a sentence comes up on the screen: "Invest in a girl and she will do the rest". This got me thinking: who out there is really investing in girls?

The good news is that a lot of organizations are. The Girl Effect is, in fact, a collaborative effort between the Nike Foundation, the Novo Foundation, and a handful of other international organizations. Beyond just this project, there are many other well-known NGOs also working to promote education and economic empowerment for women and girls around the world, including Room to Read and Heifer International (both of which have terrific girls' education and gender equity projects). Of those with a U.S. focus, two of my favorites are Girls on the Run and Girls Inc (more along the lines of girl empowerment and confidence building). In the end, it seems that a whole host of domestic and international organizations understand the value of putting girls first.

But this good news is, in my opinion, also the bad news. A quick search on Guidestar for nonprofits with the word "girl" in their title produced a list of 20,177 results. Ok, so I recognize that this isn't the most scientific of all surveys, but it raises a crucial question: At what point are there just too many nonprofits out there doing the same thing? Yes, in theory lots of organizations should mean more resources, more innovation, more impact--but does it? Or does this huge contingent of girls' organizations (or any kind of cause for that matter) simply dilute everyone's collective efforts? The nonprofit community seems divided on this one. While some folks clearly think that this redundancy concern is a non-issue, the topic of nonprofit mergers is increasingly on the front burner. Interestingly, a February 2009 Bridgespan Report stated that mergers should not just be a tool for nonprofits in tough times:

...nonprofit mergers often come about through default—due to financial distress or leadership vacuums. At the same time, relatively few nonprofits are using M&A strategically, as a way to strengthen organizations' effectiveness, spread best practices, expand reach, and to do all of this more cost-effectively. Yet the potential for M&A to create real value in the nonprofit sector exists, particularly if more philanthropists take on the mantle of matchmaker and help nonprofits explore and evaluate M&A opportunities.

To me, the idea of nonprofit mergers seems obvious: given the increasingly competitive fight for fundraising dollars, it makes sense that we'd be entering our own form of nonprofit natural selection, truly a "survival of the fittest." But therein lies the rub, as they say: how can organizations--already strapped for financial and staff resources--ensure that they have the skills and strategy in place to guarantee that these mergers are not doomed to fail from the outset? Looking back five years or ten years from now, what will we say made the difference between mergers that worked and those that didn't? 

And here's where you come in: what do you think about the issue of "too many" nonprofits? Are mergers the way to go? Do you have other examples of two organizations becoming one--and it being a success? I'd love to hear what you think.

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