In October 2018, type 1 diabetes charities JDRF and INPUT Patient Advocacy announced they were merging, so they could reach and support more people affected by the condition. JDRF’s CEO Karen Addington and Input’s former CEO Lesley Jordan talk about the benefits and challenges of their “ideal” charity merger – and share their top tips for success
Karen Addington, JDRF
Our two organisations have worked closely together for many years. We have similar aims and objectives: to improve the treatment of type 1 diabetes through research and by helping people access the technology to enable them to best manage their condition.
Lesley and I first talked about the possibility of a merger a year ago. INPUT has professional expertise that JDRF doesn’t – they know the processes and procedures to navigate the NHS and access type 1 technology. JDRF staff would often refer people to INPUT when we were no longer able to advise them on the intricacies of the healthcare system.
I think ours is an ideal charity merger. We bring complementary expertise that will increase our collective impact. We understand each other’s strengths and value our cultural compatibilities. We trust each other and I will always respect INPUT’s history and immense contribution to the wellbeing of people with type 1 diabetes. The merger made complete sense for both organisations and, most importantly, for people with type 1 diabetes.
It really helped that Lesley and her colleagues were so positive about joining the JDRF team. And no one could fail to be inspired by Lesley’s boundless energy and enthusiasm. She started working in the JDRF office in the run up to the merger and quickly integrated herself into every area of activity. I’m also looking forward to working more closely with the extremely knowledgeable INPUT volunteers.
Lesley Jordan, INPUT
We are excited by the pace of emerging diabetes technologies and wanted to expand our services to help people access them. But we were becoming frustrated by having to spend so much precious time running the charity. We were also having to rely heavily on social media and word of mouth to make sure people who needed us could find us.
By using JDRF‘s infrastructure, brand and network of stakeholders and supporters, we know we will become more widely known as the go-to place for information on accessing type 1 diabetes technology.
The value we bring is being able to provide personalised advice to people with type 1 diabetes from a technology perspective. We can build people’s skills, knowledge and confidence in managing type 1 diabetes by complementing the clinical support and advice from healthcare professionals.
The whole merger process has been, and continues to be, very exciting. Now that we have successfully completed the legal formalities, we can strategically and operationally increase our services and support.
JDRF has warmly welcomed us and provided the opportunity for us to share our expertise to help guide policy and practice. Rather than expecting us to slip into its established culture, JDRF is willing to change if it will benefit the organisation and people with type 1 diabetes.
There are tremendous opportunities to deliver enhanced health and wellbeing for people with type 1 diabetes and we are looking forward to increasing our combined impact.
Tips for organisations considering a similar merger
- Choose your partner organisation carefully. It will only work if your missions and objectives are truly aligned.
- Be flexible but resolute. Of course, you’ll need to adapt. But the underlying reason for existence and delivery to beneficiaries should be enhanced not compromised.
- Think through all aspects of the relationship early on. One of the reasons our merger has been so positive is because there had been a collaborative, respectful and friendly working relationship between senior JDRF and INPUT staff for over a decade.
- Leave as much time as possible. There’s a significant amount of legal, financial and administrative work for both sides to do – all while keeping up the day job. Our timescale was tight to fit existing schedules and keep impact to a minimum, which created some challenging deadlines. It worked, but only because both parties were motivated to make the merger happen.
- Keep an open dialogue with staff. Many of our staff have a direct connection to type 1 diabetes. We needed to think about what questions they might have as beneficiaries, as well as what it might mean for their jobs. At JDRF, we had a full staff announcement and Q&A with the senior leadership team, followed up with briefing materials, and made it clear that the team, including the chief executive, were available to answer any questions.