Written by Alison Elliott
January 16, 2023
Though it has been over two months since the ONPHA 2022 Conference took place, for me, it feels like it was just last week. I was left with a sense of pride in our sector, knowing that everyone is more than willing to collaborate and share their knowledge with one another. The ONPHA 2022 conference rang home the message that a collaborative future for the Ontario Non-Profit housing sector is the only one we can have if we want to thrive through these difficult, convoluted government structures.
One of the panels that spoke to togetherness (quite literally), was session 211, “Mergers and Acquisitions”, hosted by Michael Braithwaite of Bluedoor and Gautam Mukherjee of Mainstay/Houselink. Both of these organizations had gone through an acquisition, amalgamation or merger over the past two years, each with varying degrees of complexity.
Bluedoor provides a multitude of services in York Region, including transitional housing and construction – Bluedoor underwent an amalgamation with Mosaic Interfaith, a multi-faith, volunteer driven organization that provides community services to those in need through their “Out of the Cold” program.
These two MHO charities amalgamated in 2021, merging their housing stock together to provide 62 properties with support services in the GTA.
Questions and discussions:
The question period brought about some surprising and intriguing discussions about mergers and acquisitions. Many of the crowd were executive directors and management of non-profit organizations, who may have thought about merging or acquiring themselves. The panel had a lively discussion and sadly I cannot cover its entirety, but I’ll provide some of the highlights.
One of the most interesting questions was how to overcome your own ego and the feeling that you’re giving up on your organization by merging with another. It was something I hadn’t ever thought of when I had heard of mergers in the past. Michael and Gautham noted that you need to always consider what is best for your client-base. If merging will make your respective organizations stronger and able to care for your client-base better now and into the future, then that is what should be centre in your decision-making. They expanded that, as these conversations are very governance-based, the board has a responsibility to consider new ideas without ego or bias.
Another question I found to be interesting was about staff reactions. One audience member asked their experience with staff reactions to mergers and what strategies they used to make the transition go smoothly. Gautham noted that they are going through this now, with the dust settling on their merger. He said that communication is key, and that you have to, to a certain extent, plea forgiveness to your colleagues and give them room to grieve. Michael brought a different sticky point that their organizations faced, that being that Mosaic Interfaith is a faith-based org, while Bluedoor is not. He said that some of the employees at Bluedoor did not agree with merging with a faith-based organization and left.
The other questions circled around sustainability, considering other corporate structure options, and the fear of the unknown (what if it does work out, financial debt, etc).
By the end of the panel, it was evident that mergers and acquisitions are no cake walk and should not be considered lightly. That being said, the end result has been net positive for both Bluedoor and Mainstay. The discussion may have been the push that some organizations needed to go to their boards and pitch a merger. It may have also been the discussion that prompted some folks to rethink who they wanted to merge with…
January 16, 2023