Challenges in managing change in medical charities.​


A Case Study


How do you amalgamate 15 medical research foundations into one?! 


The organisation uniquely had 15 internal medical research foundations whose objectives were to increase the resources of the organisation to support identified areas of medical research, education and scholarship. Each foundation had its own constitution, council, staff and passionate donors, many of whom were prominent members of the Sydney community. Some had been operating for over 50 years.  During the period 2009 to mid-2014 my role was to strategically implement a standard constitution and ensure compliance with legal and governance standards within an overarching organisational strategy whilst ensuring the important relationships that had been developed were not lost in the change process.


I developed a strategy to amalgamate these internal foundations as a part of an over-arching strategy to provide professional fundraising and administrative support to increase the effectives of the resources available whilst maintaining the passion and support for the broad range of medical research been undertaken. To date 12 of these foundations have amalgamated into one focused medical research foundation and the results show that the income over the consolidation period has increased – $6.5mil to $22.5mil. 


How was this done in the passionate and competitive world of medical research? I firstly gained the trust of the council members; provided clear and frank advice as to the strategy and the desired outcome. At times these discussions were robust and I had to call on my skills as an advocate and litigator, defending my side of the argument. I listened to the concerns raised and encouraged council members to address the issue of sustainability of their foundation, what were the skills and networks they needed to have and how the organisation could provide on-going support for their particular area of research. The reality of the shrinking income for each foundation could be counteracted by the benefit of shared support.


I also had a clear alternative model that was to replace the former way of doing things. The model was able to demonstrate how the sharing of administration and the use of professional fundraisers increased the income for their objectives.  There was also recognition of the transparency needed around grant making with the establishment of a Scientific Advisory Committee which called upon experts in a particular area when grants were been considered - no actual or perceived conflicts – just a decision of peers.


I was also able to call upon leaders in the organisation to articulate the

strategy to their peers and provide leadership in embracing the changes. 


By introducing current governance standards, and implementing them - fixed terms and nominations committees, declarations of external interests, ensuring council members had philanthropic networks, not research skills, ensuring clear financial reporting and then budgeting were a part of the meeting agenda, it become easier to attract council members who had fresh networks, new ideas and enable the researchers to spend more time on their research, not fund raising.


Advocating for those issues, their implementation, the politics involved, the constant conversations, the many stakeholders who need to be consulted and the influencing of those who made final decisions made the role challenging and the outcome to date worthwhile.  And what remains continues to reflect the history of the organisation, its place in the community and the passion of its many donors and supporters.


Published by Medical Research.

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