Twelve Winds helped Asylum Aid through a successful merger with Migrants Resource Centre.
Asylum Aid is an independent, national charity working to secure protection for people seeking refuge in the UK from persecution and human rights abuses abroad by enhancing and extending their legal rights and entitlements.
Asylum Aid had already successfully completed a financial turnaround and developed an ambitious new strategy for the charity. But the Trustees saw further challenges on the horizon. In spite of recent financial successes, the Board knew that ongoing cuts to public services would put more pressure on all the charity’s income sources. Strategically, the Board was increasingly uncomfortable with the narrow focus of the organisation, which provided only legal representation. The partner charities to which Asylum Aid referred clients for other social programmes were closing down, leaving clients unsupported.
Mergers are not common in the charity sector, so few charity leaders have experience of managing these complex processes. Twelve Winds was asked to work with the Asylum Aid Board to research the possibility of merger, and to support the organisation through the whole process.
Twelve Winds worked side-by-side with the Asylum Aid Board and management to execute the merger. Our work spanned the entire process, including strategy & research, negotiation & due diligence, planning & execution, and post-merger integration.
We start every engagement with a familiarisation stage. Using face-to-face interviews with staff, partner organisations, and funders as well as a detailed review of company documents, we built a strong understanding of the challenges that Asylum Aid faced.
- Strategy & research
Twelve Winds performed a detailed review of Asylum Aid’s aims, its current situation, and its strategic plans. We then reviewed the current situation and trends in the charity environment as well as the migrant charity sector. This report identified several current and upcoming challenges that would threaten the charity’s ability to meet its objectives.
We then reviewed the strategic options available to the charity, including organic growth, downsizing, collaboration, and merger, weighing the relative strengths and weaknesses of each option. Analysing the merger option in greater detail, we considered the key objectives that a successful merger would have to meet.
Finally, we mapped the migrant, refugee, and related charity sectors, identifying potential merger partners and assessing their suitability against the key merger objectives. This led to a recommended ideal partner, which was reviewed in detail for compatibility.
We supported the Board in its discussion of the report with management. This led to a decision in principle to proceed with the recommended plan.
- Negotiation & due diligence
Twelve Winds supported the Asylum Aid Board through the approach and negotiations regarding the proposed merger. We established a merger leadership team including the Chair’s and CEO’s of both charities. This team led formal discussions between the two charities, culminating in a Letter of Intent signed by both Boards.
We then worked with the Asylum Aid management to conduct a detailed due diligence of the partner organisation and to respond to the partner’s due diligence requests. We brought in financial and legal expertise to review the data provided by the partner. Following review of the due diligence, a formal decision to proceed was taken by both Boards.
- Planning & execution
Twelve Winds oversaw the full project management of the merger. We established a light but robust integration management office (IMO) to stay small and flexible enough to coordinate efforts quickly.
One of the major tasks of the merger execution was the consultation with staff and the transfer of all employees under TUPE regulation. Twelve Winds guided the management of both charities through this process, ensuring that there was clear communication at all times, and that staff on both sides of the merger were given the same information.
We worked with the integration team to assign all leadership positions and their teams immediately on closure of the merger, moving the best people from both organisations into key positions. There were particular challenges for the two charities’ legal departments, which had to make the most significant changes to systems and processes. We supported the departmental management to ensure this was completed without any interruption of work or impact on clients.
Constant communication was pivotal to keeping all internal and external stakeholders informed. Therefore, even when important decisions were not ready for release, we kept communications flowing by talking about progress, people, and next steps. We guided the management team in the development of statements to staff, partners, funders, regulators, and the media.
- Post-merger integration
We worked with the Chairs to develop a plan to integrate the two charity Boards into one unit. This included introductions, joint meetings, social events, and a joint away day that brought all Trustees and staff together to learn about the organisation and its new structure.
Combining two different organisational cultures is almost always a struggle. We mapped both cultures to identify potential road blocks to the integration so that the team could address them immediately. The mapping exercise also allowed us to highlight and promote similarities between the two cultures, which was useful for building and maintaining momentum throughout the integration.
With our help, Asylum Aid and Migrants Resource Centre merged seamlessly to create a significant organisation in the UK charity sector. The merger was an opportunity for the combined charities to move beyond what either organisation could achieve individually. Together with the Board, we created an “aspirational” organisational structure and governance model that would ensure lasting advantage.
The new charity is able to provide a wide variety of services including immigration and asylum legal advice; health, housing, debt and employment advice; English language training; and, computer skills training. Both organisations also campaign to protect the rights of migrants and refugees and to make the UK immigration system fairer and more efficient.
Following the close of the deal, all employees seamlessly transitioned to the new charity. Business continuity was flawless—clients hardly noticed the shift, and employees knew exactly what to expect.
Eight months later, the charity had increased revenue, increased staff by 25%, and achieved the largest budget surplus in either orgnisation’s history.
Announcing the merger to the media, the Chairs stated:
Helen Rice, Chair of the Migrants Resource Centre Board of Trustees says: “The merger would provide us with the opportunity to support even more migrants and refugees with an even wider range of services, while helping to strengthen the organisation for the future. We are committed to keeping the people we support at the centre of everything we do and are confident that this partnership would mean we can deliver an even better service for them”.
Catherine Briddick, Chair of the Asylum Aid Board of Trustees says: “This proposed merger of two strong and like-minded organisations dedicated to serving the interests of migrants and refugees is an exciting step forward. We will bring together the wealth of experience and knowledge of both organisations in order to offer the very best support for migrants and refugees.”