Mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs — all pretty common buzzwords in the for-profit world. But, increasingly, savvy nonprofits are realizing the benefits of looking outside themselves and introducing a variety of new ventures under the umbrella of their firmly established brand.
The right projects can help an organization expand or enhance the breadth of services it offers or the reach of its service area. They can bring in new supporters and volunteers, or engage existing ones in new ways. And they can, ultimately, mean more donations.
As savvy as they come, Mercy Corps, a worldwide provider of emergency relief and economic development strategies, recently took on one such venture and is in the process of bringing another to life.
Based in Portland, Ore., Mercy Corps is highly skilled at quickly generating large amounts of donated money and goods for victims of disasters, and at helping with economic development strategies. Since 1979, it has provided $1 billion in assistance to people in 94 countries and currently runs development programs in more than 40 countries. So when exciting new opportunities surfaced in New York City, the largest philanthropic market in the world, Mercy Corps didn’t hesitate to explore them.
In January, Mercy Corps absorbed NetAid, the organization that had been formed in support of the 1999 world poverty-awareness concerts of the same name in New York, London and Geneva. The concerts themselves raised $15 million, but the Web-based organization left in their wake — dedicated to educating high-school students about world poverty and engaging them in advocacy — never became the robust fundraising vehicle organizers had hoped it would.
By merging with NetAid, Mercy Corps taps into a young audience with an already-demonstrated interest in its mission.
The organization’s other project, an interactive world hunger and poverty education center called the World Hunger Action Center, will open in New York in 2008. The 4,200-square-foot facility is being constructed on the ground floor of a condominium building in Manhattan’s Battery Park City, about a block from where the World Trade Center once stood.