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What do you do when you have a surefire idea, one that you know will be successful? For some, the next step might be starting an organization or supporting someone else's efforts to turn that idea into a reality. But then what?
Do you keep the organization going as is, hand it off to someone else or perhaps try to reinvent it so it remains current and relevant?
If you’re Jonathan Greenblatt, founder and president of All for Good you team up with an organization that can take your idea to scale. Currently, All for Good is one of the largest online service databases dedicated to helping people find and share volunteer activities. This free service not only powers search functionality on sites such as Serve.gov, but also the Corporation for National and Community Service and many other groups sites, Facebook pages and blogs.
Enter the Points of Light Institute (POLI)-a leader in the service sector that strives to enhance civic engagement and volunteerism across the country. (It also is a longterm grantee and partner of the Case Foundation, with our CEO Jean Case having previously served as a member of POLI's board.) On December 22, 2010, it announced that it would be acquiring All for Good. With POLI having one of the largest "HandsOn" volunteer networks in the country, the match appeared to make good sense.
According to the POLI press release, “By integrating the open source volunteer platform [of All for Good] into its portfolio of social enterprises, Points of Light Institute is well-positioned to scale All for Good’s mission, extend its distribution and drive operational efficiencies across the organization."
Greenblatt assured readers in a recent Huffington Post piece that, “The acquisition initially should not change much. We expect the process to be completed in early 2011. As we move into the new year, the All for Good team will remain in place. Our board will continue to guide the effort. Our product will remain up and running with no interruption in service.” Excitement surrounding the merger remains among those who not only use the services provided by All for Good and POLI, but also for those in the nonprofit arena.
Greenblatt, who is well known to many as co-founder of Ethos Water, took some time to share his thoughts about the merger and what he hopes the future holds for All for Good. Greenblatt himself has announced that he will be leaving the organization after the transition to focus on his latest venture, the Impact Economy Initiative at the Aspen Institute.
Regarding the merger of All for Good and Points of Light – why now?
Greenblatt: We opened a discussion last year on prospective partnerships as part of our strategic planning effort. We hoped to close by end of year so that we could start 2011 off with a firm sense of our new direction.
You noted on Huffington Post that this acquisition of All for Good and Points of Light “will allow our team to focus on what we do best-code to improve our product and create value for the remarkable coalition of data and distribution partners who make AFG possible.” How will this merger leverage the strengths of each group?
Greenblatt: All for Good can focus on building a great product and scaling/serving our network of partners. Our success has been enabled by the remarkable efforts of so many groups - much of our energy will be focused on how we collaborate with this cohort of organizations. Points of Light can provide a wide range of operational capabilities that we currently lack, giving us more time to focus on this aspect of our work. Points of Light recognizes the need for an open resource like All for Good as well as the increasing role that technology will play in all types of service. With All for Good, Points of Light can focus on supporting its various programs while benefiting from the insight and lift that the All for Good team and product can provide to their organization. It's really a great fit.
Were there any concerns that one organization’s mission might be eclipsed by the other, or abandoned? Worries about changes in staff or leadership? What are some of the downsides to this merger if any?
Greenblatt: Mergers seem to rise and fall on two key facts. First, does management share a common vision and, second, can the operations easily be integrated so the sum is greater than the parts. In this case, we are heartened that All for Good and Points of Light already know each other well. Points of Light CEO Michelle Nunn was a founding board member at All for Good and deeply involved in our growth and roll-out. Moreover, we anticipate that the teams will remain in place to facilitate the integration and work through operational challenges. Time will tell, but we believe the fundamentals are well-aligned to ensure long-term value.
Both All for Good and POLI strive to find service solutions to community problems–do you think this approach is working? How might this merger enhance efforts from both organizations and the service sector overall?
Greenblatt: We do not believe in the silver bullet theory. There is no single solution to address all community problems. Instead, we recognize that there are many different models through which service can support local communities. All for Good is focused on using technology to help people to find ways to strengthen their local communities. Points of Light Institute takes a broader approach to engaging volunteers and improving communities. Their offline efforts are well-known, such as the national footprint of HandsOn Network centers. We believe that together, All for Good and Points of Light can cover online and offline, allow people to search and serve, to offer a wide breadth of services to the nonprofit community and general public.
On All for Good’s blog there is a reference to a new version of the site, one that has “more features” and “better functionality.” Can you preview any of those or share any more details regarding the upgraded site?
Greenblatt: More details to come later this month - stay tuned!