Calgary charities merge to create bigger impact amid pandemic and funding woes

There’s an old adage: if you can’t beat them — join them.

That’s what two longstanding, female-focused charities in Calgary are now doing — joining forces.

Making Changes Employment Association of Alberta and Dress for Success Calgary have announced they are merging operations.

“This is quite a no-brainer for us,” Dress for Success’ Ayden Athwal told Global News.

Athwal said it was not about beating anyone, rather, she said “it just makes sense.”

The two charities have co-existed in Calgary for many years and are known for their efforts in providing women with the clothing, skills and resources to effectively pursue employment, educational and volunteer opportunities.

“We’re both two organizations with the same mandate — to empower local women of Calgary,” Athwal said.

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Two Calgary charities have merged to better impact clients. Left, Dress for Success’ Ayden Athwal, and Making Changes’ Cathy Coutts on the right.
Two Calgary charities have merged to better impact clients. Left, Dress for Success’ Ayden Athwal, and Making Changes’ Cathy Coutts on the right. Global Calgary

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Dress for Success is now in the process of making the physical move to the Making Changes building.

“We felt that if we combined resources we together could help more clients — rather than competing for clients,” Making Changes executive director Cathy Coutts told Global News.

Athwal agreed and added “collaboration over competition” can be the key to survival.

“I think charities often time work in silos, but by collaborating we can identify and have a lot of synergies and increase our impact.”

Coutts and Athwal said both organizations have the same vision and the same mission. What they don’t have is an infinite amount of money from those who fund them. Both said while neither money nor the pandemic were the “driving force” behind the merger — they’re still important factors to consider.

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“They (donors) want to make sure that their dollars have the biggest impact,” Coutts said.

“And when they see duplicate services within the community they question, ‘Why are there two of you doing this?’”

The two women said it’s more important now than ever to be doing this merger. Statistics show women in Canada have been hit harder than men when it comes to job losses during the pandemic.

Both of these groups expect to see more female unemployed workers coming to them for resources and advice. Many clients are low-income or new-to-Canada residents in need of support as they face cultural, professional and personal adjustments for themselves and their families.

“Together we will be stronger and together we can help more women in Calgary,” Coutts said.

Read more: Charities struggling to survive amid coronavirus, say federal support needed

While the merger is intended to reduce administrative and operational overlap, both groups said there will be no impact on the employment of staff at either organization.

Dress for Success Calgary’s staff will be absorbed into the Making Changes team and will take up residency at the Making Changes offices.

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It’s expected the merger will be finalized by the new year.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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