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Long Island

Two LI social service nonprofits weigh merger

In a potential move that could change the landscape of the nonprofit community, two of Long Island's largest social-services nonprofits are in talks to consider merging some or all of their operations to create a regional presence.

Family Service League in Huntington and Family and Children's Association in Mineola formed exploratory committees, and the groups plan to hire a consultant to advise them on the idea of consolidating boards and management.

"We're two family agencies on Long Island. It makes a whole lot of sense to work together to create efficiencies and serve the whole community, the entire island," said Karen Boorshtein, president and chief executive of Family Service League.

The two nonprofits have multimillion-dollar budgets, and provide an array of senior, family, youth and homeless services under contract with the counties.

Fueled by economy, leadership void

The discussions come almost four months after the sudden Jan. 23 death of Jim Harnett, former president and chief executive of Family and Children's Association. Family and Children's Association had tried recruiting Boorshtein for the job, but she suggested instead that the two organizations consider merging boards and administrations.

More nonprofits may be looking at mergers in a weakened economy, experts say.

Phil Mickulas, interim chief executive of Family and Children's Association, said the organization has since halted its search for a new leader and is now focusing on the consolidation talks. He said it could take months to make any decision.

"It's something that we're going to pursue vigorously," Mickulas said.

Mickulas and Boorshtein said it's too early to tell what form an alliance would take, how it would affect staffing levels, or even if the move would happen. Neither group said it anticipates changes to its roster of programs and services, which are similar.

Last year, Family and Children's Association cut staff hours and reduced executive pay by 5 percent in response to decreased donations, but they have not cut programs.

Family Service League serves Suffolk, with a small presence in Nassau. Family and Children's Association serves Nassau but has a few programs in Suffolk. Together, the groups estimate they serve about 87,000 people.

Some support by experts

Suffolk social services Commissioner Gregory Blass said he liked the idea of a partnership between the two groups.

"A very welcome feature is the regional approach they can take to issues that are often regional in nature on Long Island," he said.

Ann Marie Thigpen, director of the Long Island Center for Nonprofit Leadership at Adelphi University, advised the two agencies to move forward slowly and cautiously.

"You have two separate board cultures, you've got two very separate administrations," she said. "And bringing these two together doesn't have to be the Hatfields and McCoys if it's done well."

WHAT'S AT STAKE

FAMILY SERVICE LEAGUE

  • Based in Huntington
  • Founded 1926
  • Operating revenue (2008): $22.9 million
  • Serves 47,000 people, mostly in Suffolk County. Programs include homeless services, vocational training, parenting classes, senior services, youth and family programs
  • FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S ASSOCIATION

    • Based in Mineola
    • Founded as "Home for Friendless Children" in 1884 (the organization has since gone through several mergers with other groups to become Family and Children's Association)
    • Operating revenue (2008): $27.8 million
    • Serves More than 40,000 people, mostly in Nassau County. Programs include counseling, family services, youth programs, senior services, group homes
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