Safe Babies Healthy Families Inc., a Waukesha-based nonprofit focused on ensuring children are born into safe and healthy environments, will merge with Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin in order to grow programming and expand its footprint across the region.
Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin, a West Allis-based nonprofit that belongs to a national network of nonprofits, supports people with disabilities in living independently and being active in their community.
The organizations’ merger, announced on Thursday during Easter Seals’ annual Thought Leaders Luncheon, will be effective Jan. 1. As the two organizations align themselves, they will fold Safe Babies Healthy Families’ programming into the structure and brand of Easter Seals, according to Bob Glowacki, Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin president and chief executive officer.
Safe Babies Healthy Families will essentially exist as a signature program within Easter Seals, which will handle the program’s back office needs so that program staff responsible for helping at-risk families can “focus exclusively on their work,” Glowacki said.
“It’s actually a tremendous cost savings,” Glowacki said, as back office costs are built into Easter Seals.
Those savings will have a critical impact on Safe Babies Healthy Families’ delivery of services, which has fallen short of community needs, according to Nancy Major, president and CEO of the nonprofit.
“Under our current structure, it was really a matter of not being able to serve the need,” Major said. “We couldn’t meet the need. The need was far outpacing our ability to raise resources to meet that need.”
The organizations began to explore a merger in March as Safe Babies Healthy Families staff turned to the community and peer nonprofits to discuss the nonprofit’s struggles around sustainability.
Safe Babies Healthy Families identified Easter Seals as a viable nonprofit partner because of an emphasis it places on healthy early childhood development and its successful track record in completing mergers.
Easter Seals joined with Kind Care Inc. in 2005 and Waukesha Training Center in 2010.
Through each merger experience, Easter Seals has gotten “stronger” and expanded programs, according to Glowacki.
As Major helps transition Safe Babies Healthy Families, she will evolve into vice president of community engagement for Easter Seals. Her colleague, Joan Lorenz, will move from operations director at Safe Babies Healthy Families to a role on Easter Seals’ development team.
Sue Russell, current vice president of community engagement for Easter Seals, will become vice president of major gifts.
Neither organization anticipates cutting staff as they merge into one. Safe Babies Healthy Families currently operates with about 10 staff members, and Easter Seals relies on a workforce of about 250.
While Major will be based out of Easter Seals’ West Allis office, Safe Babies Healthy Families program staff will remain at the organization’s Waukesha location at 137 Wisconsin Avenue, #200.
In blending budgets, Glowacki said Easter Seals’ gross revenue will balloon by about $650,000. For the first time in the organization’s history, its budget is projected to surpass $12 million.
Fundraising will remain a key priority for Safe Babies Healthy Families programming, according to Major, who said that community support is “vital” to expanding programming.
The organizations plan to continue holding Safe Babies Healthy Families’ annual flagship fundraisers – its Sweetheart Fashion Show and its gala.
In uniting the nonprofits’ boards of directors, three directors from Safe Babies Healthy Families will join Easter Seals’ board. Other Safe Babies Healthy Families board members will be invited to join organization committees or advisory boards to stay engaged with the mission, according to Glowacki.
Together, Safe Babies Healthy Families and Easter Seals plan to spend the remainder of the calendar year on integrating staffs and operations to make sure they can get “a strong start at the beginning of 2016,” Glowacki said.
Among goals outlined within the merger by Major is a vision to extend Safe Babies Healthy Families programming beyond Waukesha County and expand the triage program it currently offers in Milwaukee.
Major also aims to raise greater awareness of Easter Seals as the “premier service provider” for southeastern Wisconsin, she said.
Her board and team are “extremely excited” about the new course being charted.
“We just see tremendously good things for the communities that we are, and we’re looking forward to the future,” Major said.
From Easter Seals’ perspective, Glowacki said Safe Babies Healthy Families will complement his team’s programming with a more direct focus on ensuring area mothers-to-be see through healthy pregnancies, avoid premature births, and decrease chances of disabilities.
“For us, we feel this really fits in with what Easter Seals does,” Glowacki said.