Cincinnati Works has a location at the City Link Center, which opened late last year in Cincinnati's West End. WCPO
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LifeSpan acquires Cincinnati-based SmartMoney

Deal cuts costs for financial counseling agencies

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HAMILTON, Ohio - Hamilton-based LifeSpan has acquired SmartMoney Community Services of Cincinnati, the financial counseling agency.

LifeSpan, a nonprofit that has been around since 1945, offers a wide range of services including care management for older adults and the mentally disabled, financial counseling and behavioral health counseling, primarily for residents of Butler and Warren counties.

SmartMoney, which was founded in 1988, offers financial counseling, home ownership counseling, entrepreneurship training and tax preparation help. The nonprofit recently moved to the new CityLink building in Cincinnati's West End.

The combined organizations have 93 employees and an annual budget of $4.2 million, said LifeSpan CEO Bill Staler.

"It broadens both our reaches," Staler said of the acquisition. "LifeSpan has some programs and services that SmartMoney doesn't offer. And SmartMoney has some programs and services that LifeSpan doesn't offer."

SmartMoney is now a division of LifeSpan, and SmartMoney Executive Director Lisa Roberts-Rosser oversees financial counseling programs over the organization's entire regional footprint.

She said in a news release that she's "grateful" for the acquisition.

"We can look forward to continued and improved delivery of our core services in Hamilton County while expanding into Butler and Warren counties," she said in the release. "It's truly a synergistic match and the region will benefit greatly."

Staler said the move will help both organizations save administrative costs. They won't need to pay two auditors or two insurance firms, for example. But there are no plans to cut staff, he said. In fact, Staler looks to increase the organization's staff as it expands the services it offers throughout Southwest Ohio, he said.

The acquisition is the latest example of Tri-State nonprofits combining to cut costs and expand their reach. In 2012, high-profile mergers included the joining of Cincinnati Museum Center and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the merger of Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity and TriState Habitat for Humanity. Also in 2012, Easter Seals Work Resource Center and Jewish Vocational Services merged to form Easter Seals TriState.

Staler noted that United Way of Greater Cincinnati was especially helpful in the discussions between LifeSpan and SmartMoney and provided funding for the agencies to help cover some of the costs of the deal. Financial terms of the acquisition weren't disclosed.

The local United Way has been encouraging such partnerships since 2003, and interest in mergers and acquisitions has grown steadily in recent years. As of December 2012, United Way had allocated $310,000 toward the study of mergers and realignments among local nonprofits.


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