Have you ever thought about how joining forces with another nonprofit could advance your mission and expand services faster?
I’ve seen the benefits when the exploration of an alliance or merger is done well, and what happens when it isn’t. I led two mergers for my own nonprofit and, as a consultant I’ve helped about 90 nonprofits with some form of merger or alliance. There are four phases of this work: assessing your own nonprofit, partner exploration and assessment, negotiation, and implementation. In my experience, nonprofit executives and board members often skip the first phase.
One reason is you’re not aware of the need for it or you assume you know what you need to know about your nonprofit and start thinking about – or worse seeking – a partner – when you’re not really ready. When you explore a merger it’s like standing in front of a mirror. Your potential partner is going to see who you really are. Any flaws or quirks will be reflected back to you – no holds barred! You want to be prepared – do your self-assessment – know your nonprofit’s weaknesses.
Also ask: What strengths do we bring? Just because you’re a small nonprofit doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable assets. Core competencies, staff with special skills – like diverse staff with second languages. A strong network of devoted donors – you get the idea. And know your why – what are the strategic goals you’ll achieve by partnering or merging with another nonprofit? Another mistake I see is executives and board members assuming they’re all on the same page about this.
I recently helped survey nonprofit executives. The concerns and challenges raised about mergers were losing staff, EDs competing, losing their jobs, losing service quality, having clashing cultures. What many of the responses had in common was fear – and mostly fear of loss. If you do a good self-assessment, and a quality partner assessment and search, the negotiations phase can more than address any fears you may have. Trust me – in all my experience, there are ways to effectively address and overcome them.
So, don’t let fear of loss or other challenges hold you back from thinking about this. Think of the proven benefits: efficiency, expanded services, more influence etc. Wouldn’t you like those for your nonprofit?
Let me know what you think and what your experiences have been. Please comment below.
If you’d like to have a confidential conversation about this be sure to reach out to me. I’m here for you. Just go to Talk with Mary and schedule a free chat with me. I look forward to talking with you!