by Floyd Rumohr
I was one of the lucky consultants from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut selected by the Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy to take some first steps in developing a community of practice around how nonprofits can work together.
Facilitated by Renae Oswald-Anderson and Gordon Goodwin of MAP for Nonprofits (Minnesota), the two days took an introductory deep dive with affiliate consultants and senior associates to explore case studies in realignments along a continuum that includes collaboration, administrative consolidation, joint programing, program transfer, parent subsidiary, joint venture, and merger/acquisition. Detailed descriptions of each of the continuum strands are available here.
Organization realignments are becoming part of long term programmatic sustainability and/or growth conversations for more and more nonprofits. “Growth” and “sustainability” can be achieved in a variety of ways – not just by attracting more revenue.
Take-a-ways for me from this extraordinary professional development experience include the importance of:
- Courage: it is often possible to sustain and even grow a worthwhile program if the primary stakeholders are willing to let go of a few things and focus on the mission no matter how dire the circumstances (financial and otherwise). It appeared as if programs were lost in a couple of case studies. But those programs ultimately survived and thrived because of a facilitated joint process that focused on continued service to the community. Fierce courage to let go of what can often feel sacred is likely to be required of each person at some point in the process.
- Trust: challenges arise during all stages that could test you and your colleagues personally and professionally. Good communication and transparency can help build trust that will help sustain the conversations. In addition (and this will sound a bit self-serving – my apologies in advance) but the evidence also underscores the importance of an outside consultant to facilitate the entirety of the process.
- Visionary leadership: respondents from 95% of mergers in the MAP for Nonprofits study agreed that “if not for one of the executive directors, the merger would never have happened.” In 61% of the cases, “having a board member from at least one of the pre-merger organizations pushing for a merger was a primary reason” for pursuing it.
- Sense of urgency: realignments can “lag” without it. Executives retire and board leaders transition. Redesign of any kind needs sustained transformational champions to succeed. Constant change among leadership can destabilize and, in many cases, bring the process to a halt. 78% of merged partners agreed on a defined process, 63% specified outcome goals and 80% completed a timeframe.
Working with other organizations on behalf of communities can leverage existing resources and sustain programs that might struggle otherwise. What’s the next step for your nonprofit? Can it get there on its own? If not, perhaps it’s time to realign!
Please contact Keith Timko, Support Center│Partnership in Philanthropy, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (917) 522-8308 to get the conversation started.
References and recommended reading:
- MAP for Nonprofits. Synopsis: Success Factors in Nonprofit Mergers. Study, Saint Paul: Wilder Research and MAP for Nonprofits, July 2012.
- Support Center | Partnership in Philanthropy. Change Consulting – Organizational Restructuring and ReDesign. June 2, 2014. http://supportcenteronline.org/change-consulting/change-consulting-restructuring/ (accessed June 2, 2014).