Board Cafe: Should Your Nonprofit Be Considering a Merger

Board Cafe

Should Your Nonprofit Be Considering a Merger?


Mergers, joint ventures, back office consolidations, fiscal sponsorship arrangements and virtual nonprofits are all examples of "strategic restructuring" options which nonprofits are viewing with increasing interest. Strategic restructuring goes beyond collaboration to bring the organizations into more formal, long-lasting and profound forms of alliance.

You and your board might be interested in these intense partnerships:

  • If your organization is, alas, weak: unable to find or keep an executive director; unable to maintain an active board; too small to compete effectively in a particular market. If this fits your group, you might seek affiliation with a larger organization that has what you lack, or with other smaller organizations, with whom you can develop the necessary strengths.
  • If you are ready to grow, want to augment a continuum of services creating a program from scratch; need to increase market share; hope to reduce competition. If this is you, you are probably a strong nonprofit and see affiliation as a way to further grow the organization.
  • If you think it might enhance your mission and services: to reduce consumer confusion; to lower overhead and put more dollars into direct service; to increase political clout by speaking with one stronger voice. If this resembles your nonprofit you might partner with others with whom you have a significant mission, program, or identity overlap.

For both the voluntary and paid leadership of nonprofits, strategic restructuring choices often come after years of building organizations and such partnerships threaten the organization's autonomy and identity. If our true goals are to serve our communities (rather than our own agencies), shouldn't we be as willing to serve by partnering as we are to serve by building our own organizations?

For a longer report by the same author, contact The James Irvine Foundation and ask to have a free copy of"Beyond Collaboration: Strategic Restructuring of Nonprofit Organizations" sent to you. Phone: 415-777-2244; email <>, website <>or you can see an on-line version at <>.

Original publication date: 06/28/2004

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