Back in December 2010, I posted a two part article about the value of non-profits collaborating on individual projects with other non-profits. I gave five reasons why this is true. As a refresher, here are those five reasons.

1. You’ll have a super-charged opportunity to carry out your mission.

2. Collaboration forces your group to precisely define your mission.

3. You have the chance to put the best of your organization together with the best of another organization, which creates a learning atmosphere for your employees.

4. You’ll be able to undertake a project that would normally be too large or too complex for just your group alone.

5. Grant-making foundations like to see two or more non-profits working together, so that might be a way to increase your chances of winning a grant.

The logical extension of a non-profit collaboration would be for the two groups (or more, if the situation is right) to actually merge their organizations permanently.

Here is an example of two groups from York, Pennsylvania, the recently did just that.

May 03, 2011
Ruth McCambridge

May 2, 2011; Source: York Daily Record | We’ve seen some interesting strategic alliances lately but this one is, on its surface, particularly unusual. In York, Penn., the York County Community Foundation and York Counts, a community-building group, have announced that they will merge.

There seem to be a few reasons for the merger, including the fact that the two organizations often overlapped in their efforts to improve the county. But the merger is also seen as a way to reduce the administrative and fundraising burden on York Counts.

While billed as a merger, it is clearly more of a consolidation, in that the two staff people associated with York Counts have been cut – there will be one staff person added later to cover the work. According to the Daily Record, the chair of the foundation’s board, Eric Menzer says the move reflects the foundation walking its talk regarding the wise use of resources. Menzer says that York Counts, which will now operate as an initiative of the foundation will “assist the foundation with efforts to direct community change by highlighting problems in the community where the foundation can target money.”

The board of York Counts will remain intact as a foundation committee directing York Counts projects like oversight of the regional policing study and a community indicators project.—Ruth McCambridge

The question of merging two organizations is a very tricky one and can be filled with lots of tension, even if it seems the logical thing to do.

For instance, which employees keep their jobs and which ones are let go?  Is one organization’s name kept over the other or is an entirely new name chosen?  Is there an even commitment to both missions or does one group’s focus get placed on a back burner?  What happens to the volunteer board members?  Are they all kept, or are some relieved of their service?

It seems a very human emotion to be nervous about an actual merger, but as the gentleman in the article above points out, “the move reflects the foundation walking its talk regarding the wise use of resources.”

So, what becomes the trigger point, then, when you are considering a total merge?  Is it the wise use of resources or the protection of your unique mission that you have foremost in mind?  How sure do you have to be that your mission will remain attended to before you’ll give up control to another group?  75%?  90%?

I hate the expression, “in this challenging economy”, so I won’t use it.  But I will say that we should all be committed, all of the time, to being as wise and as practical as we can with our donors’ money and the funds we are able to raise through providing a service.  Therefore, I do think we have a responsibility to explore being as frugally creative as possible.

What do you think?  Could giving up 10 or 20 percent of your mission’s focus ruin your organization?  Or, could it survive that to achieve a greater good?

Let me know your thoughts in our comment section.  Thanks!


Photo by: Transguyjay


Posted on 04 May 2011

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