Nonprofit Mergers and Online Dating Have a lot in Common

Jul 3, 2019 | 0 comments

While looking over an article in the Nonprofit Times about nonprofit mergers recently, I was — believe it or not — reminded of all of the online dating I’ve done.

Yes, I’ll admit it — I’ve dipped my toe into the online dating pool and  kept my friends in stitches with my funny (and occasionally horrifying!) stories about my virtual search for a perfect real-life match.

But what does online dating have in common with nonprofit mergers?

And why are they both so challenging?

How are Nonprofit Mergers and Online Dating the Same?

As someone who’s had a lot of experience with both online dating and nonprofit mergers, here’s what it looks like to me.

We all know how online dating works:

You click a link and find yourself looking at an attractive head-shot of your potentail soulmate. There are other pictures, too — maybe he’s holding a puppy, or standing in front of a gorgeous sunset on some exotic beach.

The photos are accompanied by a list of that person’s traits, interests, and hobbies.

And look…! He shares my love for Yoga, strawberry sundaes, and Mozart! At last, a match!

…Or is he?

Because the same kind of thing happens with nonprofit mergers. Both organizations look like they’d be a match made in Heaven — on paper. You share a similar mission, your values complement each other … you even use the same accounting system!Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Not only that, but nonprofit leaders across the spectrum agree that mergers can have lots of advantages:

  • Economies of scale
  • Opportunity to grow more quickly
  • Acquire new talent
  • Diversify
  • Meet the demands of the regulatory environment in HR and other areas
  • Reduce duplication of services

With all of that going for you, you’d think the merger itself would be practically a done deal, right?

Not always. In fact, it hardly ever works that way. Why?

It comes down to the same reason that online dating can be so challenging: the human factor.

The Urge to Merge? Not so much for Nonprofits

In fact, “… the overall rate of nonprofit mergers remained unchanged during the past decade according to a new study by the Bridgespan Group,” according to that Nonprofit Times article I mentioned at the start of this post.

And the “blame” for this trend lies square at the feet of human frailty.

“According to the report,” says the article, “there is evidence that the majority of proposed mergers are held up because of disagreements over some ‘highly emotional’ topics.” These topics include getting both boards aligned, finding roles for senior staff, and “blending” both organization’s brands.

Moving Carefully and Steadily is the Key to a Nonprofit Merger

So, you’re considering merging with another nonprofit organization. Or at least, there’s another nonprofit in your community that’s doing similar work, and you think it might be a good idea to at least consider getting together.

How can you keep the experience from becoming like an online date gone very wrong?

The specific answer will, of course, depend on your organizations. Generally, though, the key to a successful nonprofit merger lies in a very deliberate approach to communications, using a thorough, steady approach that invites feedback and fosters solid working relationships on the board and among the lead staff.

There are a lot of technical hurdles to clear to create a successful merger — everything from filing new tax forms to creating and approving a new logo.

In addition, there’s that all-important human factor. It’s very frequently a good idea to seek outside, impartial help from a professional — someone who specializes in nonprofit mergers.

If you’re considering a nonprofit merger, hire me or hire someone else. But whatever you do, get the help you need to make your nonprofit merger a success. You’ll be glad you did.


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