Nonprofits are working in overdrive. The pandemic has exacerbated deep needs and nonprofits have stepped up in big ways.
I am in awe of how nonprofits have adapted, innovated, and persevered. Staff and volunteers continue to manage through the uncertainty of the pandemic, and despite their exhaustion, they keep pressing on.
We’ve also witnessed new levels of collaboration and partnership. This organic connection was a result of unprecedented need — not a reaction to a funder’s priorities.
As this year continues to unfold, will these strategic partnerships continue? And with economic pressure, will conversations about merging begin?
Stanford Social Innovation Review recently highlighted the need to have this conversation.
“Nonprofits need to do more than continue providing good services to constituents; we must fundamentally change the way we work to move the needle on enduring, systemic issues. To do this, nonprofits and philanthropists need to recognize, and seize, some of the opportunities that emerged at the onset of the pandemic…
Mergers don’t need to equate to people losing jobs and ruinous cultural conflict; they can be a great tool for increasing impact and collaboration. More funders should support, rather than shy away from, mergers when there are concrete benefits to be had, and nonprofit boards should better understand when they make sense…”
When nonprofits understand their unique strengths, and align with a peer whose strength is complementary, the whole community benefits.
We wrote about the power of planned abandonment a few weeks ago, which is a strategic decision to let go of what was once true. It is not failure to abandon, and neither is it failure to acknowledge that a merger may be the best decision for those whom you serve.
Begin by engaging your board with this question: Would we be stronger as an organization if we formed a strategic alliance or formally merged with another organization?
This is not a question answered in the 10 minutes allocated to “new business” at the end of the board meeting agenda. This is the type of discussion that can be facilitated at a board retreat or with time allocated in a board meeting and supported with an ad-hoc committee of the board.
BoardSource writes extensively about the Power of Possibility to explore greater impact through strategic partnerships. Their website offers considerable resources for how to navigate these conversations and decisions, including a PDF discussion guide.
The lessons of the pandemic are still unfolding before us, and it’s not over. While we don’t know what this year will hold for the sector, we do know that nonprofits often accomplish more when they work together toward a shared vision.
The time is right. Ask the question at the board table. Having a strategic discussion is good governance and may open new doors.
The possibility may help your organization further persevere.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO