Collaboration Case Study – Successful Merger

Nonprofit A is a strong organization with a long history.  Non-profit A is known for its talented professional staff, strong board of directors and a willingness to collaborate to launch and preserve programs that add value to the community. Nonprofit A’s strengths make it a frequently identified potential merger partner for organizations that are struggling. Nonprofit A is more willing than most to take the risks necessary to save key community programs. What follows is a series of case studies outlining Nonprofit A’s experience with a number of successful and not so successful collaborations.

Nonprofit A serves a particular demographic on the “continuum” of care. Nonprofit A is approached by Nonprofit B, a slightly smaller organization that  is struggling to maintain its existing programs. Nonprofit B serves a different, but complementary, demographic and has been without a Chief Executive for months.


  1. Both Boards had their own strong reasons to merge.
  2. There was no feeling of “takeover” or acquisition among any of the Board members.
  3. Benefit to clients and the community always at the forefront of merger discussions.
  4. Early mutual agreement on staff and board structure.
  5. Merger discussions were solution-focused.
  6. Both organizations had independent legal representation.
  7. Staff Merger Team and ongoing communication with staff were key in early staff integration.
  8. A consultant served as a third party and helped staff think of questions and processes they might not have considered.
  9. A strong marketing plan was developed early to connect stakeholders and the community to the new organization.


  1. Executive Director of one agency was unhappy about the merger. Director’s negativity affected staff before, during, and after the merger. Board should have addressed this immediately.
  2. It was not clear until later that the two executive directors were not communicating to their staffs in the same way. A cohesive communication strategy that addressed each organization’s staff equally may have made staff at both organizations feel more informed and included.
  3. After the merger, more communication with staff regarding integration and changes in policy was needed.

Lessons Learned.

  1. Joint Merger Committee was critical to success.
  • Decision-making is easier with small group.
  • Good balance between members of both boards.
  • Both boards had representatives with key technical and strategic skills.
  • Current board presidents did not serve on the JMC.
  • JMC members developed an exceedingly strong mutual trust.
  • JMC had full trust and support of both boards to make important decisions.

2.   Physical separation at different locations made staff integration difficult.

3.   Shift from small organization to a larger one required adjustments in management style and structure, communications strategy, relations among staff.