Nonprofit Mergers

Nonprofit Mergers: The Power of Successful Partnerships (Aspen’s Nonprofit Management Series)
by Dan H. McCormick

A Serious Book for Serious People

This is a serious book on a difficult subject by someone who has been there. The author’s experience and his ability to weave his experience into the narrative was very helpful in establishing his credibility and his ”hands-on“ as well as his theoretical knowledge of the subject.

I was especially impressed by his assertion, which I share, that nonprofit mergers rarely save any significant money, and should not be advocated or undertaken for economic reasons. There’s an easy 4% or so in savings that can be realized from almost any merger; expecting more usually leads to disappointment. The reasons to merge may be “positive:” enhancing efficiency, effectiveness, community image, fundraising ability, etc.; or the reasons may be “negative:” Mr. McCormick has a good explanation of how factors unrelated to mission can lead to a spiral from liability concerns to viability concerns to survivability concerns.

The merger process is detailed, with cogent explanations of the rationale for each step. There are serious legal, financial, and organizational/administrative issues to be faced all along the way. Tips on selecting and working with competent and experienced counsel are included, along with case studies, tables, forms, and samples.

His caution about using counsel specifically trained in nonprofit mergers is well-taken. Many specialists in working with for-profit mergers don’t appreciate the importance of the emotional issues involved in nonprofit mergers, and how a single volunteer with (seemingly) no “power” can scuttle the entire process. Nonprofit mergers must be a far more open process than their for-profit counterparts’ could ever be.

The book is well-sourced and well-researched, though the attributions sometimes impede the flow of the narrative. Nevertheless, it’s a good “hands-on” sourcebook for serious executives and board members contemplating nonprofit mergers.