Master your merger with the help of a seasoned professional.

Efficiency, effectiveness, and expansion are sought-after goals of most organizations regardless of the sector in which they operate. Businesses want to grow their customer base – not-for-profits want to service more clients in need. In some cases, an integration is seen as the best way to accomplish these goals. Whatever the reason for an integration, they are challenging but rewarding decisions that can increase capability and likelihood of success – if they are done properly.

Success stories of big business mergers are quite easy to find as many companies are forced to meet the demands of a competitive business environment. In the not-for-profit sector, the successes are often smaller and quieter although some recent high-profile ones like the United Way in Toronto and York (and now Peel) provide hope to those who are considering such a move with some apprehension. Not-for-profit mergers can be more challenging, but with proper guidance, can yield positive outcomes similar to big business successes. From analysis to planning, and ultimately implementation, the presence of an experienced executive will help smooth the transition and the likelihood of a successful result. One of our integration experts, Melodie Zarzeczny, shares some of her insights about not-for-profit mergers in this newsletter.

Melodie is just one of our roster of professionals with proven experience planning, managing, and overseeing organizational transitions in both business and not-for-profit organizations. Our Principals have demonstrated strong leadership and decision-making in the often-challenging circumstances provided in mergers. For more detailed information, please review some of our case studies and blogs showcasing our work.

Jane Rounthwaite
President and Managing Partner, The Osborne Group

Integrations in the Not-for-Profit Sector: Observations from the Front Line

Organizational integration (code word for merger, acquisition, consolidation, or shared services to name a few) is occurring in all parts of the not-for-profit sector across the country. Some funders in Ontario have made integration their mantra, in search of efficiencies that will produce new dollars for reinvestment in frontline services. Other organizations are seeing the writing on the wall, and are moving on their own to protect failing agencies or to build more competitive positions.The integrations I have been a part of have either been dismal failures or positive examples of leadership and foresight.  It’s the failures that we should all worry about; for organizations that provide frontline services to clients and patients, failure does not just mean agency closure – it means service disruption, orphan clients, delays, wait lists, and confusion.  Poor decisions, badly planned or badly executed integrations can have devastating consequences for clients and patients, and for the system.So here’s some basic advice based on both my good and terrible integration experiences:

  1. Boards of Directors are critical to success.  They should be involved early and often.  They should not be engaged at the end of the process.  After all, they are the organization’s stewards.
  2. Engage your Boards in discussions of systems-level issues.  If you expect your Boards to make decisions that contribute to systems goals, then they must understand the system.  Most Board members are passionate about and protective of the agency they support; they are not necessarily accustomed to thinking at a systems level, but they can rise to the challenge if given information and a forum for discussion.
  3. Thoroughly explore and articulate the rationale.  If it’s not compelling, don’t proceed. Vague notions of being able to improve service delivery are not enough.  How, exactly, are you going to improve service?   How are you going to measure progress and success?
  4. Don’t underestimate the amount of time a well-planned integration will take.  If you rush it, you risk a bad result.
  5. Don’t fool yourself; integration costs money.  Efficiencies might be possible in the long run, but be prepared to spend money to get there.
Integration will solve some issues facing the not-for-profit sector, but not all.  It is important to entertain thoughtful, respectful conversations, using skill, diplomacy and tact.  Learn from the organizations that have done it well.
Melodie Zarzeczny
Principal, The Osborne Group

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