Resignation as Moment to Move: Twin Cities Nonprofits Merge as Natural Next Step

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October 4, 2016; St. Paul Pioneer Press

A nonprofit leader’s retirement or resignation can cause a board of directors to reevaluate organizational purpose and community impact. For that reason, the leadership of MAP for Nonprofits, a St. Paul-based organization, decided to undertake those steps.

“When I announced to my board of directors last November that I was planning to retire, they did what all good boards of directors do,” said Judy Alnes, MAP for Nonprofits’ executive director for 19 years. “They paused and asked, is it right for us to look at a potential merger process or is it it right for us to go straight into a search for a new executive director?”

Last week, MAP announced it is exploring a merger with the Minneapolis-based Nonprofits Assistance Fund. Both of these organizations, to fully disclose, are contributors to NPQ in any number of ways; they are valuable members of our network, producing content that has been enormously popular with NPQ readers. Specifically, MAP has produced one of the more interesting research projects on merger motivations that we have ever seen. Alnes covered this in her article, “Creating Fertile Ground for the Merger Option,” from 2012.

While each organization offers different programs, both have focused on helping nonprofit organizations continue to operate or to operate more efficiently. MAP for Nonprofits, officially named Management Assistance Programs for Nonprofits, provides accounting, board recruitment, strategic planning, and merger supports and services. The Nonprofits Assistance Fund is a federally registered community development fund that grants approximately 100 loans each year to charter schools for general operating or construction projects. Both boards have approved the merger and hope to finalize the details, including a new organizational name, in early 2017. This move will create more of a consolidated offering for the local nonprofit community. Nonprofit Assistance Fund’s executive director, Kate Barr, will lead the newly merged organization.

Another merger announced this summer and covered by Nonprofit Quarterly was between the Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia and the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence. The goal of that merger was to strengthen the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence, which in turn will strengthen that community’s nonprofit network. Both organizations underwent a yearlong examination process focused on setting the stage for the future.

According to Fast Company’s recommendations for nonprofit mergers, both organizations did the right thing. While neither merger was based on dire financial issues, the Twin Cities and Central Virginia nonprofit organizations took the time to pause and figure out what made sense for the future. Organizational leadership and the boards of directors took stock of assets and truly explored the viability of combining programs and services. In both instances, the organizations put the needs of the community first.

Perhaps that is the most important takeaway from any merger. In its online statement announcing the merger, MAP stated that its supporters and funders are supportive of the merger. The community is also likely supportive of the merger between MAP and the Nonprofit Assistance Fund, organizations that both advised other nonprofit organizations to merge, because it’s an example of “walking the walk.”—Kelley Malcolm