Franklin Forum Roundup: Tips to Help Organizations Tread Water in Rough Seas
Do you feel like your organization is barely treading water?
In the session "Help! My Development Team Comes to Work in Lifejackets!" at the Franklin Forum, sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Philadelphia Chapter, in Philadelphia in late April, presenters discussed the signs and symptoms of organizations in distress and solutions to weather the storm.
Martha M. Buccino, senior vice president of strategic development for Philabundance, the Philadelphia area's largest food-relief charity, discussed her organization's experience merging with the struggling Greater Philadelphia Food Bank in 2005.
If it's come to the point that your organization is considering merging with another local organization, she said questions to consider are:
- Why do you want to merge? Is it a financial situation? Does your board want it?
- Do the two organizations have like missions?
- What is your long-range plan?
- Are the organizational cultures at the two organizations the same or different? This is key, Buccino said, stressing the importance of being sensitive to the internal cultures at both organizations.
- Are the database programs for both organizations compatible?
- Is reporting the same for both organizations? (e.g., does one rely on grants while the other relies on individual gifts?)
- How will you handle staffing changes as a result of the merger?
Philabundance made a plan around which programs could be merged, which would stand on their own and which would develop into something else. It made offers to some staff members for early retirement, and others took the opportunity to go back to school, start a family, etc.
Buccino said the merger process from pre-planning to full effect took about 18 months. She said due diligence is vital to making a merger work, as are candor, finesse and time. She also urged attendees to set a breaking point for the merger, i.e., something that would stop it from happening. Philabundance established a dollar figure of a loss that it wouldn't be able to sustain, and that was its breaking point. Teams met on a weekly basis to report on their findings and keep track of whether they hit that dollar loss.