Nonprofit Mergers: Speaking from Experience - Q&A with Gretchen Slusser

Gretchen SlusserIf nonprofit mergers are on your mind, consider some of the insights below from Gretchen Slusser, executive director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid. In July 2014, CGLA merged with Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers (CLAIM).

Gretchen and CLAIM's former Executive Director, Mary Morten, will present together on this topic at an upcoming Mary MortenAxelson Center workshop, "Mergers: Making Heads or Tails of What it Could Mean for Your Nonprofit", March 18, 2015. Read more about this workshop and register here.

Who is the first person you should talk to when considering a merger?

There’s nothing like a “bestie” to bounce your ideas off of.  There’s no perfect person, but find someone that knows non-profit, knows your organization and its challenges and isn’t afraid to tell you the truth.  It may even be someone that has nothing to do with your organization, a trusted friend, the odds are this is something that has been weighing on you and you will struggle with your decision, so make sure you approach the topic in a way that allows people to give you constructive feedback.

When do you tell a funder that you want to merge?

It depends on the funder and your relationship with them.  Some really enjoy being part of the strategizing and others want you to handle these things internally.  Make sure you know which ones are which before you start sharing!  And remember once you do start sharing, it’s a small world out there, so make sure your message is well planned.

What are some key success strategies for working with board members of both organizations during a merger?

Openness and honesty, just like any new relationship both parties will be cautious, go slow and get buy in up front.

Perseverance is key, there times when it feels like everything will go south, but be strong, blending families isn’t always easy, but it almost always worth it!

What is something you know now that you wish you had known before beginning the merger process?

Fundraising, fundraising, fundraising…story of our lives, right?  Finding funders that are interested in capacity building of organizations isn’t impossible, but it’s not as easy as some make it out to be.

More details of the CLGA/CLAIM merger await at "Mergers: Making Heads or Tails of What it Could Mean for Your Nonprofit". Register now.

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