The Mechanics of Association Mergers
In her 15-plus years as president and CEO of Consensus Management Group, Linda J. Shinn, FASAE, CAE, has facilitated about 35 association mergers. Shinn shares some observations about what makes association mergers work.
What drives associations to merge? It can be issues facing the profession or the industry. … Sometimes the environment itself will nudge folks to think about it. Sometimes the benefits of being able to say in Congress or in statehouses, “We represent the aggregate of the industry or the profession.” Sometimes the organizations’ resources—human, financial, or technological—begin to dwindle, so people think, “Well, we’ve got a common agenda, so why not consider consolidation or coming together?”
What are common trouble spots for mergers? Sometimes the toughest thing is who’s going to be the CEO of the new organization. Boards tend to want their own. So, the personnel issue at the top of the heap can be pretty tough. And sometimes people have been on the leadership ladder for a long time and it’s about time for them to either become the president-elect or the chairman of the board; that can be influential. It’s those human things. And sometimes one organization has a lot more fiscal resources than another.
What issues are most important for associations to focus on in the merger process? We begin by being very clear about what’s the rationale for having this conversation. What are the outcomes people are after? … If they ultimately decide to go ahead, then we work with them on developing a process or a set of criteria against which a new organization will be evaluated, and then we begin to talk about what the future’s going to look like in the organization from the perspective of mission and goals, membership, programs and services, structure, and governance.