The Makings of a Successful Merger

Last month, the National Eating Disorders Association and the Binge Eating Disorder Association merged. Leaders from both groups share three things they focused on to help smooth the transition.

When people hear the term “eating disorder,” they often picture someone who is young, white, thin, and affluent.

But that’s a myth, according to Claire Mysko, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Eating disorders don’t discriminate based on size, race, gender, socioeconomic status, or sexual identity. It may also surprise you to hear that binge eating disorder is the most prevalent eating disorder. “It actually affects more people than anorexia and bulimia combined,” she said.

To address this myth and to more accurately represent the entire breadth of eating disorders,  NEDA and the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) decided to unite under NEDA’s umbrella in late October.

“We’re unifying the field and bringing communities together,” Mysko said. “It’s an exciting move forward for our field, for our organization, and certainly for people who struggle themselves or care about someone who has been affected by eating disorders.”

But merging, by its very nature, can be a messy business. Mysko and Chevese Turner, the founder of BEDA and NEDA’s new chief policy and strategy officer, offer a few tips that helped smooth their transition:

Ensure you want the same things. Both Mysko and Turner said they spent a lot of time talking about their values, their vision, and their goals to make sure they were aligned. This takes time, and for Turner, this meant really getting to know NEDA’s leadership and board. For other associations considering a merger, Turner said it’s paramount to get to know the other group’s culture and strategic plans. “Make sure your intentions are in the best interest of your community,” she said.

Practice working together. “We had some pretty large-scale partnerships, which allowed us to really navigate the differences in culture, bring our constituents together, and have an opportunity for the staffs of the organizations to work together around shared goals and specific projects,” Mysko said. For instance, last year, NEDA and BEDA held a combined conference. Mysko and Turner also worked closely together for a congressional briefing on eating disorders in underserved populations.

Keep some continuity. In this merger, NEDA absorbed BEDA, but in doing so, it also carried over BEDA’s expertise on both its staff and board. Turner is now helping drive the overall strategy of NEDA as its policy and strategy leader, and a former BEDA Executive Committee Member, Susan Vibbert, has joined NEDA’s board of directors.

“BEDA was a small organization with much less infrastructure, making the integration relatively easy,” Turner said. “The largest challenges center around the values and cultures of the community each organization represented. This work is ongoing, but we are optimistic about the outcomes and believe it is time to address the big issues that kept us separate.”

What do you think is required for a successful merger? Please leave your comments below.

(Dmitrii_Guzhanin/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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