The Power of a Merger

When the National Fenestration Rating Council acquired a floundering nonprofit, it found a way to better lead its industry and bring its work to the wider public.

What makes a merger worth the while for an association? It might expand your reach within your association’s industry. It might help you better fulfill your mission. It might provide new revenue opportunities.

In the case of the National Fenestration Rating Council, a merger did all three. NFRC is a membership association that establishes energy-efficiency ratings for windows, and approved by the EPA to certify windows that meet criteria for the agency’s Energy Star seal. In 2020, NFRC had the opportunity to acquire the Efficient Windows Collaborative (EWC), a small nonprofit consortium that was maintaining data on window efficiency. “Their funding had dried up, so it had become a bit challenging to maintain,” said Michelle Blackston, NFRC’s senior director of development and engagement. 

Though EWC was in decline, it did have one valuable asset: a proprietary tool that helped consumers make decisions about the most cost-efficient windows based on home size, geographic location, and other factors. The site was hard to find and not especially user-friendly, but it was fueled by NFRC data, so the association knew it was reliable. Acquiring the site gave NFRC an opportunity to spruce it up and do more public-facing outreach. “What we needed to do was take that very clunky, very technical database, and translate it to a consumer audience,” Blackston said.

That adjustment didn’t require substantial investment in terms of staffing. But when the revamped site was launched in early 2022, NFRC experienced benefits on a number of fronts. First, consumers now had a well-promoted and easily searchable one-stop shop for getting meaningful information about window efficiency; the site now has approximately 10,000 visitors monthly. It has also served as a revenue driver for NFRC, which has received $150,000 from the Department of Energy to support EWC and also attracted sponsorships around the site.

And perhaps most importantly, it has shifted and deepened the engagement that NFRC members have with the association. Thanks to EWC, Blackston said, more companies pursue Energy Star certification because it means their products will be included in the EWC database. 

We needed to take a clunky, technical database and translate it to a consumer audience.

Michelle Blackston, NFRC

“It’s like upgrading your membership, essentially,” she said. “We did see quite a few manufacturers who had not been in the Energy Star program who decided, ‘Now we’ll do this because we can get our windows listed in the Efficient Windows Collaborative for free.’”

Moreover, because the EWC is designed to send emails to consumers about the brands and models they’re considering, it provides meaningful business intelligence to the manufacturers about what products users are looking at, and where those users live. “We can then turn around and reach out to the manufacturers and say, ‘Look, here’s the number of people who had their search results emailed to them with your products on it,’” Blackston said. “It’s a valuable piece of information that they probably wouldn’t have access to unless we made it available.” 

NFRC is still looking to make additional improvements to the site, including giving member companies the opportunity to customize the EWC selection tool on their own websites. Regardless, the effort satisfies the association’s goal of making NFRC’s efforts on behalf of the industry meaningful.

“We’re taking that overly complex, jargony information and data that associations love and turning it around,” she said. “We’re saying, ‘Here’s the best way to reach consumers about the value of the work that you are doing.’”


Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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