Ep 63: How To Think About Mergers and Collaborations (with Nadya Shmavonian)

nonprofits are messy

I LOVE collaborations between nonprofits (and hate the word “competition.”)

But not all collaborations are created equal. Sometimes, what makes sense is a simple project partnership. But sometimes, a full-on merger is what’s called for.

But how do you know? When should you merge with another nonprofit? How does a merger differ from an acquisition (you might think you know). How do you set up a collaboration for success, regardless of its structure?

This podcast touches on the precursors to contemplating a strategic collaboration that will lead to building sustainability no matter what you choose.

And I’ve brought in a real expert, Nadya Shmavonian (the “Geneva Accords Hotline” of mergers and collaborations), to discuss the topic with me.

About Nadya

Nadya K. Shmavonian is Director of the Nonprofit Repositioning Fund, and a partner at SeaChange Capital Partners. The Repositioning Fund is a Philadelphia-based pooled fund of philanthropic partners that encourages and supports mergers and other types of formal, long- term strategic alliances and restructuring opportunities among nonprofit organizations in the Greater Philadelphia region

SeaChange is a New York-based nonprofit merchant bank whose mission is to enable transactions that increase the impact of nonprofits while offering leveraged opportunities for funders. In addition to her ongoing management of the Repositioning Fund, Ms. Shmavonian contributes to SeaChange’s national collaboration field-building and advisory services, and explores potential opportunities for SeaChange to engage in projects in the Greater Philadelphia region.

Nadya served as president of Public/Private Ventures (P/PV) from 2010–2012, where she presided over the responsible dissolution of the organization. Nadya has extensive foundation management experience, having served as vice president for strategy at the Rockefeller Foundation, and executive vice president at The Pew Charitable Trusts, where she also worked as director of administration and as a program officer in health and human services. Ms. Shmavonian serves on the boards of many nonprofits, and is an instructor at the School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2) at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches graduate seminars on nonprofit governance. Nadya holds a B.A. from the University of Chicago, and an M.B.A. with a concentration in health care management from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She was awarded the Kathleen McDonald Distinguished Alumna Award from Wharton Women in Business in 2011.

In this episode

  • The top three reasons nonprofits think about mergers and other strategic partnerships
  • How ready does a nonprofit need to be before considering a collaboration such as a merger or acquisition?
  • The big difference between nonprofits and for-profits if you are considering a merger
  • What options should a nonprofit board consider when facing the planned departure of a charismatic executive director?
  • Once the decision to merge is made what are the dynamics, needs and values that executive leadership and board members must understand in order to move forward successfully?
  • How can you ensure a successful long term strategic alliance or collaboration?

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