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Today, associations are consolidating, collaborating and forming alliances in addition to traditional mergers, and there are many factors that determine which way associations go.
As principal of The Kushner Cos., Chevy Chase, Md., David Kushner has seen in the past few years that associations are taking a more a strategic approach to merging. For instance, financial considerations might be a constant factor, but "sometimes mergers happen because both groups realize they are advocating for similar issues, and come to the conclusion that by combining they will be more effective," he said.
Another reason why associations consolidate is that industry professionals want their representative organizations to reflect the experiences of the industry itself. If the industry is consolidating, "participants in industry groups are much less willing to support multiple associations, Kushner said. They want as powerful an association as possible, so industry leaders say we can do a much better job as one." He advises association executives to also monitor the industry to gauge how they can keep their associations relevant or strategically set the industry on a different path.
And there are different ways in which associations are coming together. Kushner has seen consolidations, collaborations and alliances on the rise. He is working on two "alliance/mergers" in which one will see two groups form a new alliance governing board but the groups will stay separate publicly. An- other has two groups coming together in an alliance, in which they will operationally and politically become one association despite not being allowed to legally merge.
What determines how two groups come together – or not – are politics, culture, sensitivity and finances, among other factors. "There's no guarantee that when you get through the process it will result in the original goal," he said. When considering a merger, he advises associations to consider:
Cost. "Associations shouldn't enter the process thinking they can do it inexpensively. There are costs for the right advisers, legal, communications, travel – all have to be factored into the process. It's an investment."
Communications. A comprehensive education and communication plan for members takes time, and it must be conducted in the open. "Members have to feel this is not being done in secret," he said.
Legal. Bringing together two groups is complex, Kushner said. There are considerations that counsel must look over, including where the new group will be incorporated, explaining the legal considerations to the respective boards, etc.
Foundations. It's important to integrate foundations into the discussion early on, Kushner said. Often it is assumed foundations will just go along, but Kushner points out that these groups are legal entities of their own, so potentially there are two foundations in addition to the two associations – and a total of four boards – that will be involved in the discussion.
"It's a lot more complicated than it might seem, never underestimate that," he said.
David Kushner, CAE, is the founder of The Kushner Cos., Chevy Chase, Md., where he serves as a strategic consultant and adviser for nonprofit organizations. You can contact Kushner at david email@example.com.
Mergers in 2012
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and American College of Nurse Practitioners will consolidate effective Jan. 1 and will retain the name American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
American Press Institute and the Newspaper Association of America Foundation merged. API name was retained.
International Society of Parametric Analysts merged with Society of Cost Estimating and Analysis to become International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association.
LeadingAge Washington merged into Washington Adult Day Services Association.
North American Meat Processors Association and National Meat Association merged to become the North American Meat Association.
Solar Energy Industries Association merged with the Solar Alliance. The organization retained the SEIA name.
Specialized Information Publishers Association and Software & Information Industry Association have merged. SIPA is now a division of SIIA.
OFA-the Association of Horticulture Professionals, and American Nursery and Landscape Association will join to create a new organization no sooner than July 2013 and no later than January 2014.
National Parking Association and National Valet Parking Association are expecting to complete their merger by Dec. 31.