Winds of Change – Setting Sail

Just over one year ago, I told MAP’s Board of Directors that I would be stepping down from my position at the end of 2016. I could feel in my soul that MAP was ready for its next adventure, and so was I. It didn’t take long at all for MAP’s Board to set out to consider whether a merger might be the best way to advance MAP’s mission. We knew from our merger research that a leadership change is not a reason to merge but an opportune time to consider a merger.

Artist's sketch of Judy AlnesEarly in our process, Nonprofits Assistance Fund (NAF) emerged as the lead contender for merger considerations. They had complementary services, strong leadership, and an openness to imagine the possibilities with us. With support from SeaChange-Lodestar Fund for Nonprofit Collaboration and facilitation from Michael Anderson of La Piana Consulting (a worthy competitor to MAP’s own merger practice), we ventured into merger assessment, then negotiations, then the final deal. Now we are in the last days before the merger, and I am ready to hand over the helm of my great organization to Kate Barr, the able leader of Nonprofits Assistance Fund. In so many ways, this is a text-book merger; two organizations, working from a position of strength, coming together to be one.

I know this territory. I have helped other organizations consider merger possibilities. I have preached the merits of nonprofit realignment with nonprofit audiences across the country. But this first-person experience taught me something that I didn’t fully take into account before – the depth of the love we hold for our individual organizations is colossal, and that love makes it harder for us to be receptive to the potential that can come from mergers or other structural changes.

I am readying to leave at the end of the week, knowing full well that this is a very smart merger, and one that will serve the community far better than either of our organizations could do alone. I just didn’t factor in the complicated emotions I would experience as MAP moves into its merger and me into my next stage. Simultaneously, I am happy, sad, overjoyed, worried, confident, anxious and calm. I think I will add a chapter called “It’s Complicated” to the book we wrote on mergers – if I can get it done by Friday.

I leave with sadness in my heart knowing that I will miss the constant camaraderie of the magnificent staff with whom I’ve worked at MAP. I will miss our not-to-be matched Board of Directors. They have accompanied me on MAP’s journey with a focus on mission and strategy. I will miss spending each and every day of my life working with people who are striving to make the world a better place. Simultaneously, I will be wildly jubilant to know that this important work of strengthening the nonprofit sector will be better than ever through the merger of MAP and NAF. In fact, MAP and I are gleeful as we set sail for our next adventures. It’s just complicated.

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