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Marta Brockmeyer, Ph.D.
Project Pointers
Issue 60                       Spring 2020
I recently made several appointments with myself to prioritize the increasing number of schedule requests and growing "to do" lists. It helped to see my name in Outlook, a practice I hope to continue. It also reminded me to schedule times away from the office, not to mention the house, so I can deliver my best. I now see several short trips, baseball games and times with close friends on the horizon. These calendar entries serve as reminders of a wonderful quote by Anne Lamott: 
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.
A gentle reminder to all of us as we roll toward spring.
One of the challenges of my work is its confidential nature. I love to promote my good clients and usually cannot say as much as I would like. So, I was excited to learn that two board members from a recent merger project were selected by the Leadership Council for Nonprofits to share its first Visionary Board Leader award. I worked with Lori Zombek of Children, Inc. and Bob Grace of Cincinnati Early Learning Centers as they tirelessly provided the leadership that resulted in a new merged entity, Learning Grove. Congratulations to Lori and Bob!   
Five Tips for Integrating the Staff
The boards voted to merge, the attorneys are preparing formal legal documents for signatures and submission to the state, and the leadership team is awash in planning and "to do" lists. In my experience with almost fifty partnership projects, what often is overlooked at this point is the creation of an intentional staff integration plan. Unfortunately, the result is often confusion and dwindling morale. A successful combination of organizations requires nonstop efforts to boost the employees because the partnership hangs on their commitment to make it work. To read tips on how to support staff members through the process, click here to continue reading...  

I receive so many interesting questions each month and three follow:

If we are transferring programs and not merging, do we need a partnership consultant?
As with so many things, it depends on the situation. If the organizations are small and only one or two programs are being moved to another organization, you probably do not need outside help. The exception might be if the two leaders want to engage someone for a brief planning project in anticipation of the shift or if one or both are uncomfortable with the dynamics. But if the organizations are larger, and the program transfer involves several complicated issues, outside assistance may be helpful. A merger consultant can facilitate the process, but an attorney should be consulted to make governance suggestions and draft the agreements.

Can we just work on a project together and see how it goes before forming a steering committee?
Of course, this is an option and it might be indicated if the two leaders have not worked together in the past and want to get a sense of values and work styles. But in most cases, the leaders already know each other well enough to recommend to their boards that discussions proceed. Delaying the launch of formal negotiations may indicate trust issues and other unstated concerns. A delay may also result in the elimination of an intriguing possibility because one or both partners may be contacted by another nonprofit in the meantime. As quickly as things move in human services circles these days, most good leaders know they cannot wait too long.

Do we need outside help before we begin the formal process?
You may. If your board members have questions or want to hear about nonprofit trends and typical explorations, it would be helpful to have a neutral person speak to them. Or, you and your partner may want help in planning the steps and outlining the process before the boards vote. In some cases, a consultant can help identify missteps, saving time and money. What matters is that the CEOs understand what is ahead and are comfortable.

"As I reviewed the extensive review, discussions, decisions and plans that were part of the due diligence, I realized how effective this process was... You deserve a great deal of credit for this - which I hear from those involved. Thank you."
-- Senior leader, Human Services Organization

"I am so pleased with how it went yesterday. Thank you so much for your skilled and effective facilitation. You nailed it."
-- Nonprofit CEO

"You have done so much for our community, Marta! So many organizations have benefited from your expertise, wisdom and relationships - you have made a difference."
-- Vice President, Foundation
A Client's Perspective: Pointing to Real World Lessons
By Mary Burke Rivers, Over-the-Rhine Community Housing
ReSTOC and Over-the-Rhine Housing Network merged to form Over-the Rhine Community Housing in 2006 with the help of Marta Brockmeyer. It is hard to believe that 14 years have passed since our two neighborhood CDCs became one. It is one of those paradoxes where it feels both like yesterday that we merged, and the merger feels like ancient history. As I reflect on where we are today, we look quite different in many ways. We went from 12 staff to 45. We've added significant numbers to our portfolio and created additional life-saving programs. We've developed strong property management and accounting systems. We make use of sophisticated IT systems. We have highly skilled staff with professional licenses, degrees, and letters after their names. And, we are renovating and expanding our historic home at 114 W. 14th Street.
At the same time, we look the same where it matters most. We've stayed true to who we are. We are deeply rooted in the community and in the broader social justice movement in Greater Cincinnati. We are committed to the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and to affordable housing. Proudly, that commitment is a thread that runs throughout our organization and connects all our staff. It's a remarkable thing to be a part of. A week doesn't go by where I'm not deeply moved by a story of resilience, or by an act of bravery or kindness, or by moments of genius. Our shared commitment to affordable housing and justice allows us to give staff the space they need to evolve our programs. That is significant. Having confidence in our team has been the primary ingredient in our successes over the years. To read more, click here.

I work with an exceptional group of independent nonprofit consultants. These partners join me on some projects but are also available to work directly with you to meet organizational needs. Please let me know if you would like more information or an introduction. Their experiences and competencies are listed on the Partners page of my website, but one is featured below:

Organizational Development and Coaching
  • Organizational change expertise to identify and engage participants in maintaining group ownership and joint responsibility.
  • Best practices research and strategies
  • Effective tactics to address stakeholder concerns
  • Facilitative leadership to create community and build agreement
  • Meeting planning and design that encourages participation
  • Theory of change and logic model development
  • Leadership and personal coaching that focuses on results
  • Leadership attributes and skill development assessments that inform coaching
  • Retreat planning and facilitation (staff or board)
  • Team building expertise
  • Career satisfaction strategies and transition services
  • Graduate counseling skills, advanced certifications

A complex project can seem overwhelming, but not when you have the right tools and processes. Join Marta for her essential Project Management Basics Workshop, where you will learn new skills and methods to tackle your most difficult assignments. Past participants applaud the training and recommend it for its practicality and impact on their organization!
Project Management Basics
  Tuesday, October 6, 2020
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at Interact for Health
3805 Edwards Road
Cincinnati, OH  45209
Workshops on Site
For convenience and increased participation, you may prefer an in-house workshop. When a larger number of employees share concepts, language and tools, projects move along more smoothly. In some cases, a series of customized follow-up activities complements the foundational workshop. Evaluations from recent on-site trainings have been enthusiastic. Please contact Marta for more information about in-house, customized training.  
End Point
Spring is right around the corner and reminds us to schedule time with ourselves and those we most enjoy. The season won't be with us long - dig in! 
Best wishes,