CEO Notebook |
This year’s spring fever has an unusual theme. Instead of the typical hiring decisions, financial aid negotiations and end-of-year fundraising gala preparations, some schools are discussing the opportunity to merge or acquire other schools.
We have heard about school mergers before, but I think the ground has shifted these past few months. Why? Because schools are approaching the opportunity differently. No longer is the predominant framework that a financially struggling school asks a better positioned school to merge, with the decision in the stronger institution’s hands. The conversations are proactive, with mergers discussed as financial and strategic levers, much like taking on additional debt or expanding the school’s preschool-grade 8 program to include an upper school.
Hearing from more schools wanting help in this arena, I reached out to consultants, school leaders and my network of nonprofit colleagues who have done the hard work of merging two separate organizations into one. Here is what resonated with me the most from these conversations:
Is a merger and acquisition right for every school? Of course not. Could it be a viable opportunity for some to consider? Absolutely. I hope the last ten years have taught us that one size does not fit all and there is no silver bullet to questions of financial sustainability. As we all explore the best business decisions to ensure our schools’ viability and success, this may be the right opportunity for some, and my hats are off to school leaders that are proud to own it and pursue it in the best interest of the missions, students and families they serve.
Stronger Together: the Case for School Mergers (March/April 2017)
More Independent Schools Announce Mergers (news item)
Considering a Merger? Key Steps for Nonprofits (news item)
School Seeks Partnership (news item)
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