Mergers Gone Awry


Recently, I have been exposed to two very different association merger outcomes. One REALTOR® association had undergone several mergers without a hitch and without professional help. They did state they had worked on allowing these associations to keep their own identity through a chapter-like model. The second association was going through painful angst as the merger that seemed like a “no-brainer” to leadership had become a divisive move with accusations, finger pointing, blame and frustration.

One of the key differences was that association #1 already had a regional MLS that the surrounding associations were already using. No learning curve, no frustration. Association #2 required the merging organization to give up their MLS and use the acquiring organization’s MLS platform. Without ever having visited or seen the second association, or knowing any of its circumstances, I can make some educated assumptions about what went awry.

  1. In adequate member preparation, timing and communication.
  2. Justification communication that for whatever reason did not filter down to the general membership.
  3. Because leadership (staff and volunteer) were highly educated in the pros and cons of the merger, intimately involved, they assumed the membership saw the same thing.
  4. Inadequate efforts in stakeholder management and member buy-in. This could be as simple as not pushing out enough communication and perhaps more importantly not gathering member feedback prior to the merger.
  5. A note about member feedback: TAKING A FEW SURVEYS IS NOT ENOUGH. Please read the blog post about effective member data collection.
  6. As feedback became negative the board of directors became defensive and or shut down.

It is highly recommended that associations use a merger consultant, even if its not Association Yoda, there are so many qualified consulting firms out there that specialize in pre-member communications and merger negotiations. Check out our resource page for a list of recommended vendors.

But what does a board do when the membership is already in revolt? Bring in a specialist as quickly as possible. At Association Yoda, we have a program to “stop the bleeding”. For more information contacts us at

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