Letting Go of Your Nonprofit: Mission-Centered Leadership During a Merger

New book release by Mission + Strategy president, Jean Butzen

Through six vivid, engaging stories of individual leaders of nonprofit organizations who let go of their power and position in order to further their organization’s mission through a merger, Jean Butzen provides an innovative, practical roadmap for executive directors, CEOs, and board member considering this strategy. Why were these leaders willing to risk their personal status and jobs? How did they handle the stress and uncertainty of seeing their organization absorbed into a larger one?

Each story contains the history of the leader and why they decided to seek a merger. Then the chapter walks through the process for completing the merger and, crucially, the steps each leader took to let go of their nonprofit and their position. The final chapters go into more detail about the steps, and summarize the advice from the leaders.

Butzen finds that all the leaders went through a similar six-step process. The result was always that the merger produced a stronger organization that better fulfilled its mission. And what happened to the individual leaders who merged themselves out of their position? They all prospered as well. Their stories provide both inspiration and practical advice on how to make a merger successful. But it all starts with the courage to let go.

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“Butzen offers sage advice to nonprofit leaders…in a way that makes a compelling case that this kind of ‘mission centered leadership’ is not just possible but heroic.”
—Anne Wallestad
President and CEO, Board Source, Washington, DC

“This book is a significant contribution to understanding the complex dynamics of nonprofit mergers. Butzen’s stories… convey a thoughtful and important message about the overarching goal of nonprofits to maximize impact, even at the expense of personal loss.”
—Lois Savage
President, The Lodestar Foundation, Phoenix
Cofounder, the Sustained Collaboration Network

More Praise for Letting Go of Your Nonprofit: Mission-Centered Leadership During a Merger

“Have you ever found yourself asking the question, ‘When is the right time to leave my organization?’ In Letting Go of Your Nonprofit, Butzen delves into answering that question. The book draws on her 40 years of nonprofit experience, including her ‘leave’ journey as a nonprofit CEO. Personal interviews with nonprofit leaders who created, led, loved, and ultimately left their organizations provide context. Each of six ‘letting-go’ steps has its own chapter and interviewee’s story. Through these merger stories, Butzen has identified a new kind of nonprofit leader, a ‘mission-centered leader’—one who chooses their nonprofit’s mission over remaining in their position.

“This is a remarkable, well-written, thoughtful, fun, and engaging book! It’s a wealthy source of practical guidance for those not quite sure it’s time to leave and perhaps a bit fearful of a yet-to-be determined (but very likely extraordinary) future!”

—Mary Stewart-Pellegrini, PhD
    Principal, Organization Development Consultants, Gary, Indiana

“Essential reading for anyone passionate about a charitable cause and the business of making an impact. Effective nonprofit leaders must know when to pivot, when to grow, when to change, and, yes, when to let go—all in service of the impact they are trying to effect in the world. This guide examines the process of making big changes possible and the grit and spirit leaders need to achieve lasting, consequential change.”

—David Ernesto Munar
    President and CEO, Howard Brown Health, Chicago

“Butzen’s individual case studies and moving profiles of six mission-centered leaders is a great resource for nonprofit leaders who may think that letting go represents failure, rather than the gift it can be to preserving an institution’s mission over time. A merger can be an invaluable strategy to sustain mission and grow community impact, and in the nonprofit world outgoing leaders rarely receive golden parachutes. But the true leaders who seize strategic merger opportunities to advance organizational mission can ‘let go’ with their heads held high, as this inspiring book documents beautifully.”

—Nadya K. Shmavonian
    Director, Nonprofit Repositioning Fund, Philadelphia
    Partner, SeaChange Capital Partners
    Member, Sustained Collaboration Network

“You never really know how it will go until you've lived it—but getting this firsthand perspective of six leaders who toiled through a merger decision from one of the foremost experts in the field is better than living through it. I urge every executive and board leader contemplating a merger to read this book. It will save you thousands of dollars and many headaches. Butzen does a superb job of sharing her decades of experience through these short but thorough anecdotes. The concluding chapter is pure gold.”

—Ric Estrada
    President and CEO, Metropolitan Family Services, Chicago

“Amplifying the voices of nonprofit leaders who have successfully held on to their missions but ‘let go’ of their organizations through a merger, Butzen offers sage advice to nonprofit leaders facing a similar opportunity. And she does so in a way that makes a compelling case that this kind of ‘mission-centered leadership’ is not just possible but heroic.”

—Anne Wallestad
    President and CEO, Board Source, Washington, DC