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17 clues to an organization’s culture

by The NonProfit Times - October 14, 2013

There are many steps a nonprofit will take before undertaking a merger with another nonprofit.  One of these steps is finding out what the organizational culture is like at your potential partner.

Luckily for you, it’s not that hard to find out the culture of a potential partner organization.  You don’t even have to be in their offices to find out. According to Thomas A. McLaughlin in the book “Nonprofit Mergers and Alliances,” public opinion can give you a pretty good idea of what it’s like. McLaughlin also wrote that culture information can be found in documents that are available in the public record. These would be things like tax returns and bond prospectus documents.

He suggested keeping an eye on these 17 clues to organizational culture:

  • Compensation of board and management team;
  • Degree of centralization versus decentralization;
  • Demographics of clients;
  • Demographics of staff;
  • Financial investment policies;
  • Financial performance;
  • Geographic location;
  • Management compensation policies;
  • Marketing materials;
  • Number and type of management meetings;
  • Number of board meetings per year;
  • Philosophy regarding staff turnover;
  • Process for recruiting and selecting new board members;
  • Requirements of major funding sources;
  • Size of board;
  • Size of management team (especially versus comparable nonprofits); and,
  • Unwritten/unspoken hiring preferences.


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