Board Blending: How A Merger Brought New Candid Leadership

The toughest part of any potential merger usually involves bringing together the culture of two organizations and that includes bringing together two distinct sets of board members.

In its first-ever annual report as Candid, a year after the merger between GuideStar and The Foundation Center, the nonprofit data organization outlined how it blended its two boards. The 16-page annual report also has some quirky aspects to it, including a crossword puzzle and statistical leaders in Zoom calls among employees.

Jen Bokoff, director of stakeholder engagement, details the process of merging two distinct and separate boards as smoothly as possible. GuideStar had seven trustees on its board while Foundation Center had 12 trustees. A year before the merger was consummated, each board named four trustees as part of a working group, informally called the “4+4 group.”

The “4+4 group” reviewed what would become the bylaws:

  • Determine the structure of the board;
  • Establish term limits;
  • Define a process for selecting board chair; and,
  • Develop other agreements for working together.

There were a number of critical decisions made during the process. The Candid board would be created by combining the two boards into one and respecting existing term limits. They incorporated practices of both organizations by establishing a hybrid model of four board meetings per year — two in person and two virtual.

The most difficult part, Bokoff wrote, was in selecting a chair to lead the board. The issue was resolved by having both current board chairs serve as co-chairs during Candid’s first year. Under the new by-laws, trustees would be elected to three-year terms, with a limit of three terms, or nine years.

Six trustees will roll off the board in early 2021, according to Bokoff, and they’re in the process of adding new board members who have no prior allegiance to Foundation Center or GuideStar.