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Section 8. Incorporating Activities/Services in Organizations with a Similar Mission

Learn what incorporating your work into another organization means, decide when and if it's necessary, and how to choose an appropriate organization.

 

  • What does it mean to incorporate your operations into another organization?

  • How to decide when it's time to incorporate into another entity?

  • How to choose the right organization?

  • How to negotiate rolling your operations into another organization or initiative?

  • How to manage the transition to another organization?

  • How to let go?

The Pearson Young Leaders Initiative (PYLI) is a pilot program: it's been funded for two years to establish a core group of young leaders and potential leaders in the community. The organization has done a great job of contacting youth and putting together leadership trainings and support groups. Because of its work, there's a cadre of youth in the community having an effect on such issues as youth violence and safe sex.

Unfortunately, the two years is up, and PYLI is about to run out of funding, with no apparent possibility for more. The staff has exhausted all the possible sources of money, and they're faced with the end of the organization. Yet the work they've done has been important, and needs to continue. What can they do to sustain their initiative in the community?

One course of action is to try to find another organization to take over PYLI's function. The Pearson Youth Development Corporation (YDC), with which PYLI has worked, is willing, and has the resources to make it happen. Furthermore, YDC seems eager to take on at least some of the key staff members who made PYLI so successful, thereby assuring continuity to the leadership initiative. This seems like a match made in heaven, but how can PYLI be sure that it's a good idea, and that YDC will really continue and build on the good work that's been done?

Community organizations sometimes run out of funding possibilities, or decide it 's time to stop operations. The state may award their contract to someone else, or they may have been funded as pilot programs, with the assumption that the private sector would take over funding at the end of the pilot period. Perhaps a community coalition has acted as a catalyst to develop a program, with the intention to fold it eventually into another agency. In all of these situations, whether or not you've planned it that way, continuing your work can mean finding another organization to take over what you've been doing. That's what this section is about.

This section will help you understand exactly what incorporating your work into another organization means; decide when and if it's necessary; figure out how to choose an appropriate organization; negotiate with that organization to make sure that the important parts of what you're doing are indeed continued; and make the transition to the new organization. Perhaps most important, the section also has some suggestions about how to let go of your organization or initiative, and walk away feeling good about what you've done.

What does it mean to incorporate your operations into another organization?

How does one organization take over others functioning? It's often not quite as simple as it seems, and there are really a number of ways it might happen. Let 's look at two common variations, bearing in mind that there are other possibilities as well.

Another organization absorbs yours as a subsidiary, taking responsibility for overall management and funding. In this instance, your organization may be able to remain essentially as it is, with nothing but a change of administration. Some features of this kind of arrangement might be:

  • Some or all of your line staff - the people who do the actual work of the organization - would remain part of the new organization, doing what they've always done.
  • Your director might leave, or might get a new title (program director, for instance ) and join the management team of the new organization, perhaps as the administrator for what had been your organization.
  • Your Board would probably dissolve, but some or all members might join the Board of the new organization.

Clearly, in this situation, there are few changes, and your organization can continue to operate pretty much as it has in the past. It may even keep its name.

A much different scenario is one in which your organization ceases to exist at all, and its services and activities - or only some of them - are taken over by the new organization as part of what it does. In that case:

  • The name and structure of your original organization would disappear.

The name may be kept on as a program name because it's familiar to the community. This would help with recruitment, with funding, and with community support.

  • Some or all of your staff may be hired on... or none may be.

If some or all of your staff members are particularly good or knowledgeable, it 's likely that the new program would try to find a way to keep them. Even in that circumstance, however, the possibility would depend on funding.

  • The way things are done would probably be changed at least somewhat, and perhaps completely.
  • The services or activities would remain, but there would be almost no trace of your original organization.

This second instance might be a lot harder to deal with, because it looks like all your work has vanished. If the name of the organization is gone, and all its operations are different, it might seem there's nothing left of all the effort, the hours and hours of unpaid overtime every week, the worry, the stress, and the occasional elation that all go into starting and building an organization.

It's important to remember that your goal in incorporating into another organization is to make sure that the services or activities that you offered continue to exist in the community. Even if your organization itself disappears, if you've been able to institutionalize your work in some way, you've done your job. Just as each succeeding generation has to die to make room for the next, it may be necessary for your organization to disappear so that its work can be carried on.

How to decide when it's time to incorporate into another entity?

The handwriting may be on the wall that your organization can't survive on its own. Even so, how do you know that you've actually hit the point when you need to start looking at other possibilities? There are a number of possible ways to tell when it's time to investigate becoming part of another organization or initiative.

An internal discussion, involving some combination of Board members, staff, participants, and volunteers, says it's time to make the shift.

A move like this should never be embarked upon without internal discussion. The initial idea may be the product of one person - most likely the Board chair or the director - but it needs to be discussed and generally agreed upon by everyone who has an interest. This particularly includes participants, since they probably have the largest stake in what happens to the activities or services in question.

The chances are that, except in a situation where incorporation into another organization has been the goal right along (see below), the initial reaction will be negative. People seldom want to give up independence if they have the choice. However, discussions may serve to convince those concerned that they have no other reasonable choice. It will be much easier to make the transition if you talk it out within the organization first and have the support of the various groups and individuals involved.

When you knew from the beginning that you would incorporate into another organization, and the agreed-upon time has come. There are a number of circumstances in which this might happen:

  • You're handing over control to another organization that was formed, as a result of your work, specifically to absorb the parent organization. This other organization might be participant-run, community-controlled, run by a coalition, etc. In any case, it's been seen all along as the more appropriate parent for your operations.
  • A community coalition that serves as a catalyst has started an initiative or intervention that it now wants to spin off to an established organization for the long term.
  • You knew from the start that you wanted to be taken over by a larger, better-established organization, and simply waited till your work was well enough recognized that the other organization would be willing.
  • The part of the organization's mission that only it could do has been accomplished, and the rest can be taken over by someone else. In other words, there's no need for the original organization any more.

There have been many organizations that existed to put themselves out of business. One in particular trained members of the Chicago Hispanic community not only in English language and literacy, but in community activism. Ultimately, the trainees became the trainers and English teachers, and the original organization dissolved, leaving the field to an organization founded and run by participants of the original.

  • Your original funding stipulated that the services should be folded into the fabric of the community. Funding as a pilot program, seed money, some forms of public funding, and other arrangements sometimes require that an organization's work be incorporated into other entities by the end of the funding period.

When another organization with great resources makes an offer to absorb your services and activities and staff.

When another organization can offer better services to the target population.That may mean, for instance, that it has a professional staff with better training; that it has multilingual staff and programs; that it offers child care, or transportation, or longer and better service hours; or simply that it can do what you do better. There may be times when organizations have to admit that, because of resources, training, or some other asset, another organization is better equipped to do the job.

When you've hit the wall on resources. This can mean one of several things:

  •  The state or another funding source has switched your main or only grant or contract to another organization. This may result from your philosophical differences with the funder, from problems with paperwork, or from the funder's perception that your numbers weren't high enough. Whatever the reason, your funding has gone elsewhere, and you have to deal with the consequences.
  • You simply can't find funding to continue. If you're publicly funded, cuts in public money - caused by an economic downturn, a change of administration from liberal to conservative, tax cuts, etc. - can doom your organization. Perhaps you had too little funding to begin with, and simply can't sustain what you've been doing. Or perhaps public and private funders don't recognize the importance of your issue. Whatever the reason, you've explored all the possibilities, and there's no money to be had.
  • Your Board decides the organization has no future, and dissolves it.

A small organization that encouraged parent involvement in schools found itself in the odd situation of being highly respected by both constituents and colleagues, regarded as a paragon of virtue by the community, and totally unfundable. The organization produced a highly-respected and widely-distributed newsletter, ran conferences and workshops that were in great demand, and maintained a widely-used and helpful library and librarian.

However, although it reached out to minority and low-income communities, because of a combination of geography and sociology, it served mostly white, middle-class women. No one wanted to fund an organization of this kind. Ultimately, the director, having tried everything she could think of, went to her Board and asked whether they wanted to run for another year on the money left in the bank, or whether they should dissolve the organization. The Board chose the latter, and the library and some events - all that was left of the organization - were folded into a larger organization in the same Massachusetts city.

  • The organization's founders leave, and there's no one else willing to take over.
  • Your funding was time limited from the beginning, and you've been unable to find replacement funding.

How to choose the right organization?

You've worked really hard to get to the point where you have services and activities that need to be continued in the community. You're not just going to incorporate those services into any organization: you want to find one that shares your ideals and your vision. In the real world, your choices may be somewhat limited, but you can still develop some standards, and meet as many of them as possible.

Some things to look for as you consider organizations which might take over your operations:

Look for an organization with a mission, philosophy, and values similar to yours. An organization with a similar mission will do some of the same things you've been doing, or at least be oriented in the same direction. If you do tenant organizing, you might incorporate your activities into a housing advocacy group, for instance. Child nutritional services might be integrated into a community health program.

Similar missions should be similar in other ways also. The organization you choose should have values and a philosophical view of its mission that are very like yours. If your organization is participatory and aimed at participant empowerment, you should seek out others who approach their work in comparable ways.

If you truly want your work to continue, it has to continue in the way you've done it, and according to the value system on which it's based. You may not find the missionary zeal that your original group had, but, with any luck, you can find an organization that's committed to the principles you've adopted. Participants and issues should be treated in the same way you've treated them. If your work has been a means to a larger end - economic or social justice, the personal development of all concerned, etc. - then try to find an organization that sees the work in the same way. Otherwise, you'll be disappointed at what your organization becomes, and only the skeleton of your work will really continue.

Finally, a similar organization will have a commitment to the same target population as yours. If it does, you can be fairly sure that that population won't be slighted by the new organization.

Look for an organization you know and trust. Try to find an organization you've worked with well, whose management and leadership style is similar to that of your organization, and whose attitude toward the target population and the community matches yours.

Look for an organization that's competent.You don't want to hand your work over to someone who won't do it well, so you want an organization that does its work effectively and thoroughly, and that has a good reputation among colleagues and the community. Competence also means good fiscal and other management, and the ability to hire and keep good people on staff. Not only does the work have to be done well, it has to be supported well for an organization to be truly competent.

Look for an organization with the resources to sustain your work. Proper resources encompass several areas:

  • It should be well funded for the work it already does, and have the potential to bring in funding for your work as well.
  • It should have the cash flow to sustain your operation.
  • It should be well-connected to funders - so that its proposals will be considered seriously - and to the community, so that it gets community support for what it wants to do.
  • Its staff should have decent pay and good benefits, so that they'll stay with the organization.
  • It should have adequate space both for its current operations and for yours.
  • It should either have staff who are trained to do the work of your organization, or should be financially able to hire your staff or others to do it.
  • In most cases, it should have a 501(c)(3) non-profit certification from the IRS.

Look for an organization that will benefit from taking on your operation. Not only is it reasonable that the organization should get some benefit from your operation, but it's also much more likely that it will take your work seriously and do it well if there's some gain for it as a result. Some ways in which incorporating your services or activities might benefit another organization include:

  • It might complement what they already do, and fit in with the services and activities they currently offer. If, for instance, you offer job placement services, they might fit neatly into a job training or adult literacy program. Information on and support for smoking cessation would dovetail nicely with substance abuse treatment services.
  • It could increase their standing or credibility in the community. If you've built up a good reputation, that will carry over to an organization that takes over what you do.
  • It might allow them to work with a population they've been trying to reach, such as a language minority community that you're already serving.
  • Your operation could allow them to offer more services to a population they already serve, if your target populations are similar.
  • Taking over new services might give them access to new sources of funding they haven't been able to tap before.
  • Your target population or activities might allow them to expand operations into another community or neighborhood.
  • Your staff, or particular members of it, might be good additions to theirs.
  • Working in your area will give them access to a new realm of expertise.
  • Absorbing your operation might make them more of a full-service organization.

Look for an organization that actively wants to do the work you've been doing, and is committed to maintaining and improving it. In many ways, this goes back to the first suggestion, about looking for an organization with a similar mission. If you can find an organization that really cares about the work you do, and considers it not only important, but absolutely necessary, it's likely that that organization will do its best to make sure that the work goes on, and is done well.

How to negotiate rolling your operations into another organization or initiative?

Most of what follows is based on an ideal: that everyone, from the Board of Directors to participants in services, should have a voice in the fate of the organization. In the real world, this seldom happens: decisions about such things as joining another organization are usually made by executive directors and Board chairs. The fact that most of the people most directly affected by the change are left out of the decision, however, doesn't make that either right or logical. We advocate the inclusion of everyone involved in this type of decision for two reasons: first, because it's only fair to ask people to be involved in decisions that profoundly affect their lives; and second, because that general involvement makes for better decisions.

Once you've had some internal discussions, decided to incorporate into another organization, found the right organization, and made a joint decision to go ahead with the switchover, you're still nowhere near done with the process. The next step is to negotiate with the other organization about what exactly will happen as a result of the change, and about how and what they will continue.

Staff (including volunteers), Board members, and - for most grass roots and community -based organizations - participants as well should be part of the discussion about and planning for this move. Coming up with what you want, what you have to offer, negotiable and non-negotiable points, should be a joint effort. Everyone with an interest should be able to voice her priorities, fears, and positions. The final position of your organization shouldn't be the product of one person, or of just the Board and director, but should take into account the needs and thoughts of all concerned. The same should be true in the other organization as well - in fact, that might be another criterion for selecting that organization.

The points below don't represent an exhaustive or ideal list. Many are unnecessary or inappropriate for many organizations in this position. They're just meant to give you some ideas about the kinds of issues you might consider in this situation.

Decide on negotiating points. What are the things you care about, and want to ask the other organization to do or to pay attention to? Some possibilities:

  • Maintaining the name of your organization in some way. It could become the name of the program within the new organization, for instance, or could even be joined with the name of the new organization.
  • Maintaining all or some of your present staff as part of the new organization. You could ask that they keep their present jobs, that they be given new jobs in the organization, and/or that they receive certain levels of salary, benefits, staff development, etc.
  • Granting status to your former staff and program similar to those in equivalent positions in the organization. The person who directs your services should be in the same position in the organization as other program directors, for instance.
  • Maintaining the current level of service to the target population. You may want to spell out what that means, so there's no misinterpreting "current level of service " (a parenting group, consisting of ten one-hour, twice-a-week sessions using the attached curriculum, running eight times a year, with room for 15 participants in each group). You might also stipulate that recruitment should be continued at current levels, and that the new organization should use its media contacts to advertise this program at least as much as it does its others.
  • Maintaining the way services are delivered: methods, times available, the way participants and their records are treated, intake procedures, etc.
  • Sustaining the effort for at least a specified period of time - one year, five years, the life of the organization.
  • Paying any outstanding bills or debts of your organization, up to an agreed-upon amount. (The other organization would have to be crazy to simply agree to pay whatever 's outstanding, without a limit.)
  • Maintaining service to the same target population(s). If you provide both English -language and English-as-a-Second-or-Other-Language (ESOL) literacy services, then the new organization would be obligated to continue those, and not to cut off either the English-speaking or the language minority population.
  • Expanding services to a certain level, either by increasing the number of people who can be served, or by adding services to what's already available.
  • Providing support services - child care, transportation, etc. - to participants.
  • Maintaining space specifically devoted to the services or activities that you 're handing over.
  • Providing specific equipment or materials - a copier, computers, etc.
  • Incorporating a certain number of your Board member's into the organization's Board for a specified minimum period of time (two or three years, perhaps).
  • Attaining and/or maintaining a particular Board composition (a specific number of participant members, e.g., or members of particular segments of the community).
  • Keeping the same phone number, website, and/or phone book listing.
  • Allowing former staff and participants of your organization access to particular services - a library, for instance - or to their own records.
  • Anything else that's important to you. This might include the posting of a particular logo, continuing to take care of the program cat... whatever is important to you to keep or keep going.

Depending upon your relationship with the other organization, many of these points can actually be worked out long before an agreement is drafted. Staffs of the two organizations could jointly develop ways to integrate, for instance. The staff of the other organization might meet with your participants to discuss what they like and value about the services they get and how they're treated, what kinds of support they need, and what things they'd like to change. Many transition issues can be resolved long before they actually become issues if the organizations interact in this way.

Once you've developed a list of negotiating points, decide which of them are absolutely necessary, and which you're willing to give up or compromise on. This is a negotiation, after all: it's likely that each organization will have to give on some points to get what it wants on others.

Just how much of a negotiation the process is depends upon the bargaining positions and the needs of the organizations involved. Much of this section is based on the premise that both organizations are eager for the transfer to take place, and that it meets both their needs. In reality, this is often not the case.

If an organization is in imminent danger of folding, and is desperately searching for an entity to take it over, it has far less bargaining room than if it's relatively healthy in every way but financially - still delivering effective services, for instance - and is trying to do what will be best for it in the future. The organization that takes over its function may or may not be enthusiastic about assuming that responsibility, and may or may not believe strongly in what the original organization does.

In the worst case - an immediate need for a takeover by a less-than-enthusiastic host - the organization may have to settle for whatever the host is willing to offer. All services may not be continued, for instance. Staff may simply be out in the cold, even as all the organization's assets go to the new host. It's not always fair... or negotiable.

Decide what you can offer. The other organization will also be asking itself what it wants: this should be a mutually beneficial exchange. They may be making sacrifices to see that your work continues, and it's reasonable that they get something more than good feeling. Some possibilities for what you might offer in return:

  • Rights to your name and logo.
  • Your mailing lists and information about your donors and supporters.
  • Your relevant records, logs, participant data, forms you've developed, intake information, etc.
  • Anything left in bank accounts, investments, property, or endowments of your organization

There may be some legal issues here if you've had bequests or donations that were tied to certain conditions. The fact that you're organization ceases to exist may change those conditions, and therefore change what happens to that money. You may need a lawyer to make sure that everyone understands the implications and consequences of the change

  • Any information about financial dealings and private or public funding organizations, particularly those whose funding is still in force, or whose rules mandate keeping information f.or a set period of time after funding ends (often five years).
  • All tax and tax-exempt information.
  • Training and instruction in any methods or techniques unique to your organization or expected to be used by the new owner.
  • Enough time spent in explaining and demonstrating so that the new organization understands both the nature and the specifics of the services and activities it's assuming before the agreement is finalized, and feels able to undertake them.
  • Technical assistance (if your organization's staff isn't taken over by the other organization) for a specified period of time (six months or a year, perhaps).
  • Copies of your organization's policies and procedures, personnel manual, or whatever else of that sort you have in writing.
  • Good will/public relations: Your director and Board - and staff and participants as well - could publicize the transition at every opportunity, praising the other organization and presenting the change as an opportunity for the target population. You might use press releases, news conferences, public appearances, and other events to publicize and ease the changeover in any way possible... and agree not to criticize the other organization in public if it does some things you disapprove of.
  • Anything else that's particularly important to the other organization.

Negotiate. Both of you have already decided what you're willing to give on and what you're not, and you've been discussing this transition for a while now. It shouldn't be too hard to come up with an agreement that satisfies everyone, as long as both of you have been reasonably honest about what you really wanted.

The key to negotiations - and in fact to every step in this process - is honesty. If you've been clear from the beginning about what you were unwilling to change, there will be no surprises for the other organization, and no unpleasant surprises for you. This should be a friendly process, and honesty can go a long way toward assuring that it is.

Once the negotiations are completed, GET IT IN WRITING. If you can afford it, or can get donated services, it's probably best if each organization has a lawyer to help draft the agreement. If not, you can draft your own document (see Tool #1 for an example), but remember that you have to be incredibly specific about the details of the agreement, and about what each organization agrees to do and not to do. Again, you may be able to get a lawyer to look at it pro bono (i.e. as a public service ) and make suggestions, or you may have one on your Board. The agreement won't be final until the document is signed by both parties.

Unless they're also mediators - and there are a number of firms that specialize in this kind of thing - it's probably wise not to involve lawyers in the negotiations themselves: because of the nature of the law, it's easy to turn the negotiations into an adversary proceeding (a contest, in other words, where there are winners and losers), no matter how friendly they started out to be.

The reason for having lawyers involved in drafting the agreement is that agreements, no matter how friendly, can break down if they're not set out clearly in writing. There can be misunderstandings, changes in leadership, changes of heart - any number of things can transpire to alter what you thought was carved in stone. If you have a legal agreement - a contract - you at least have something to hold the other organization to.

It's important to realize, however, that even with a legal agreement, once your organization dissolves, there's no one to hold the host organization to its promises. Once the transfer is made, you have to trust that the host organization will honor its commitment. A written agreement may help to assure that result.

Once a draft agreement has been prepared, you need to get it approved by all concerned in both organizations. There are several steps to this process:

  • Give staff, Board, volunteers, and participants a chance to review the agreement, and raise any questions or red flags they have. You may not be able to resolve all difficulties, but at least any problems will be out in the open and can be discussed before anything goes public.
  • Renegotiate any points that seem to raise real problems.
  • Present the final document to all concerned in both organizations. Again, it may not be totally acceptable to everyone, but if most people are willing to support it, it makes sense to go ahead.

At this point, you're ready to sign the agreement and make it official.

How to manage the transition to another organization?

It's important that the transition be as smooth as possible. The ideal is that services and activities go on as usual, without any noticeable interruption, and that the changeover from one organization to the other create as few problems as possible. There are a number of things both organizations can do to make this happen.

As soon as you have a formal agreement, inform individuals and groups who should know before they read it in the paper. These include:

  • All staff, Board members, volunteers, and participants (If you've been following the path laid out in this section, they'll all know already).
  • Any members or donors of either organization.
  • Community supporters of either organization.
  • Other organizations that you collaborate or work with.
  • Anyone who helped get the two organizations together or to broker the agreement.

Only after all these folks have heard, notify the media and, through them, the public.

If you're transferring the whole operation, staff and all, you need to work with the staffs of both organizations to develop new policies and procedures, and generally make it possible for the staff of your organization to become integrated into that of the other. Some specifics you might pay attention to:

  • Everyone should work out and be comfortable with the details before the contract is signed.
  • Make sure that lines of supervision and support are clear and make sense.
  • Resolve any space issues as fairly as possible, so that no one feels forced out or unwelcome.
  • Everyone should understand all the logistics of the new situation: when and how they get paid, benefits, who gets to use the copier, etc.

The whole point here is for everyone from both organizations to feel comfortable in the new situation, and for your staff to feel part of the other organization as quickly as possible.

It's important that participants feel comfortable with the new situation as well. It may be that they don't really feel the change, depending upon how much of the operation is transferred. If there are changes for them, make sure they understand them beforehand, and have support in adjusting to them.

If there are changes of any consequence - a change in the staff members with whom they work, a change of space - some participants will leave. This is inevitable, no matter how hard you work to prevent it. The goal is to keep this exodus to a minimum, and to convince most participants that the changes won't affect what they get from engaging in the service.

If you're transferring only some or all of the services or activities of your organization, but not the staff, the emphasis in transition should be on participants and the target population. They need to understand exactly what the changes are, and how things will change for them.

On a practical level, they need to know where to go, if that has changed, and whom they'll be working with. They need to meet the staff and administration of the new organization, and learn about its other services, some of which they may be eligible for.

On a more emotional level, participants and the target population need to be reassured that the character and quality of the services haven't changed, and that they'll continue to be treated with respect and personal attention. If they can be convinced of that, very few will leave, and your work can continue as before.

At the same time, the staff taking over the services needs to work with your organization and its participants to understand how things have operated before, and to work out together whether and how that will change.

In the ideal world, nearly all of this will have been done long before as part of the pre-negotiation process. The consultation within and between organizations described above, if it's done well, will involve everyone concerned, and will discuss and work out most of these issues before an agreement is ever negotiated, or at least in the negotiation process. If the organizations have done the pre-agreement and agreement process well, transition should be relatively easy and painless.

How to let go

Probably the most difficult part of this whole process is letting go of your organization. Even though you've accomplished your purpose by making sure that your work will continue, walking away is hard. Here are some things you can do to mark it and make it easier.

Use the signing of the agreement as both a public relations opportunity and a marker in the life of your organization. Invite the media and the public, and make it as festive an occasion as possible.

  •  Make a ceremony of the signing itself, with staffs, Boards, and participants of both organizations present.
  • Try to get legislators, local officials, or other public figures to speak or at least be present.
  • Take the occasion to thank everyone who's been involved in your organization from the beginning - founders, staff and volunteers, the director, the Board - with recognition, gifts, or whatever seems appropriate. Make sure everyone who needs to be acknowledged is acknowledged, and adequately.
  • Formally turn over the organization to its new owners. You may be able to actually present keys, a sign, a charter, etc. to mark the transition.

Less publicly, throw a big party to which you invite anyone who's been involved with the organization from the beginning - current and former staff, Board, volunteers, participants, colleagues, community supporters, members, etc. Some possible highlights:

  •  Assemble a scrapbook of photos, news clippings, old memos... anything that has meaning for those who understand or need to know the history of the organization.
  • Make an audio- or videotape of stories, comments, etc., getting the voices and /or faces of those who've been important to the organization over time, telling about significant events in its history in which they were involved.
  • Have food and drink that's entered into the organizational mythology. If Betty 's blueberry pie or Hsiu's stir-fried shrimp accompanied famous occasions or simply acquired legendary status on their own, it would be nice if people could sample them for this occasion as well.
  • Once again, recognize those who were particularly important to the birth and development of the organization.

Directly or soon after the party, hold a gathering of the core members of the organization, those few to whom it really mattered, to grieve its passing. Even if you set out to have it absorbed by another organization, something important is ending, and you need to acknowledge that.

Do your laughing and crying in this group - each of you will understand how the others are feeling. Talk about what you'll do next. Congratulate yourselves on a job well done, and on keeping the organization's work alive for the future.

Finally, walk away and don't look back. For many people, the experience of being part of a particular organization is so powerful that, even after they've left, they continue to come back to "visit." They can't stay away, and they agonize over decisions that no longer affect them and aren't their concern.

It's far better to distance yourself as much as possible. If you have friends still working in the new situation, see them socially, and don't ask about what's going on at work. Don't "check in": it will make you and everyone else uncomfortable. Value the experience that you've had, the friendships that you've made, the lessons you've learned, and the work that you've done, and turn your attention to the equally important work that you'll do next.