A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Noticing Nonprofit Redundancy, Taking Action

By Andy Carroll, ASF 

Last month, I interviewed Nan Pugh of Pugh Family Foundation for ASF’s Leadership Initiative. She was amazing—smart, enthusiastic, committed, curious.

One of the themes Nan talked about was that foundations are leaders because they set agendas and set directions. An example she offered was that her foundation is concerned when they receive multiple proposals for the same work, or same kinds of work, from different organizations. For example, in one grant cycle the foundation received seven applications for financial literacy work in its rural community.

The week prior, Scott Brazda of The Stuller Family Foundation e-mailed me to ask about guidance for foundations that see redundancy among nonprofit work and wish to encourage certain grantees to merge or collaborate. I offered a little guidance and recommended Scott post to ASF’s Discussion List.

But Scott’s post—and an influx of great responses from fellow ASF members—came later. Back to Nan.

A few moments later in our interview, Nan mentioned a colleague named Scott Brazda as “a visionary.” She said Scott was concerned about redundancy in their community and was trying to figure out ways to address it. Nan said she wanted to think more about the issue of redundancy and work with Scott and others on it.

I then realized Nan and Scott are both in Louisiana, and it turns out they are good colleagues.

Right after my interview with Nan, I connected Nan’s and Scott’s thoughts and actions to the narrative about small foundation leaders that is emerging from the Leadership Initiative. The narrative begins with passion and hunger for knowledge. Leaders in small foundations are driven to gather knowledge and information, especially about particular issues or problems. They analyze the problem and generate possible solutions, and, in doing so, point the way for others.

Some leaders then act on the knowledge and potential solutions and step out, speak out, organize, mobilize, advocate.

I realized this is exactly what Nan and Scott are doing. They pay careful attention to the information they gather as foundations—the pattern of redundancy and complementary work they see. They chew on this, driven to keep thinking and do something. They are hungry for solutions. Nan and Scott are probably engaging a number of people in their community to help them think.

Few organizations other than foundations have the perspective to notice redundancy, inefficiency, and complementary services across nonprofits. And Nan and Scott stand out as people who focus on this issue and “run it to ground.” They ask questions and desire to make a difference.

They are leaders.

Have any of you broached the topic of nonprofit mergers or collaborations? What lessons can you share?

Join us for a conference call, A Foundation’s Role in Nonprofit Mergers and Partnerships, on May 30.

Senior Program Manager Andy Carroll, lead staffer on ASF’s Leadership Initiative, writes resources, designs workshops, and facilitates seminars for ASF members. Andy has 25 years of experience in nonprofit organizations, and he enjoys talking with members about their questions, interests, passions, and plans for making a difference.


  1. The Foellinger Foundation has supported organizations’ efforrts to look at nonprofit mergers or partnerships – “strategic restructuring” – for a decade. The Foundation has a specific grant category called “Strengthening Organizations” in which an organization may apply for funds for either the exploratory or the implementation phase of a restructuring. Because the Foundation believes it is important for organizations to at least look at the idea of restructuring, all of the applications submitted have been approved. Recently, the Foundation approved a grant for the implementation of a formal merger.We were honored that the organizations trusted us with the stories of their individual and collective jouneys. Another request to merge two organizations’ financial offices was also just approved. Our role is to gently encourage and provide appropriate resources to those organizations whose board leaders have demonstrated that placing their clients or consumers first is their priority.

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