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Two Lancaster nonprofits consolidate, hope others will follow suit

The Lancaster Alliance and James Street Improvement District aren’t just consolidating into one nonprofit: They’re aiming to inspire.

“What we’re hoping to do is to set a repeatable practice of organizations realizing that there’s a real close mission” and capitalizing on that, said Bob Shoemaker, who led the Alliance and now serves as president and CEO of the new Lancaster City Alliance. His JSID counterpart, Marshall Snively, is LCA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

That is not to say that LCA is urging indiscriminate merging. Fit and timing are essential, Shoemaker and Snively said, and it is possible to over-consolidate. Their two organizations first looked at the concept about five years ago and determined that the time was not right.

“We should be clear, too, that we were two organizations that were in very good standing financially and had healthy reserves,” Snively said. “Because of the prudence of the boards, we realized that we could do much more together than separately, including fundraising.”

Shoemaker and Snively described the Alliance and JSID as complementary, not competing, organizations. Both were involved in the city’s economic development, some local companies had members on both boards of directors, and for the past few years both had been participating in regular quarterly meetings with the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County, EDC Finance Corp. and the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

“We thought it was necessary to tell the funders how we were prioritizing,” Shoemaker said of the group. “We agreed to meet on a regular basis and share our priorities and then decide on a go-forward basis who was going to work on what so there wouldn’t be duplication of effort.”

Alliance and JSID priorities were pretty compatible, as it turned out. Eventually they resumed talks about consolidating, then started holding joint lunch sessions on Tuesdays.

“It’s important that staff be involved and help set the right tone for the volunteers,” Shoemaker said of the transition. Unlike the for-profit sector, he noted, where paychecks give people a reason to invest in the continuing health of the organization, nonprofits have volunteers with no vested interests other than the mission.

Between them, the organizations had more than three dozen members on their boards of directors — and when they put the idea of consolidation to a vote, after months of planning, the decision was unanimous. Lancaster County Community Foundation also saw wisdom in the move, coming up with a $20,000 grant for the transition.

“Partnerships of this nature increase service delivery, improve an organization’s long-term financial stability through consolidation and increased operational efficiencies, and align efforts to enhance our Lancaster community,” said Melody Keim, vice president of programs and initiatives at the LCCF.

The Alliance staff are giving up their rented quarters at 100 S. Queen St. and moving in with the JSID staff at 354 N. Prince St.

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