Strategically Communicate a Nonprofit Merger

End Hunger Network and the Houston Food Bank

For more than twenty years, the nonprofit organization End Hunger Network provided a strong, efficient food rescue system in greater Houston—one that connected food donors and hunger-relief agencies in the most cost-effective ways.

FrogDog over the years provided End Hunger Network with a variety of communications services, including public and media relations, grant research and writing, Web site development, and internal and shareholder communications.

The Challenge

  • End Hunger Network and the Houston Food Bank worked closely together for decades. They shared a common goal: feeding the hungry by providing low-cost food to hunger relief organizations, such as food pantries and homeless shelters. However, they took different and complementary approaches. As a food rescue organization, End Hunger Network focused on preventing fresh meats and vegetables from ending up in landfills instead of on the plates of hungry people. Meanwhile, the Houston Food Bank served as a warehouse for donated food. Both provided a variety of related programs and services.
  • Because of rising costs, the skyrocketing need for food assistance, and other factors, the two organizations realized in 2008 that the time was right for coming together to better coordinate their efforts. Through the merger, End Hunger Network became part of the Houston Food Bank, although its name was retained on the signature Red Barrel program.
  • FrogDog was tasked with developing strategic messaging and tactics for communicating this positive development to End Hunger Network’s loyal supporters, employees, and the public while closely coordinating activities with the Houston Food Bank.

The FrogDog Solution

  • FrogDog consulted with both organizations to create a communications strategy that timed announcements as closely to the merger’s effective date as possible while appropriately informing affected groups.
  • The first step involved developing strategic messaging for various audiences, including employees, donors, vendors, volunteers, and hunger relief organizations. Key talking points emphasized synergies: the merger would expand the reach of End Hunger Network’s innovative programs while expanding the Houston Food Bank’s capabilities.
  • FrogDog worked closely with End Hunger Network to prevent potential anxiety among two groups in particular: employees and long-term donors and supporters. Many in the latter group personally knew the nonprofit’s founder, the late Mary Barden Keegan. Communication with these groups was carefully timed to precede the public announcement of the merger. Employees were notified in a group meeting of their new opportunities and benefits as members of the Houston Food Bank’s team, while donors and former board members received personalized letters explaining how the merger would help fulfill Keegan’s vision.
  • FrogDog worked closely with the Houston Food Bank to develop press materials and coordinate media relations. Meanwhile, the food bank handled event planning details for a signing ceremony at Minute Maid Park, followed by the combined organization’s first food delivery to a nearby hunger relief organization.
  • FrogDog also worked with the City of Houston to secure a proclamation commemorating the event and developed appropriate talking points and speeches for End Hunger Network officials.

The Results

  • End Hunger Network received positive feedback from donors and supporters in response to the personalized letters, and the employee transition went smoothly.
  • Six media outlets attended the signing ceremony, which netted more than $21,000 in publicity value and 528,000 impressions.
  • The most immediate results of the merger included expansion of End Hunger Network’s Red Barrel retail food donation program to grocery stores in several additional southeast Texas counties.
  • FrogDog continued to support the combined organization after the merger by working with the Houston Food Bank’s development team to update materials and integrate information about End Hunger Network’s programs. In addition, FrogDog is providing grant research and writing support for an ambitious new program initiative.
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