Nonprofits merge forces


Members of the nonprofit West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum convene for a meeting. Photo via

A pair of nonprofits focused on sustainable business practices have merged.

St. Joseph-based Michigan's Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum, or MGSSBF, and Grand Rapids-based West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, or WMSBF, announced their merger yesterday.

The combined organization will be headquartered in Grand Rapids and serve 220 member organizations and the general community in a 10-county territory that stretches from Muskegon County to the Indiana border.

Its mission will be “promoting business practices that demonstrate environmental stewardship, economic vitality and social responsibility.”

Existing members of both organizations will now receive reciprocal benefits. 

WMSBF said it will continue to do business as MGSSBF in southwest Michigan for the foreseeable future.

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum was founded in 1994 and became a nonprofit in 2009, while MGSSBF was founded in 2010.

Both were founded with the intention of helping businesses improve sustainability in their operations.

Benefits of merging

The merger allows MGSSBF to share administrative costs with the larger program and invest more resources to its mission, while WMSBF expects the merger will help it remain competitive as it seeks funding from a variety of sources.

To remain competitive with statewide and national organizations for project funding, WMSBF said it had “identified a strategic need for regional partnerships.”

And WMSBF said the merger is already bringing new programs to its area, including a recycling user group based on a successful program in the Grand Rapids area, an initiative to help local events and fairs implement recycling and sustainability programs and a program to capture waste materials for artists.

“This is an important step for the sustainable business community in western Michigan,” said Daniel Schoonmaker, executive director, WMSBF.  “We can accomplish more together than we ever could separately.”


Schoonmaker will now become executive director of the combined organization.

Former MGSSBF board members Lyn Wolf of Lake Michigan College and Anna Keehn of Wightman & Associates have joined the 16-member WMSBF board. 

Wolf will also chair a new leadership committee that will guide the direction of the organization.

Previous partnership

The organizations had previously entered into a strategic alliance for the purpose of allowing WMSBF to perform administrative and development functions for MGSSBF.

The organizations said pooling resources in this way allowed for the hiring of a project manager and reduced the administrative costs of MGSSBF, diverting more resources to program development and member resources.

After the conclusion of a successful six-month pilot program, the boards of the two organizations began merger negotiations.

“We are excited for this opportunity to expand our network and link the great work of businesses in Michigan's Great Southwest to the sustainable business community of West Michigan,” said Alison Waske Sutter, WMSBF board president and manager of corporate responsibility for SpartanNash.

WMSBF said the decision to merge organizations came about as the organization was in the midst of a three-year growth period, which included doubling its program participation, membership and revenue and developing new research and education roles in partnership with state universities and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

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