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23/Jan/2017

Managing shared meeting space is one of the biggest challenges you face in a nonprofit center. I’ve seen everything from custom room booking systems that use room occupancy sensors to cancel room reservations to room schedules kept using pen and paper. Virtually everyone wants there to be a technology platform that does it all, at an affordable rate, or better yet for free. With the explosion of coworking space, more room booking systems are coming on to the market. Here are a few that are popular across the network.

  • org Room Scheduler – The NEW.org system was specifically designed to meet the needs of a nonprofit center, as a low tech but flexible system available for a flat fee. The portal can be accessed by all of your tenants, and they can book rooms without going through a dedicated staff person. Contact the team at NEW to learn more.
  • Happy Desk – This full CRM system has a robust meeting space management system, in addition to a suite of other tools to help you manage your space. HappyDesk is a one stop solution for managing lease agreements, wi-fi access, door access, e-commerce, billing and more. Pricing ranges due to several different factors, but most typical NCN members would only need the free version or the first level of paid service.
  • Cobot – Designed specifically with coworking spaces in mind, Cobot can manage your room booking calendar, in addition to member management, involving, and payments. Pricing is based on the number of members who have access to the system, so as your community grows, so will your fees to Cobot. Something to keep in mind for groups that are experiencing rapid growth.
  • Nexudus – This coworking office suite includes many similar features to Cobot and Happy Desk, but it includes many marketing components as well, including a native website editor, newsletter support, and blog. When it comes to room booking, the Room Door App takes the Online Booking Calendar feature to the next level, by enabling you to mount iPads with the software outside your meeting rooms.
  • Google Calendar – If you don’t have $500-$1000 a year for a paid service, Google Calendar is a tried and true solution. Although it isn’t perfect, your building users can log in, access the calendars, and make reservations. It can be combined with labs to help prevent meetings from being deleted of otherwise mysteriously disappearing.

What does your space use to manage it’s conference rooms and meeting spaces? Tell us in the comments!


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10/Jan/2017

The Redpoll Centre is social profit hub in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Home to 16 different agencies, including anchor tenant – The United Way of Fort McMurray, it offers three different meeting spaces, a spacious lunchroom, and reflection room/ resource library. The shared office space is located in Shell Place, part of the largest recreational facility in Canada.


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11/Dec/2016

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a video worth? Here are a few of our favorite videos to showcase the model of sharing. Take a moment to check out three different models of shared space!

Theme Center: Posner Center for International Development
Denver, CO

 

Service Center: Together Center
Redmond, WA

 

Multi-Sector Center: Carroll Nonprofit Center
Westminster, MD


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06/Dec/2016

My consulting work takes me to all parts of the county, but so often I hear the same comments from community to community. “I can’t spend money on office space, because that takes away from my mission.” “How am I going to justify the overhead to my donors?” “If I spend $1,000 a month on office space that’s X number of people I can’t feed.” While every group I meet with has a unique flavor, the concerns are still the same. It’s an extension of the poverty mindset that most nonprofits live in.  We need to move away from the idea that overhead is a necessary to evil towards thinking about all the ways that we can leverage our infrastructure to make a greater impact. Minimizing your overhead leads to other costs that can make a big impact on your work, particularly when it comes to office space.

  • “Making Do” takes time, and time is money. I recently discussed finding meeting venues with a group of nonprofit leaders. Many said they were fine “making do” with free spaces in town. Those free spaces take time to find and book, not to mention set up. Sometimes you event have to buy and set up your own AV. Is spending hours setting up chairs and projectors the highest and best use of your staff time?
  • The cost of decreased productivity. Free office space sometimes translates to “office space in need of major capital investment.” I recently heard the story of a nonprofit that has cheap rent, but in the summer one of the staff members must choose between running a computer or the air conditioner, due to the faulty wiring. I’ve also seen many nonprofit staff members shivering when the HVAC goes out and they can’t afford to fix it. You can’t be efficient and effective in these conditions.
  • Lack of visibility. Many nonprofits operate out of church basements or off kitchen tables with a webpage, an e-mail address, or a phone number. Without a physical presence, you could be missing out on a chance to connect with your stakeholders, especially those that don’t have access to the world wide web. Having an office raises your profile with funder too. For the vast majority of nonprofit organizations, you need to be easily found.

As you’re struggling to justify the membership fee for a coworking space or a month’s rent in a nonprofit center, I encourage you to think about all the ways that being in a high quality office space helps you meet your mission. It’s worth the investment.


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08/Nov/2016

pieDuring the 2015 State of the Shared Space Sector survey, NCN found that a large proportion of mission driven shared spaces are operating as successful social enterprises.  At the same time, the majority of these spaces are offering their tenants below market rate rent. How is this possible? A new publication, Balancing Act: Sustainable Finances for Shared Spaces, out this week, gives us some insight.  Here are three key findings to help you balance your shared space business model.

  • Maximize your rentable square footage. We all love to have access to vibrant common areas, big meeting spaces, and funky cafes, but when it comes to profitability, rentable office space is key. For every 10,000 square feet of common area, profitable centers have four times as much rentable space. Centers running in the red only had 25,000 square feet of rentable space for every 10,000 square feet of common space.
  • Make sure your offices are full. Rental revenue is perishable income – if someone isn’t in that space for a month, you will never have the opportunity to regain that revenue.
  • Manage your expenses per square foot. Profitable centers in our studies had total expenses in the range of $22 (including staff, utilities, maintenance, internet, and more) per rentable square foot.  Centers running a loss were paying over $90 per rentable square foot on average! Paying close attention to your expenses goes a long way.

Want to learn more about our research? Download the report here today! Thanks to the Jones Trust for sponsoring this publication.


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17/Oct/2016

For many years, I’ve believed that building the trust necessary for collaboration takes time – weeks, months, maybe even years. While at the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s institute on Network Leadership, a presentation by David Sawyer and David Ehrlichman of Converge for Impact shook loose my perspective on the subject. Over the course of a two-hour session, I and over 300 participants were led through a series of exercises focused on what we could do to build trust for impact in our own networks. At the end, I was surprised, not only at what had been shared with me, but also at what I had shared with others, and how quickly we had found common ground upon which to build. Here are my top take aways from the session...


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03/Oct/2016

In September, I had the privilege of attending the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s Nonprofit Management Institute on Network Leadership. I have been interested in the topic of network leadership because every nonprofit center that we know of is or has the potential to be a network for catalyzing social good. For many years, the idea was that to increase your social impact, you had to bring your model to scale. However, researchers like Jane Wei-Skillern have found that there have been many organizations who have multiplied their ability to achieve impact by taking the opposition – slimming down their operations, specializing, and working in concert with partners.


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05/Sep/2016

Running a nonprofit shared space can be a challenge. In addition to the hard skills of leasing, facility maintenance, and tenant improvements, nonprofit center managers must also be equipped with the soft skills of culture management and facilitating partnerships in order to create meaningful collaborations among the tenant partners under one roof. In our 2015 State of the Shared Space Sector survey, we at NCN wanted to answer some long standing questions about what it really takes to run a nonprofit center. The full findings of our research can be found in Managing Collaboration: Staffing & Salaries in Shared Space (available for free download). Here are a few highlights:


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08/Aug/2016

One of the biggest reasons nonprofit centers and coworking spaces exists is to give people the chance to get to one another – to connect in the kitchen, chat around the coffee pot, and share ideas. At the same time, so many of us live at least a part of our lives online, checking Facebook and twitter, searching for connections on LinkedIn, or exploring the latest MMORPG. Connecting in person can be a huge breath of fresh air.


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