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10/Apr/2017

Nearly a quarter of all shared space projects are driven by foundations, whether it’s because they have many grantees conducting capital campaigns at the same time, they’re searching for new offices themselves, or they’re looking for a new way to invest in their community. We know that the philanthropic community is a valuable partner to shared spaces, but shared spaces have many benefits for foundations as well.

  • A mission-related investment opportunity: Many foundations invest a portion of their endowment in real estate. Shared space offers the same opportunity with a deep local impact. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund structured the development of the Jessie Ball duPont Center so that its rents generate a reliable return on investment. While the building does not perform at the same rates as other portfolio assets, the foundation sees that the local social return is worth it.
  • The ability to make in-kind grants: The Charles A. Frueauff Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas, offers in-kind grants of office space for two to five years to qualifying nonprofits. This allows the foundation to leverage its own offices to have a greater impact.
  • The chance to spark community redevelopment: The Melville Charitable Trust purchased the historic Lyceum building in the Frog Hollow neighborhood of Hartford, CT in 2003, an area that had seen decades of disinvestment and decline. Following a building renovation, the space became a hub of housing advocacy and community organizing, leading the Trust to make additional property investments in the neighborhood.
  • The opportunity to be in-the-know: Many foundations that share space with other nonprofit agencies report a value from being at the center of a hub of community activity. Program officers can see first-hand the issues that affect their grantees and become a stronger community partners.

If you represent a foundation that operates a shared space, we want to hear from you. What are the benefits that you’ve seen to your practice as a funder? E-mail us at info@nonprofitcenters.org!


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03/Apr/2017

Takeaways from Hardwired: Technology for Shared Spaces Last week, we were joined by Greg Bugbee from Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology for new ways to think about how to design the technology that goes into a space. Here are five tips for maximizing your IT investment. Ensure form follows function. Who is going to be in your space and how will they use it? Your users should drive your IT infrastructure. Think not only about how they will act while in the building, but what they will be producing for others outside of your four walls. For example, if you have tenant partners that develop webinars or host virtual convenings, they’ll need more IT infrastructure than those that have traditional teams in the office at all times.


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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.


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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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