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Leena Waite
14/Nov/2016

In the wake of the election, no matter who you voted for or if you were watching from the North, the results have shown the true polarities of opinions, emotions, classes, and struggles that American’s face. There was a large sum of individual voices mainstream media did not even pick up on in the polls. Whatever you believe or hoped, I am recognizing the need to acknowledge these unheard voices.


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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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Ninety percent of maintaining good health is determined by factors other than direct health care. The Melinda Hoag Smith Center for Healthy Living will create a synergistic model of service delivery, by aligning a major hospital with like-minded non-profit organizations that share in the vision of making the vulnerable community healthier.


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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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10/Oct/2016

On Wednesday we experimented with a new format for NCN Boot Camp. In response to feedback about the high cost of travel to an in-person training, we decided to offer our introductory-level training in an online format. We had a great turn-out, even better than our in-person Boot Camp trainings. The curriculum covered most aspects of starting a nonprofit shared space, but it’s always interesting to see the kinds of questions and conversations that emerge during these trainings. I thought I would share some of them with you, along with our shortened responses. My burning question is: where do we start?!


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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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In Ontario, the Ministry of the Attorney General recently invested new funds into their system of legal clinics. In exchange, the government expects the clinics to seek out ways to reduce costs and reinvest those savings into their work. In response, the Specialty Legal Clinics Modernization Initiative was formed to co-locate nine unique programs serving needs ranging from legal support for people living with AIDS, people with disabilities, to accident victims to tenants, landlords and youth.


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19/Sep/2016

Lately we’ve been hearing a lot from funders about their interest in addressing inequality: in income, race, sex, education, economic opportunities and more (see Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation here). The Ford Foundation has used this lens to rethink how it conducts its grantmaking and how it measures its success. Other foundations are following suit and there’s even some controversy around how to define the goal of equity. This has led me to wonder how nonprofit shared space fits into this new lens. How do we, as a sector, address inequality? Here are three ideas:


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Mike Gilbert
12/Sep/2016

Do Your Due Diligence: Four Things To Do Before Committing To a Vacant Building

This post is the first in a series by Mike Gilbert of The Jones Trust that will focus on how to repurpose existing and vacant buildings in a cost effective way. It is very important not to cut corners in the due diligence process before you commit to renovating a property – you might end up with some unfortunate and costly surprises.  

Many buildings throughout North America are unoccupied, in a state of disrepair and/or abandoned. These buildings present amazing opportunities to preserve history or unique architecture, and it can be more cost effective to renovate than to build new.  However, older buildings are typically constructed using asbestos containing materials in varying components.  Many of these facilities were built under older building codes with less stringent requirements for life, safety and accessibility.

Repurposing older buildings can deliver outstanding project economics and return on investment if we do the hard work on the front end. Before you commit to a vacant building, make sure to do your due diligence. Identifying and fully understanding the potential risks of building renovation is a monumental task for the skilled developer and even more challenging for an individual, organization or group that does not do so on a regular basis. It is critical to be conservative at this stage of the project, investigating all possible risks that can become known prior to commitment to proceed.

As you plan your project, here are some tips to keep yourself from purchasing a money pit.

  1. Assemble a team of experts. Numerous skills are required to put together a full understanding of the challenges involved in building renovation. You, as the lead developer, are like the head coach, matching your player’s skills with roles on the project. If you don’t have the skills already on your staff, you may need to hire paid consultants Some of the roles you will need filled include:
  • Environmental Safety Assessment (ESA)
  • Building Envelope Assessment
  • ADA Assessment
  • Mechanical and Electrical Systems Evaluation
  1. Conduct an ESA. This process will identify any important hazards that must be addressed during the renovation process. Environmental remediation can be extremely expensive, can destroy project economics and potentially kill a deal in progress. Typical ESA costs are between $3,000 and $7,500 for the initial work, although costs can vary significantly based on factors including size, age, location and more. This step cannot be avoided.
  2. Bring on an architect to do Building Envelope and ADA Assessments. The Building Envelope Assessment will give you a fair assessment of the weather tightness condition of the building including roof, windows, exterior skin, expansion and control joints, etc. The ADA assessment will help in the design process for compliance and can sometimes be expensive if new ramps are needed or if elevator upgrades are required. Cost of this investigation should run between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on the scope.
  3. Evaluate the mechanical and electrical systems. This process determines the suitability of the existing systems to accommodate the desired improvements. This evaluation is normally completed by a mechanical and electrical engineering firm. The investigation should cost between $2,000 and $6,000.

The due diligence phase of project evaluation is a very detailed process and can range in cost from as little as 1% of your project budget up to 3%, depending on the scope of work and level of detail desired.

Analysis of the various reports will allow you to fully develop a preliminary renovation budget that will feed into the pro forma budget for the project. Our next post will dive into strategies to consider in developing a preliminary project budget and feasibility study.


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