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19/Jun/2017

I’ve been reflecting on the biggest lessons I’ve learned about mission-driven shared spaces. Here’s what I would tell someone new to the field. #1 – Find the Bullseye – Nonprofit centers that have a very clear goal that resonates with the community tend to be more successful. A clear goal allows the center to brand itself and communicates the value of locating there. They can build a quicker buzz than a center with a more generic focus. Tenants understand the benefits of co-locating and clients and community members know where to access resources. NCN’s survey data has shown that centers tend to be more financially sustainable when they are organized around a specific theme or goal. #2 – Get a Backbone – Start-up nonprofit centers are more successful when there is a project manager to shepherd the project through development. Many groups try to build their centers by committee, which can seem more financially responsible, but in my experience, hiring someone to champion the project, schedule meetings, follow up on to-do lists and monitor the budget is the better option.


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05/Jun/2017

When we work with nonprofits, we typically ask how much space they have currently and how much they’re looking for. Usually, the numbers only go up, but so much about the millennial workforce is changing how we interact with our workspace. When you’re thinking about moving or finding office space, don’t use your current space as the baseline – think outside the box. Let form follow function. What will be done in the space? Office work and data processing? Or will you be running child care programs? Counseling clients? Different uses require different amounts of space.


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Kim McNamer
22/May/2017

I was recently working with NCN on a feasibility study and was asked to look into 1st floor retail options in a shared space environment. While I didn’t have experience with this when working at Deschutes Children’s Foundation, I have always thought the idea of having some retail in a shared space center could be beneficial particularly in regards to an additional revenue stream.


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01/May/2017

Thousands of foundations expend dollars each year on offices for their staff. What would occur if each one envisioned its physical facility as a civic space – a place for itself, its grantees and its community? What would such spaces look like? Fortunately, we find the answer to these questions in the stories of the 17 foundations described in this timely and important publication, Planting a Seed: Foundations Build Community with Shared Workspace. To borrow a phrase from John Elkington, a leader in the field of corporate global responsibility, each featured foundation has embraced a ‘triple bottom line’ approach to the design and operation of their facilities. They are creating economic, community and environmental benefits for a broad array of stakeholders. In the economic realm, building projects become investments, create long-term savings, and can create employment opportunities for residents and support local businesses. In the community realm, foundations showcase the work of their grantees, host conference centers and provide quality office space for nonprofit organizations. In the green or sustainability realm, they model energy efficiency and the use of sustainable materials to create healthy places. In addition, these facilities demonstrate how other foundations can use workspace to vividly embody their values and mission. As reported in a recent Foundation Center publication, More Than Grantmaking: A First Look at Foundations’ Direct Charitable Activities, many foundations are finding new ways to augment their grantmaking to advance their respective missions. In the report, one-quarter of the surveyed independent and family foundations now conduct such direct charitable activities, such as:


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24/Apr/2017

NCN started 2017 by kicking off the Evaluation Project, a peer learning opportunity we created with Elena Harman and Laura Sundstrom of Vantage Evaluation. Ten centers are participating in this 9-month process to understand how to approach impact measurement in a rigorous way. Each center will be supported as they complete their own evaluation. This is the first of a series of blogs on what we are learning through this critical process of making the case for shared space. The advantages to the approach we are using are twofold: first, the centers are essentially sharing the cost of an evaluation professional who would have cost them many times more if they contracted individually; secondly, by working in parallel, the centers are “speed” learning what works in various settings since they can see what their peers are trying and apply those lessons in their center. We have a great mix of centers: large, small, new and seasoned. We have some centers who are focused on a specific theme or issue area and some that are more general in terms of the types of tenants they house. This has helped us learn more about how different types of centers approach evaluation, why they want to do it and what kinds of information they are seeking.


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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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