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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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20/Mar/2017

The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, the owner and operator of the Alliance Center, undertook a four-year “transformation” project of the 41,000 square feet building, constructed in 1908. In 2010, the five-story brick building, a former warehouse, was configured in a traditional, private suite layout that had little natural light and limited space for gatherings or collaboration. The renovation sought both to “create a cost-effective, high-performing building model” as well as to identify a replicable approach that could be applied to other commercial offices and historic buildings.


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Saul Ettlin
13/Mar/2017

When I lived in Toronto, I worked for an organization that made its home at the Centre for Social Innovation. The Centre had been open for just a few months, and it was great to be a participant in the burgeoning space as the tenant community gelled and management explored how it was going to best meet the needs of the center’s community. As someone who has spent much of their working life in nonprofits and studying nonprofit management, I was quickly hooked on this model of nonprofit shared space that looks to create efficiencies through shared amenities/office services and bolster effectiveness through peer learning and collaboration between tenant community members.


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Just back from a whirlwind trip to the Bay Area where I got to visit seven nonprofit centers: Tides Thoreau Center, Fort Mason Center, Ed Roberts Campus, Ninth Street Independent Film Center, David Brower Center, The Lab and The Flight Deck. Large and small, grassroots to institution-led, these centers encompass everything from the arts to serving those with disabilities. In addition, our trainings sparked some remarkable conversations. I thought I would share some of the highlights and lessons I learned.


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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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09/Jan/2017

I’ve seen a lot of nonprofit real estate projects destabilize the organizations they are meant to bolster. That’s why I’m passionate about nonprofits undertaking careful feasibility planning when contemplating a space project. Whether your organization chooses to rent or buy, whether the project is for your organization alone or with a cohort of other nonprofits for a shared space – the key objective is to do no harm and make sure that your new space enhances your mission and doesn’t undermine it. Occupancy costs are second only to personnel in terms of nonprofit expenses, but even the most sophisticated nonprofits often get tripped up by poorly planned real estate projects.


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