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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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Joanne Posner-Mayer
Joanne Posner-Mayer

I first heard of Joanne Posner-Mayer when I was a consultant working with a fledgling shared space in Denver focused on international development in 2013.  The project was in trouble.  They had secured a lease for a building through the Denver Housing Authority, but it was a historic structure and the group needed to raise the funds for renovations and start-up costs. There was a gap between the projected costs and the actual costs and it wasn’t clear how the project could move forward.  I remember thinking, another one bites the dust.

But I was wrong.  The project succeeded because of Ms. Posner-Mayer and it is now one of the best examples of mission-driven shared space.  Posner-Mayer is a Denver physical-therapist-turned-entrepreneur who invented the FitBall™, which is now ubiquitous in gyms and therapy rooms.  She had deep roots with the Curtis Park neighborhood where the international development shared space center was being developed.  Her father, a Polish immigrant, had a successful hardware store in that neighborhood.  Ms. Posner-Mayer felt she could give back to the neighborhood that enabled her to achieve so much.  I remember being so surprised at how it all came together – her contribution was truly pivotal to the center, the difference between life and death.  Now in Denver we are lucky to have the Posner Center for International Development, named in honor of her family.

If that wasn’t tribute enough, a recent blog by the Rose Community Foundation reported that Ms. Posner-Mayer has been instrumental in another shared space project, the Rose Andom Center.  The Andom Center is a one-stop shop for survivors of domestic violence and houses over 20 agencies in a central location.  Previously, those affected by domestic violence had to travel to up to a dozen different locations to access services.  Taking a client-centered approach will help stop the cycle of violence by improving rates of reporting abuse.  Ms. Posner-Mayer contributed to the Rose Andom Center and is helping it establish an endowment so it can be financially sustainable for a long time to come.

I’m anxious to learn of other philanthropists who have embraced the shared service model as much as Ms. Posner-Mayer.  In working with her at an NCN training event in 2015, we discussed the notion of mission-driven shared space centers as a kin to a mutual fund investment vehicle – invest in one shared space center and you’ve touched all the organizations who locate there.  It’s a great way to address a pressing community issue in a holistic way.  I’ve not heard of many who have invested in multiple centers, but I’d love to see it catch on.

At this time of year, it’s inspiring to think about the many ways our generosity can make a huge difference in people’s lives.  The Posner Center addresses global poverty and creates opportunity for men, women and children around the world.  The Andom Center is helping local Denver families find safety and peace.  I can’t imagine a better example of what we all hope for in this holiday season.

 

 


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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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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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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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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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Saul Ettlin
21/Aug/2016

Is your organization ready to get out of the rental market and build a lasting asset? You should consider including shared space for other organizations as part of your plan. While designing your project to generate revenue from shared space users, can strengthen your case to lenders and improve the long-term financial sustainability of your project, that’s not the real value. Shared space connects your organization and its work to a wider community of nonprofits or social ventures, increases staff retention by making your organization a more vibrant and interesting place to work, and raises your organization's profile through your role as a dynamic community hub.


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