NCN has seen its fair share of inquiries into consulting, and often these individuals or organizations are uncertain if they’ve come “at the right time.” Should I have x, y, and z figured out already? Have we gone too far down the road and should’ve engaged you sooner? In reality, any time you’re in need of expert help is an okay time to reach out. We do not want to see your project flounder and discontinue if it’s meant to be. That said, these initial preparation steps can help set you and your cohort up for success before entering into a contract with NCN.
- Have a partner in crime.
We’ve seen much more success if you have already been discussing colocation with at least one other person or entity. A sole individual raising the concept of shared space is definitely not a bad thing in and of itself, but have you hashed this out with someone who shares or could share in this vision? It can be a bit of a red flag if this is just one person’s pet project idea. Nonprofit centers are all about sharing, from start to finish, and that includes having at least 2 project leads on an NCN feasibility assessment. Not only do you have someone to share the workload with, but you also have another set eyes and ears to discuss and reflect on the process.
2. Engage larger entities.
You are going to need a lot of people in your corner, and of course that includes those with funds. Start shopping this idea around with local government officials, city planners, and community foundations. For starters, you are likely accomplishing much needed work in your community that is not happening otherwise. Two, funders like to see collaborative efforts and reduced duplication of efforts. Shared infrastructure is a huge way to reach these goals and further invest in the needed work you are doing. And you want other eyes and ears on the ground – paying attention to potential properties or buildings that may become available, or if co-location is being discussed elsewhere. See if this something your local foundation might support and let them know that they can start by supporting a needs assessment as part of a feasibility study. NCN can help you discover if there is enough demand and financial feasibility before going down the road of construction or building!
3. Ask yourself, what is the current atmosphere of collaboration?
You do not need to have an A+ in this department, let alone a B. But you want to honestly reflect on how the nonprofits in your community currently work together or don’t. Afterall, you’re talking about future house-mates here. Do they currently engage in joint efforts or programming between organizations? Do nonprofit leaders know each other and regularly network? Or does everyone stick to their silos? Even if collaborative intentions are there, that’s a good start. But if silos or even enemies describes the current climate, there is likely some advance work needed before you reach out to us – or you just need to focus on co-location planning with your allies.
4. Talk to your Board!
This may sound simple, but it will be difficult to proceed if they are not in your corner – whether you are looking to start a center or tenant in one. Share the reported benefits of sharing space (our 2019 State of the Shared Space Sector is available as a free download) or bring NCN in as a neutral 3rd party expert in the field to share the benefits and possibilities and dream together.