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Ask-NCN Live, Shared Services Recap

November 27, 2018 by Jackie Cefola0

What overhead services are easiest to share?

How do organizations decide to offer fiscal sponsorship?

Is it necessary to survey potential customers before offering shared services?

Earlier in November, 21 Nonprofit Centers Network members discussed these questions and more during the Ask-NCN Live video call focusing on shared administrative services.

We periodically host Ask-NCN Live video calls to strengthen connection and sharing among our members. Participating members submit their questions in advance allowing the NCN team to identify key points of interest. During the video call, NCN facilitators gently guide the conversation to ensure that participants can ask their questions and receive answers directly from other members.

We create opportunities for this peer-to-peer learning because we understand that all of our members hold tremendous expertise based on their own experiences developing and operating shared space and services. We also know that our members are willing to share their lessons learned and to help to build our collective knowledge base so that when someone has a vision to offer new shared services, for example, they don’t need to completely reinvent the wheel to make it a reality.

Returning to the three questions above, I’ll summarize the responses from our members so that readers can get a taste of an Ask-NCN Live video call:

What overhead services are easiest to share?

This depends greatly on the demand for services and the existing capacity of the organization developing the services. One member discussed starting with accounting services first because accounting practices were needed and their accounting team was well-established and willing to try to take on client organizations on a case-by-case basis. Another member started with information technology services because tenant organizations sought out shared internet connectivity, data security and desktop support and the fees associated with services could be built into the rent payment.

How do organizations decide to offer fiscal sponsorship?

Fiscal sponsorship requires very careful planning and consideration. As one member advised, explore the different models of sponsorship and understand the alignment of fiscal sponsorship and organizational mission; review regulatory standards; invest in a human resources and compliance team; and, obtain a boat load of liability insurance. In summary, “do not become an accidental fiscal sponsor.”

Is it necessary to survey potential customers before offering shared services?

It depends. If shared services are going to become a core offering, do the research and planning to understand the customer base, develop a pricing strategy, and ensure that the effort will be successful – in the same way you would with any new business line or new programmatic effort. If the shared services are going to be more limited in scope and involve a few hours of someone’s time, there is less need for research and planning.

These questions and answers represent just a sample of the topics discussed during our recent Ask-NCN Live call and we hope that you will participate in future calls to ask the questions on your mind and also provide advice to your fellow NCN members.

If you would like more information about NCN’s resources and services to support shared overhead services or have ideas for the next Ask-NCN Live video call, please email


About Our Blogger:

Jackie Cefola

Jackie Cefola manages the consulting services and shared service offerings of The Nonprofit Centers Network (NCN). Since 2011, she has consulted with NCN clients to achieve meaningful impact through collaboration, co-working, and shared administrative services. Previously, as program manager for the NonProfit Center, a 110,000 square foot multi-sector center in Boston, she helped to develop the center’s many co-working spaces and collaborative programs. She also co-authored NCN’s Guide to Shared Services and facilitated numerous training sessions. She holds an MBA and a Masters degree in Environmental Management from Yale University, where she first learned about industrial ecology and strategies for organizations to intentionally co-locate and share resources. In spare time Jackie volunteers to help collect and distribute clothing and furniture to newly housed families.

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