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From the NCN Blog

Brandi Stanley

November 9, 2015


“Shared space” is still a relatively new way to work. Because of it’s “newness,” we just don’t have a lot of formal research or guides to show us how to do it well. At the Nonprofit Centers Network 2015 Building Opportunities Conference in June, I spoke on two panels: The first on Community Animation, where I was joined by several other “animators” from spaces across the U.S. and Canada; and the second, on branding for shared spaces. In those two talks, it became incredibly apparent to me how intertwined community animation and branding really are.


In my two years as a formal “community animator” in a shared space, I’ve learned a few lessons and come by some great resources, and I hope they might be helpful to you.


Animation is another way to say “culture building.” Every space has a personality, whether you notice it overtly or not. As an animator, you are helping to craft that personality to be what makes the most sense for your space. You are, in fact, building your brand. Every space detail you help cultivate, every tenant or member you select to be in your building, every program you run, every staff member you hire, and every way in which you encourage activation in your space says something about you. Does what you’re saying align with the culture you’re trying to build? Does it align with your overall mission? And is what you’re saying consistent? Does being consistent even matter in your model? If it does, but you’re not doing it, you might have a harder time attracting or retaining members because they might be getting mixed messages. Jim Collins refers to this concept—all the minor acts that add up to the bigger picture—as a “flywheel.”


To that end, my two absolute best resources when it comes to culture building and branding are:


As well, here’s an additional tool that we’ve used here at the Posner Center, which was recommended to me by Katie Edwards of NCN. Our staff walked through it several months ago, and even though we’d already developed most of our branding components, it helped everyone on our team get clear about the how the types of decisions we were making spoke to our brand.


Just because you aren’t an architect, an urban planner, an interior designer, or a millionaire, doesn’t mean you can’t afford to consider your space and how it affects collaboration. Remember how I said that everything affects your brand and your ability to animate? People will probably walk into your space before they talk to anyone who works there. Paying attention to how your space affects behavior is an important piece of the work.


How does your space affect mood?

  • Is the lighting great?
  • Does it make people want to spend several hours a day there?


Does it help or hinder human connection?

  • Are there areas where people are encouraged to linger, like the kitchen or seating nooks?
  • Is it too dark or too hot or too cold to want to talk?


Can people find and get to other areas around the building?

  • Are rooms accessible for all types of people?
  • Is there adequate signage or do people find themselves frustrated while navigating your space?


Is it clear what each space is meant for and how to use it?

  • Do people know where they’re invited to talk to their neighbors and other spaces where it’s clear that they’re meant to be working quietly?
  • Is it clear where and how to reserve certain rooms for meetings?


When any of these things (or more) aren’t working, there’s a chance you’re not only giving bad impressions, but also allowing opportunities for frustration, confusion, and lack of collaboration. My best resource for space design as it relates to facilitating collaborative environments is:


I have Megan Devenport of Denver Shared Spaces to thank for this gift last year. Placemaking resources also tend to be great guides in helping to understand how “space” or built environment affects behavior, mood, connection, and engagement.


Behavior change is something you’ll have to keep preaching. We’re asking people in our spaces to think less about competition and working in silos and more about cooperation, collaboration, and integration. This kind of “cultural” shift is one that requires shifting perspectives of the people, companies, and organizations in your space, and sometimes even the “users” or “clients” who come into your space for services.


Behavior change is integral to understanding how you might animate people in a common direction, which is often different than they’re used to, even as much as you might see this new way of working as completely logical. Know that others either aren’t familiar with it and don’t yet see its benefits, or are extremely familiar with it and actually largely against it (sometimes for good reason because collaboration isn’t always the right answer, either). We should focus on finding out when collaboration is the most meaningful and beneficial to both or all parties involved. The willingness to collaborate when it’s appropriate is an attitude that has to be fostered.


For this, one of my favorite books around a community-based approach to social marketing and behavior change is:



We’re making progress.
Thankfully, despite the struggle we often find as staff of shared spaces around legitimizing and formalizing our roles, we are making great progress. NCN hosts the Building Opportunities conference every two years, provides access to resources around running a shared space, and hosts phone calls and projects for people and organizations within the sector. Places like Denver Shared Spaces convenes “Community Animators” in Denver at a monthly Shared Space Managers Roundtable, hosts trainings on animating spaces, and is even working to formalize position descriptions for animators. These are all great signs that indicate we are moving forward and gaining access to valuable tools. Hopefully these resources only continue to grow and gain traction in the coming years.


About Our Guest Blogger: Brandi Stanley
Brandi Stanley is the Community Animator for the Posner Center for International Development, a community of nearly 60 international development-oriented businesses and organizations and network of another 100+ Members in a 25,000 square-foot shared space in Denver, Colorado who grow lasting solutions to global poverty.


Online Resource Center

Job Descriptions (please log in with your user name and password for access):


Community Animator, CSI Annex
Community Catalyzer – Tides
Communications Coordinator from the Community Learning Commons in Saskatoon, SK
Program Manager for Tides
Program Manager – Part Time from Third Sector New England


Example MOU/Agreement for Interns/Volunteers/Community Animators?


From Ask-NCN 9/8/2017


Nada Zohdy, OpenGov Hub
I recently mentioned that here at the Open Gov Hub in Washington, DC we’re about to pilot our own volunteer/work-trade program, called our Community Catalyst Program.


Is anyone willing to share an example MOU or agreement you have with your volunteers/interns and/or Community Animator-type roles like this one?

(I looked at the NCN member resource directory but couldn’t find any).

For example, we’d like to include a contract provision that requires 2 weeks notice if they decide to end the position early (like any other job), but aren’t sure what else to include.

Any examples much appreciated!


Katie Edwards, The Nonprofit Centers Network
Your question jogged my memory about a really interesting intern job description and job description from Michaell Rose at Hoag Hospital that lays out a lot of details in their policies. It’s not the same scope of work as a Community Animator, but there might be components that you can borrow.

Also, take a look at The Plantory’s Internship and Vista job descriptions. Most of their center’s staffing is done with volunteers, interns, and Vistas:


Topics Below

Shared Kitchen Etiquette

Repurposing Kitchen Query

How To Be a Shared Kitchen Pro – from The Alliance Center

Fork Forage – from The Alliance Center

See also:

Behavior Modifications – Doing the Dishes


Shared Kitchen Etiquette

From an Ask-NCN Discussion

Katie Edwards, Nonprofit Centers Network, 9/8/14
I was recently asked by a group who has recently reopened their space about best practices for shared kitchens. This is one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about nonprofit centers, so I’d like to hear what your pain points are and what you’ve done to try to solve them. Do you rotate kitchen clean up duty among your partners? Post rules and deadlines? Give out rewards when someone unloads the dishwasher?
How have you tackled the issue of sharing a kitchen?


Ardi Korver, Region V Systems, 9/8/14
Eight agencies share the space; appx. 100 individuals are in the building. Our agency rents the building and sub-leases to the building partners. Two people/week are assigned ‘kitchen duty.’ Instructions on what they do is listed below…so maybe twice a year, each person is responsible for the weekly cleaning, i.e., dishwasher, frig, cleaning tables, etc. It works really well…and everyone helps out.


As part of our ‘Building Partner Manual’ the following is listed under a heading, “What is available to me as a building partner?”

C. Kitchen/Break Rooms

For your convenience, there is a kitchen/break room on the main-level and in the lower-level. Feel free to use the refrigerator, microwave, dishes, glasses, and silverware as well as pitchers of water and coffee for your meetings; however, please rinse and place all dirty dishes in the dishwasher when finished, and hand wash pitchers and return to the break room. The main-level kitchen/break room has a coffee machine and water cooler; the lower-level kitchen/break room has a coffee machine, water cooler, and a hot water dispenser. Please make a new pot of coffee when low or empty and replace the water bottle on the water cooler when empty.

Region V Systems strives to provide an environment that is welcoming and communal, but also respectful of all individuals. We encourage everyone to hold themselves to the following guidelines to promote such an environment:

Label the Food; Follow the Label

Whenever possible, put your name on your food or label it as “Free Food,” if it is open for others to take. If you have purchased items for a specific event, please label them clearly with the name and date of the event.

Participate in Potlucks and Other Events
For group events, participate and contribute what you are able. Participate to the level that you are comfortable. Remember, your participation is voluntary.

Share Food Gifts and Leftovers
Gifts of food to Region V Systems (i.e., from vendors) or substantial leftovers from meetings should be placed in the break room and notification sent via e-mail to Region V Systems staff and building partners that it is available. Remainders should be labeled “Free Food” and stored appropriately. Condiments not labeled with an individual or event name are for use by anyone but should not be taken home.

Consider Event Placement
When hosting an event that is not open to everyone in the building, you are encouraged to reserve a conference room and not use common space (i.e., break room). Also, be mindful to send notifications to those invited (i.e., no overhead announcement)

Keep It Clean
When hosting an event, you (or your team) are responsible for clean up afterwards. If you are participating in an event, such as a potluck, you are welcome to help clean up as well. In addition to cleaning up after ourselves, we have a schedule on a rotating basis to do basic cleaning of the kitchen/break room areas. Schedules are posted in the kitchen/break rooms with a list of duties and an e-mail reminder is sent to you at the start of your scheduled cleaning week. If the dates you are scheduled for kitchen duty do not work for you, it is your responsibility to find someone to trade with you.

What does the staff cleaning crew do:

Start and empty dishwasher.
Wipe and straighten up tables.
When needed
Recycle newspaper (main level); take to recycle room (room #158) or place in recycle box located in kitchen/break room.
Replace paper towels (new paper towels can be found in the fiscal area, see Danielle Belina).
Set out plastic ware for people to take home.
Clean microwaves.
Clean out refrigerator.
Clean sink and counter top.
Take home dishtowels/dishcloths to launder.


Christina Crawley, OpenGov Hub, 9/9/14
At the OpenGov Hub in Washington, DC, we also appreciate the kitchen tidiness issue. Because no amount of rules seem to trump (sometimes strange) human habit, we’ve opted to remain extremely light on kitchen rules and supplies. We no longer supply dishes, cups or cutlery because of the reality that dirty things are left on counters. Tenants are welcome to use recyclable coffee cups and cutlery, but any real dishes/cups/cutlery are their own responsibility. If tenants wish to bring their own dishes/cups/cutlery (and many do), they are welcome to use/store/clean them in the kitchen; however, if they are left dirty anywhere in the hub, they are simply thrown away. It seems a bit harsh, but the community agrees that cleaning is always an issue and therefore accept the warning/responsibility regarding their own kitchenware property.
Also, we do a fridge purge (we have 4 large fridges) once every 2 weeks. Tenants are given a week’s warning and only unopened drinks are allowed to stay.
Hope that’s helpful!


Maureen Moloughney, Heartwood House, 9/10/16
Thanks so much for your feedback on community kitchen cleanliness as we’ve just tightened the conditions for our kitchen as well. One of the significant changes is to limit the use of the dishwasher to community events only, rather than daily use for lunch dishes and coffee cups. These can simply be washed, dried by hand and immediately put away. Our hydro bill has reduced by a few hundred dollars per month with this simple change. We no longer permit participants from programs to go into the kitchen without a staff person and we keep the kitchen door closed. We also lock the kitchen after 4p.m. leaving members the option to access the kitchen with their key, if needed. These changes have stepped up the attention to the cleanliness of the kitchen and the efficient use of it. Everyone also knows that our reception staff keep a close eye on the kitchen throughout the day. They know who accesses the kitchen and they are on it if they find the kitchen in poor condition. We also remove unmarked items from the fridge every second Friday. If someone wants an item to stay means he/she will put his/her name on the item.


Kitchens at home and kitchens at work…..leave no room for the messy ones to just walk away and leave the cleanup to someone else!


Tom Olivas, Girl Scouts Orange County, 9/10/14
After working through a complete list of different options, we have put similar procedures to Moe’s and Christina’s in place. The dishwasher is restricted for special events, refrigerators are cleaned out every two weeks and our contracted custodian cleans the counters, tables and appliances four nights a week. This process has worked out well and eliminated a lot of frustration.




Repurposing Kitchen Query

From an Ask-NCN Discussion


Mike Gilbert, The Jones Center, 3/1/16
One of our Centers is in a former hospital. The kitchen has been used by the Community College Culinary program for the last six years and they have outgrown the space and are moving. I am looking to begin using the kitchen as shared space and need resources to research in order to develop my business plan for the space. The materials I think I need are for guidance on programming, marketing and natural partnerships. I also need the things I do not know that I need, if anyone knows what that might be!


Annette Paiement, Cotton Club Coworking & Project Space, 3/1/16
There is a space called the Kitchen Collective in Hamilton, Ontario which might prove to be a good resource. There is also another space called Roux Commissary.


Margie Zeidler, Urbanspace Property Group, 3/1/16
And here’s a super article about kitchen incubators in NYC
Some for-profit, some not-for-profit.



“How to be a Shared Kitchen Pro” from The Alliance Center

Allison Reser, Tenant & Visitor Coordinator of The Alliance Center, emailed this to the tenants:


  1. Wash, dry and put away your dishes. Bonus points if you do someone else’s dishes.
    • Next time you go to wash your dishes, go ahead and put away the dishes that are dry and wash all the dirty ones. If we all get in the habit of this, someone will return the favor.
  2. Put your name on EVERYTHING.
    • Find yourself a sharpie, and label all of your tupperware or any other personal belongings you might bring into the office. Otherwise, chances are that it will disappear into the abyss.
    • Don’t forget labeling things in the freezer!
  3. Return communal dishes to their proper place.
    • The Alliance Center supplies forks, spoons, knives, plates, bowls, cups and mugs for you to use. There are be 6-8 of each item in the kitchenettes on the upper floors, and the remainder belong in the first floor kitchen. you don’t ave to bring one up! Dishes and silverware tend to migrate up when you make your lunch on the first floor and eat it upstairs.
    • Please return Serendipity mugs to Serendipity.
    • Do not take communal dishes/silverware home!
  4. Share and eat leftovers. (We are already great at this!)
    • On the first floor, any food/beverage that’s on the community shelf in the fridge or left out on the silver tables is up for grabs. Please put the date and allergy information on leftovers you intend to share. And if you’re hungry, check here before you buy something!
    • What is the community shelf, you ask? It is the top two shelves in one of the refrigerators on the first floor. It is marked with orange tape!
  5. If you make a mess in the microwave…
    • …clean the mess in the microwave!

Rewards for a clean kitchen:
Here’s some of the things Alliance Staff will do to incentivize shared kitchen cleanliness:

  1. If you notice someone doing a lot of dishes, or doing any other random act of kindness, let us know! We will reward them!
  2. We will be adding labeling stations in the kitchens.
  3. In addition to monthly refrigerator clean-outs, we will do regular Tupperware purges, the first one starting yesterday. All unclaimed containers will be moved to the first floor and become communal. If you’d ever like to borrow tupperware, you may do so from the stash on the first floor.
  4. On April 18, you are invited to the Fork Forage. This is a catered lunch for tenants, but in order to enter, you must bring 10 forks (or other excess dishes on your floor) down to the first floor. More details to come! Reserve the time on your calendar.




Fork Forage @ The Alliance Center

(follow up to Allison’s “How to Be a Shared Kitchen Pro”)


Dear Tenants,

Cart After Dish Forage

As part of my role here at The Alliance Center, I go around to the kitchenettes on each floor periodically to clean them up. Among things like putting out clean towels, washing dirty dishes, and refilling soap, I collect dishes that have migrated upstairs and bring them back down to the first floor. Here’s what the cart typically looks like after I do this:

I need your help to maintain kitchen homeostasis!

Each kitchenette on the upper floors should have 6-8 of each communal kitchen item- small plates, large plates, bowls, FORKS, spoons, glasses and mugs. However, when you make your lunch on the first floor, eat it in your suite, and wash the dishes on your floor, you are essentially carrying kitchen items upstairs. Forks especially tend to collect on the upper floors. I’m asking for your help in bringing them back down, but I’m going to try to make it fun…​

Fork Forage
Tuesday, April 18, 12-1pm
First Floor Event Space
The Fork Forage is a free, catered lunch for tenants, but you MUST bring down 5 or more forks (or other dishes in excess) from your floor’s kitchenette down to the first floor to gain access to the meal! Here’s how it will work:

  1. On your way down to the first floor, scan your floor’s kitchenette for excess dishes. There should only be 6-8 small plates, large plates, bowls, FORKS, spoons, glasses and mugs.
  2. Grab at least 5 forks or other dishes in excess and bring them downstairs.
  3. Put the dishes away in the proper location on the first floor, and receive your meal ticket from Alliance staff.
  4. If the kitchenette on your floor already has the proper amount of small plates, large plates, bowls, FORKS, spoons, glasses and mugs (no more than 8 of each), then put away all dry dishes, wash all dirty dishes, and snap a picture (preferabbly a selfie) of your kitchenette in it’s perfectly clean state. Show this picture to Alliance staff to receive your meal ticket.
  5. Enjoy your meal in the first floor event space with fellow tenants, and don’t forget to wash your dishes and leave them on the first floor!

BONUS! Whoever finds the jewel fork (pictured below) and brings it to the first floor kitchen will receive a special prize.

Jewel Fork for Fork Forage.jpg
Add this event to your calendar

Finally, (thank you for reading this far through the email) if you have any favorite types of food or caterers, let me know! I’d like to support local, yummy restaurants for the Fork Forage if possible. Thank you!



NCN Webinar I The Collaboration Project: Tested Strategies to Build Collaboration in Shared Spaces
NCN Blog Post: 5 Tips for Building Your Shared Space Community Online
NCN Webinar | Authentic Tenant Engagement – What Works?


Another tool I like to introduce into conversations is “Give/Get.” Look for opportunities when your partners are gathered to ask them “What do you (or your organization) need to get right now?” followed by “What can you or your organization give to this community.” It takes practice for people to get into this mindset, but it can spark some conversations and some commitments to each other. Once commitments are made, then you have something to hold people accountable.


Chairs in a Circle – This activity is similar to Musical Chairs or the PBS Kids Musical Hoops activity. Create a circle of chairs and have participants sit in the chairs. Ask one participant to stand in the middle and remove their chair so there is one less chair than group participants. This can also be done by having the facilitator serve as a model and removing their chair. The person in the middle then shares something about themselves that others could potentially relate to. If the other participants agree with the remark or have experienced the same thing, they stand up and all standing (including the person in the middle) attempt to be seated in the remaining open chairs. The last person without a chair then becomes the next leader in the middle. Example sharing statements may include: “My name is Jan, I have a pet hedgehog” (all those with pet hedgehogs switch seats)…. “My name is Sara; I’ve been to the Mackinaw Island.” (all those who have been to Mackinaw Island switch seats), etc.. This often works well with a theme related to the topic, such as leadership (i.e. “My name is Jake and I’ve been the president of my 4-H club.”). (1)

Common Ground – Divide the participants into small groups and have them discuss things they have in common, such as gender or eye color. They must also seek unusual things they have in common for example; being a twin or having an unusual pet, like a snake. Explain to participants they have 15 minutes to find as many common facts as they can. The team who comes up with the most items in common wins the game.

Tower of Trust – Divide participants into groups appropriate for the activity goals. Give each group two newspaper sheets, one foot of tape, five paper clips, one foot of string and a pair of scissors. You could also modify this activity with 50-100 plastic cups or 10-25 pipe cleaners. Challenges can also be added, such as completing it with one hand or without speaking. Give each group 15 minutes to build the tallest tower before measuring each tower to determine who built the tallest one. Ask the groups to describe their approach to building their tower, challenges they faced, and what they learned about working together as a trusting team.

Fear in a Hat – This activity builds empathy and can be performed when one feels a safe and trusting environment is in place. The only supplies needed are a hat, pieces of paper and writing materials. Ask each participant to write down their personal fears anonymously on the pieces of paper before placing them into a hat. Circulate the hat and have each participant take out a piece of paper. The participants in turn read the fear aloud to the group and explain how the person may feel. Reflective discussion can follow on how feeling empathetic and having common fears may build trust within a team. (1)

The One Question Ice Breaker Activity Time Required: 15-20 minutes
This icebreaker not only gets coworkers talking to each other, but it also gets them working with one another. It’s quite simple: the leader gets to decide the situation the question will pertain to. Example situations include babysitting, leading the company, or being married. After pairing participants into teams, the leader will pose this question: If you could ask just one question to discover a person’s suitability for (insert topic here), what would your question be? Say the leader chose to go with a marriage situation. That means each person in a two-person team would come up with one question that would help them discover whether or not their partner was suitable to be married to them. If the topic was babysitting, each team member would have to come up with just one question whose answer would help them determine whether or not the person was suitable to babysit their child. This icebreaking activity can also get mixed up by issuing one situation for the entire group or allocating a different situation to each team member or pair to work on. Depending on the situation chosen, the activity can be very fun, but it can also demonstrate that crucial questions should be developed properly. (2)




(1) Michigan State University


Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Creating a positive work environment can sometimes be a challenge when dealing with the day to day stresses of your own work. But letting the little issues build up in a shared space is a detriment to all involved. Here are a few documents to let you know you are not alone, why it is important to address the little things, and how to accomplish that in a manner that builds everyone up.


Online Resource Center

NCN Webinar I The Collaboration Project: Tested Strategies to Build Collaboration in Shared Spaces

NCN’s Collaboration Project Publication
NCN Blog Post: 5 Tips for Building Your Shared Space Community Online
NCN Webinar | Authentic Tenant Engagement – What Works?
NCN – Building Blocks for Success – Building a Vibrant Tenant Community

Ask-NCN Live Blog Re-cap: Collaboration

NCN Blog Post: The Hierarchy of Needs of Tenant Partners in Shared Space


From Denver Shared Spaces’ Blog Entries: Lessons from the Brain Trust

March 2016 – To Policy or Not to Policy? (which includes this reference document as well)
April 2016 – Why Can’t You Just Act Right?
May 2016 – Building Trust in Your Center: A 3×3 Strategy


Building a stronger, livelier, and united community, see these pages:

Community Events – Themes & Strategies – for both within your shared space and outside with your community
Equitable, Inclusive Shared Spaces
Community Animation
Partnership Cultivation and Facilitation (Icebreakers)


Other hot topics:

Tenant Recruitment and Selection
Room Booking Etiquette


Topics Below:

Community Building Ideas

Community Events Strategy

For more about the physical space and what to charge, head here.

Community Building Ideas


From an Ask-NCN Discussion:

This document was compiled by Heather Quinn Gage of Serve Denton and summarizes most of the responses to the question below, involving dates 1/20-21/15. Community Building Ideas


Saul Ettlin, Tides Thoreau Center, 1/20/15
What do you find are the tenant programs or other offerings that are the most effective at bringing your building community together?


Doug Vilsack, Posner Center for International Development, 1/21/15
The Posner Center has developed all sorts of programming over the last year, including 101s, Block Party Lunches, Roundtables, Cross-pollidate (i.e. speed-dating for tenants), trainings, etc (See “Our Programs” at While the end-result remains to be seen, the most effective to-date has been our International Collaboration Fund, which supports projects developed jointly by tenants in our building. We recently selected seven projects, engaging 16+ tenants and members, to receive initial funding through the program and will be monitoring the results over the next year. The original RFP is attached if you are interested.
International Collaboration Fund Pilot Program


Judy Lind, Kukui Children’s Foundation, 1/21/15
We hold quarterly potlucks which several programs collaborate in sponsoring. We also have collaborative training for staff and boards as well as wellness activities on site. We have also held 2 off site strategic planning retreats involving all staff.
We have a shared playground as well as an outdoor seating area for lunch and breaks.
Go to our website to learn about our Community Partner Program which is also done collaboratively.
Our brochure and newsletter also helps bring the community together.
Hope this helps.


Whitney Roux, NTC Foundation, 1/21/15
This is a great discussion! I am the Program Manager for an arts based center, and by center I mean complex with 26 buildings and 80 tenants and we are still trying to figure out how to build community around it! We have monthly meetings of our tenant collaborative to promote co-op ideas. This has led to tenants producing events together which is fantastic and builds community amongst groups.

I love the idea of Happy Hours and easy potlucks, but we always seem to over complicate things and make them too much work. Any thoughts on keeping things simple but impactful


Aaron Cruikshank, CRUIKSHANK, 1/21/15
In my two years running a space, we found that food-related events were always super successful in bringing people together. Our thing was crepe potlucks. We had a range in our kitchenette so I’d make enough batter to make 250 crepes and everyone would bring the stuff to go in the crepes. Hugely popular and helped people get to know one another and bond.


Jackie Cefola, Cefola Consulting, 1/21/15
Hi Saul, I was formerly involved with developing tenant programming at the NonProfit Center in Boston and tried to offer activities that served our tenants different interests:

  • professional/organizational development (workshops, networking)
  • personal development (yoga, stress reduction)
  • community (donation drives, volunteer opps, farm share)

Some programs were self-organized – tenants developed them and we helped to coordinate and publicize. Many were developed through partnerships with non-tenant service providers. We also opened many programs up to the public to increase participation and serve our community.

One of our earliest programs, and I think one of the only to get TV news coverage, was a valentine’s day chocolate tasting featuring fair trade chocolate. That room was packed!


James Thomson, New Path Foundation, 1/21/15
From my perspective and experience with our Common Roof initiatives, I would say that opportunities for folks to engage are key to building a sense of community. We try to provide such opportunities throughout the year such as:

  • Common gathering areas as part of the building design (Communal Kitchens, shared administrative spaces, etc.)
  • BBQ’s and Tenant pot luck luncheons
  • Agency Open Houses/Tours
  • Working Groups/Committees (Social, Arts, Building, Health & Safety, etc.) In fact any opportunity for cross-collaboration and communication is a good thing!
  • Sharing bulletins and postings via email blasts to everyone
  • Hosting agency specific events onsite and opening them up to all Tenants
  • Joint training opportunities (First Aid, CPR, etc.) or holding workshops of interest (Stress reduction strategies, gardening, etc.)

Hope this gives you some ideas 😉


Aaron Cruikshank, 1/21/15
Another space that I am familiar with does Waffle Wednesdays and have a roulette system to decide which two people are going to pair up to make the waffles. Sounds goofy but it was really effective to get two tenants who normally didn’t talk to one another to spend an hour together working side by side.


Doug Vilsack, 1/21/15
This might not qualify as programming, but Brandi Stanley, our Community Animator, decided to remove two of the three microwaves from our kitchen a few months ago. There was some push back at first, but now people have to wait in line they actually talk to one another. Little things are the best.


Karen Maciorowski, CT Nonprofit Center, 1/21/15

We are still “new” to the game (7 months open), but here is our experience and our plans:

An event every month, switching between social and educational. We have 100 trainings a year for nonprofits so we offer seats to members of CT Nonprofit Center every other month at no charge, followed by networking brown bag lunch. On the opposite months we have had drop-in breakfasts for an hour whenever a new tenant joins us; and are planning a “Pamper yourself” day at the Center – chair massages from the local massage school; meditation session to reduce stress; yoga; and a team building speaker/facilitator. Want to come? We can’t wait – we are getting some donated; some fee for service and convincing tenants to purchase for their staff; and raising a few sponsors for the remaining cost.

Nice seeing everyone’s events. My question is, once you plan it, how do you get them to come? We are trying to overcome the challenge of engagement. Thanks


Eli Malinsky, Centre for Social Innovation, 1/21/15
We have been thinking and experimenting with various programs for quite a while…my best advice is to engage the members in conceiving and executing the ideas…that will boost ownership, engagement and participation…


Maureen Moloughney, Heartwood House, 1/21/15
Like Eli’s group, we have asked our community to determine the activities to build community spirit and collaboration.

Our community has chosen the following activities to this point:
a) monthly member meetings;
b) community pot-lucks;
c) sharing and learning sessions;
d) board to board wine& cheese night;
e) community email system for notices about events, information sharing etc.
f) events publications on our website.
g) tours for new staff and volunteers as needed.

It’s been great fun learning about activities of other network members!
take care, Moe


Jenny Camhi, Leichtag Foundation, 1/21/15
We offer the following opportunities for our Hub members to build community as well as encourage informal opportunities for connection (lunch time walks, group lunch, etc)
1) Weekly “Snack Hour”—each organization takes responsibility for hosting
2) Monthly Lunch and Learns
3) Facebook group that encourages both knowledge sharing and community building
4) Monthly Hub Meetings

Community Events Strategy

From an Ask-NCN Discussion


Katie Edwards, Nonprofit Centers Network, 2/8/16
Here’s a question to start off your week: What is your strategy for the kinds of community events that you host? Do you create themes around your mission or around specific goals like skills training or building trust around tenant partners?

What has worked best? What resonated with your community?


Scott Gifford, Matrix Human Services, 2/9/16
For the past 20 years we have done a large number of community events. Since we are a large community center in a Detroit neighborhood impacted by poverty and other social determinants, it makes sense. These events range from Mission Partner Fairs, Community Dinners, Harvest Festival, Give A Way Days, etc. Attendance ranges from 100 – 2,000 residents. These activities are an excellent customer recruitment for the other social service and community organizations in our building.


Pat Smith, Serve Denton, 2/9/16
Serve Denton seeks to host events that support the advancement of our community and the individuals who live in it. We host events that not only bring awareness to relevant societal issues but also foster positive change. Therefore, the events and projects we take on and the organizations we partner with are all linked to this theme.
Being a dependable, consistent, and supportive resource seems to be what works best and what makes the greatest impact on our community. We strive to provide support in the areas of logistics, graphic design and media relations, and volunteer mobilization.


Katie Edwards, 2/9/16

Great feedback, Scott and Pat! I’ve realized by asking this question that community events can mean a lot of things to people – some are more externally focused, while others are focused on internal community, building the community feeling within the building or on the campus. Where do the ideas for your events come from? Is there an intentional strategy or do you capitalize on opportunities as they arise?


Dustin Barrington, HNS Life Center, 2/9/16
As a one stop social service center, you wont be surprised to hear that we do externally focused community events to raise awareness of our service offerings within our client demographics. We do things like back to school events where we give away free school supplies and holiday events with free toys, socks, underwear, personal hygiene products, food, etc…

We have also hosted community events focused on educating potential donors and connecting with other service providers as potential partners.

We would like to move into some volunteer recruitment events but have been too busy to build capacity… sad but true.

Have a great day!


Scott Gifford, Matrix Human Services, 2/9/16
In our community we had to fill the void which would normally be filled by the city government or other community institutions in most other cities or suburban cities. For us we also could go to scale with large events because of the participation of other Mission Partner organizations in the Center and a large base of community resident volunteers.


Jackie Cefola, Cefola Consulting, 2/9/16
When I was with the NonProfit Center programs were part of an intentional strategy and also supplemented with other events or opportunities that came up. Many different activities were offered falling into categories of:

  • work or organization-related = job training, nonprofit sector events
  • personal development = wellness programs, networking
  • community = farm CSA, donation drives

Ideas came mostly from our marketing/communications team, tenants and other service providers. My favorite tenant request was for matchmaking services but we didn’t do it. Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Maybe another NCN member can pick up on that idea… Best wishes, Jackie


Nada Zohdy, OpenGov Hub, 2/9/16
Thanks for this discussion everyone!
The OpenGov Hub is a co-working community in Washington, D.C. and network of about 35 different (mostly international development) nonprofits working to promote transparency, accountability, and civic engagement and combat corruption all around the world. All our organizations work on policy and advocacy issues of some kind, rather than providing direct social services.

We are interested in developing a more concerted approach and strategy to our programming, both:
#1) internal activities to help our member organizations and individuals get to know each other and
#2) external activities with outside partners to help people in our field learn from each other and collaborate to have greater social impact.

Typically to fulfill #1 we hold activities like informal Community Brownbags (where new members present tell others about their work and get feedback/brainstorm) and monthly Happy Hours, and for #2 we do a variety of one-time and ongoing public discussion events, workshops, etc.

Does anyone have any suggestions for creative ways we might explore fulfilling both these objectives (building internal community amongst members, but also promoting collaboration and learning with diverse people working on these issues) through various types of events?

Many thanks!


Pat Smith, 2/11/16
Hi Katie,

I offer the following responses to your questions:

“Is there an intentional strategy or do you capitalize on opportunities as they arise?”

A critical part of our strategic plan it cultivate three different but interrelated cultures: a culture of philanthropy, a culture of service, and a culture of community. We further define what we mean by each of these cultures. We use events to help us foster these cultures.

For the sake of brevity, I will give one example. To foster a culture of service, we ask all of our board and advisory council members to do a day of service as part of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday to honor him. We also invite the boards of our tenants to participate. We do it on a Saturday morning between 8 and noon. All of the work is in our center–painting, making small repairs, cleaning up outside, doing projects for our tenants. We have lots of coffee and carbs on hand. This year we had 60 participants from all of the agency boards. We breakup into teams, and the Serve Denton staff and interns serve as leaders of each team–they are not allowed to work, just guide and direct the board.

We get tremendous support and feedback on this effort. We had members of the Texas House of Representatives working side by side with college students (who we have on the board). It builds great camaraderie. The tenants love it. We had the City’s TV crew and a local news station provide coverage.

“Where do the ideas for your events come from?”

Our ideas come from the staff, tenants, and board members. Every event we do fits under one of the three “cultures” we strive to cultivate. Sometimes opportunities come to us. For every opportunity, we run it through five questions tied to our values of collaboration, accountability, respect, empathy, and service.

Katie–this might make a good subject for a webinar.

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