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Signage Debates – Visibility of Tenant Organizations

Welcome Presence for New/Established Centers


Online Resource Center

Critical Considerations for Designing Today’s Interior Spaces


Static Signs

Fastsigns – used by CT Nonprofit Center, Midland Shared Spaces – (nationwide – “they cover every type of sign and are extremely affordable and excellent quality”)
SignPro used by House of Neighborly Service Life Center (a trade only wholesaler but they have a “find a dealer” tab on their website)
SignAids – used by The Link in Georgina, ON Canada


Digital Signs

Four Winds Interactive – Used by The Commons on Champa, The Alliance Center


Signage Debates – Visibility of Tenant Organizations

From Ask NCN on 9/15/15


Dustin Barrington, HNS Life Center 9/15/15

We have a zealous enforcement team at our city planning department so we have tried to comply carefully with all sign ordinances.

We have used most of our (less than sufficient) allotted square footage of signage for the Life Center branding. We also have a prominent marquee sign going in at our main entrance with a listing of all the tenants. Names are in a blended order that takes quantity of leased space and length of participation into account.
There have been issues:
Some clients have had a hard time associating Life Center branding with the tenant agencies… especially the less literate end of our spectrum. They are looking for agency branding but we just don’t get enough square footage of signage to have all the agency logos visible from the street at a recognizable size.

Some tenants attribute a drop in client numbers to the signage. Many moved from higher visibility locations in the city that produced more foot traffic than they have experienced in our first year at the new location. Some had what seem to be unrealistic expectations about brand recognition for a new center and how much they would have to invest in re-marketing themselves to their clientele.

Temp Signage (Solution?)
We have gotten our city to recognize all of our tenants as separate entities from the Center and are therefore able to manage their own “temporary” signage. We have created a designated space for temporary signage on our main frontage and have ordered a prototype “sail banner” to show what and how the space can be used. I know this will be probably become a headache at some point, but, if there is a problem the city with work with the tenant directly. (not my circus, not my monkeys…) We are anticipating that some leniency in temporary signage enforcement will be the way that our city will help us to expand our tenants’ visibility without (technically) allowing us to be non-compliant.


Shelley Hamilton, MarinSpace 9/15/15
Co-Branding and Signage is such a huge “rubber meets the road” element of collaborative space!!! We’ve dealt with this many times. It’s unfortunate how many times building codes and product standards run up against creating and managing collaborative shared space (signage limits, automatic door closers that don’t support an “open door” welcome, standard corporate signage products that don’t facilitate flex space, etc.).

One other issue you didn’t raise, that is also very common, is that the “big dog” anchor tenant often gets all the brand recognition and centers can even end up being called “XYZ org’s building” rather than the actual name of the center. And then there’s the whole Post Office issue with delivering mail in shared space . . . .

It takes a lot of massaging (and messaging) to help tenants understand the increasing returns dynamics that can be achieved if all participate in cross & co branded efforts and the negative effects of competitively (at worst) or unconsciously (at best) creating brand fragmentation and confusion.

We’ve done things like ask tenants to put the name of the building on their address and not to say “our conference room” but “the XYZ building’s conference room.” And while not helping with the external walk up foot traffic issue, creative signage and way finding within the entrance area and throughout the building needs to be an integral part of the design from the get-go, not something that comes at the end after its all built.

I think this topic could fill a whole 2 hour webinar! Thanks for bringing it up.


Shelby Bradbury, Nonprofit Innovation Center 9/15/2015
On our campus we have two buildings. One is Sierra Health Foundation (property owner) the second is the Nonprofit Innovation Center (orgs that lease space in our nonprofit center/shared space community). We have one exterior sign at the entrance that says only Sierra Health Foundation Center. Because organizations move in frequently and occasionally one will move out we do not put signage on the outside of the building to keep cost down.

On the interior we list the organizations on a lobby monitor in addition to wayfinding in both the reception area and outside of the orgs suite/office area.

We also have a section for the Innovation Center on our web page and each organization listed there with links to their own websites.


Jennifer Pedroni, Community Partnership Center for Health and Human Services 9/15/2015
We have a 24,000 square foot building with space for eight tenants. When we built the building about eight years ago there was a concern about signage creating some type of stigma about our building. We are a health and human services center with behavioral health and domestic violence serving organizations. Given that concern our exterior sign just has the address of the building on it – 2506. Inside there is a display with the meeting schedule for the day and wayfaring signs for the individual suites. Has anyone else had this concern or issue with their building?

We are now revisiting this because we are hearing from the tenants they want/need more visibility and are considering changing the sign to the name of the building “Community Partners Center for Health and Human Services”. There are some tenants that would like to see their individual organization names on the sign, so we are investigating the various options.


Pam Mauk, Together Center 9/29/2015
We promote who we are. Last year, we added tenant names to our monument sign that anchors a corner of our site by two streets. Our medical and dental clinics wanted more visibility. We have twenty agencies, but figured if we asked for $250/year for this marketing opportunity, those participating would narrow. We have six tenants on the sign.

We promote who we are, which is a health, housing and human services campus, “so people can find help when they need it.” There was NIMBYism 25 years ago when we launched, and fear about our impact, but that has dissipated by our history as good neighbors.


Stephanie FallCreek, Fairhill Partners, 9/29/15
We are a mid-size nfp campus currently with about 20 tenants and 10 residential leases. We use an electronic sign at a major intersection (the corner of our property) that rotates through the nonresidential tenant partners and scheduled events. It displays 6AM through 10PM, about ¼ of the displays are time and temperature.


Pamela, Alberta Family Connection Centre, 9/29/2015
We are a 33,000 sq ft facility with 40 rental rooms, currently 2/3 occupied. We have named the centre the “Family Connection Centre” and have only the name and address on the outside, no individual tenants listed.
We are looking for ideas on inside signage and recognition of tenants, all suggestions and pictures are appreciated.


Karen M., CT Nonprofit Center, 9/29/2015
CT Nonprofit Center, Hartford CT – we are 86,000 sf campus with 2 buildings.
Our photos on most of our signs can be found here:

Our current signage:

  • Main entrance on grass: Large exterior sign CT Nonprofit Center
  • Brick columns flanking each parking lot entrance (6 in total for the 3 parking lots) – CT Nonprofit Center – 75 Charter Oak
  • Campus: 3 directional signs – you are here; main entrance; external entrance for building 2 conference room
  • Lobby signs: large (I think they are 80”) digital tv screens with tenant name and suite/building number
  • Reception space: 2 fixed large signs CT Nonprofit Center with our tag line behind reception desks
  • Reception space: 1 digital 55” screen – agenda for day (meeting and room number)
  • Our office doors and side windows – window decals for our association and nonprofit center (the center is a program of our association)
  • Each meeting room has a window decal with the name of the room

In progress:

  • Interior: Wall signs for directions to suites
  • Implement video streaming that allows us to use all digital signs outlined above and the 5 meeting room digital signs for multiple messages (example – welcome new tenant; sponsor logos and messages; interesting Center facts; welcome special guests)
  • Digital tablet size screens outside each meeting room with the agenda for the day and access to calendar of room tied into the ability to reserve on the fly
  • Temporary directional signage for outside and inside like sandwich boards and grass signs pointing visitors to a specific meeting


Welcome Presence for New/Established Centers

From an Ask-NCN Discussion 8/8/15


Owen Bailey, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy
We are preparing for the opening of our building, which will host 4 other non-profits and ourselves. Our thoughts were to have volunteers set up at the front of the building to welcome people and help guests find their way around the building for the first month or so. Does anyone have any experience with this?


Loretta Jett Haddad, Schoenbaum Center
We have a main entrance for our Center, and designed an information/reception desk at the main entrance. It has been staffed with volunteers since we opened in 2002. The volunteers greet and direct visitors (who choose to look at a person instead of the building directory), answer incoming calls, assist users seeking information online in our resource library, and using conference room.

We include a paragraph in our Lease and Agreement, so that if a tenant operates outside the Center’s normal open hours (Center Hours), such as additional evening or weekend hours, then the front desk will be staffed by that tenant. That paragraph is copied below. To date, no tenant has needed SFEC to provide front desk coverage during its after-hours operations, but it’s in the lease just in case.

Except as set forth in Schedule 4.01 (the Center’s Hours), Agency will establish its hours of operations, and be responsible for securing its service areas, securing Center common areas, and staff the Center’s reception desk at times other than Center hours (“after hours”). The Tenant can meet it’s after hours obligations itself, or in cooperation with all other tenant agencies that operate during the same after hours. Alternatively, the Tenant will enter an agreement with SFEC for SFEC “after hours” reception desk coverage for which the Tenant will be charged SFEC’s standard fee for reception desk coverage. The Tenant will report its weekly hours of operations schedule and after hour’s staff coverage arrangements to SFEC in a timely manner.


Dustin Barrington, HNS Life Center
Having multiple forms of communication available works well for us: greeters, maps, brochures, pamphlets, signs, welcome center, websites, multimedia centers, etc.

Each person has a special learning style and may need to receive a different number of touch points / information inputs to make a clear connection.


Pam Mauk, Together Center
I agree with Dustin. Some people will only want to talk to someone to find their way (and if you have volunteers for that: super); others will do anything possible to avoid having to talk to someone. If you can cue people in more than one way, that’s best.


Kim McNamer, Deschutes Children’s Foundation
Our model is unique in that we have four paid part-time facility managers at each of our sites. They act as the main point of contact for those entering during their shift, but they are also walking around, checking on the facility, making sure everything is working properly, handle booking of the conference room, helps resolve any issues a program may be having with the facility, etc. For those hours that aren’t staffed, the desk is empty. There is a directional sign on the front of that desk for the partners in the building, as well as our main office number for those who may need further help. We work to promote collaboration between our partners and this is a perfect opportunity for them to assist a visitor should they be walking by or if they find that visitor walking around, a simple “May I help you find someone?” can go a long way. We also have a brochure rack close to the main entrance in the common area that might be useful to them as well.


Pam Mauk

Thanks for this description Kim. I spoke simply to the volunteers only or volunteers plus other materials question. In terms of models of service, we have a full-time information and referral staff (plus wayfinding, plus everything operations person) at our Front Door: a paid position. We also rely on directories, maps of our campus and a new touchscreen tool in our lobby to show agencies and how to get there. We also work with agencies to help direct clients. Ours is an imperfect layout of three buildings in a strip mall. We have worked to beef up what we call our Front Door, at the same time we hope a no-wrong-door philosophy will support visitors as well.


Kerry-Lynn Wilkie, Langs
Congratulations on your building opening! We implemented this exact model in Cambridge – with a volunteer greeter at the door to help guide people when they came into the building. We also had finishing construction work still in progress when we moved in, so this helped everyone find their way.

After about 6-8 weeks, the volunteers found people had found their way or knew where the reception area(s) were located.


Karen Maciorowski, CT Nonprofit Center
Just sharing our model. We have 20 nonprofits and 4 meeting rooms but the CT Nonprofit Center is a program of our association so we simply staff the front desk for all visitors to the meeting rooms or that want to visit the organizations. We provide detailed web instructions for Center tenants to share with their visitors in case they don’t want to stop in; large digital screens in both lobbies of the 2 buildings with the suite numbers, are about to hang new signs with suite numbers, and a digital sign with an agenda in our front reception area with the room of each meeting. We are going to be investing in lawn signs or sandwich boards that point the visitor to the right building for a meeting which I hope will work. To this day, no matter how many restroom signs we put up, we are asked dozens of times where the bathrooms are! Guess if that is the main question, our system is working. If we walk away from the front desk, a sign goes up to use the phone and press the button for us. ALSO, all tenants are on the same VoIP system which works amazing because we now have a directory that any tenant can reach anyone else. We are considering hanging a phone in the lobby’s with instructions to access the directory and phone the person they are visiting without having to stop into our office. Totally different scenario than yours, but we thought about having volunteers and realized that we needed a consistent instruction and customer service. The person at the front desk can share places to eat or “play” in the city, or other forms of customer service like helping with the copier, etc. We are not great at volunteer management so having us staff the space is better for our model.


Mike Ban, Chicago Literacy Center
Our entrance is on the second floor of a building where we’ve leased our space, with stairs and elevator opening on our Welcome Center. After a little more than a month of the six of us sharing Welcome Desk duties, we realized that wasn’t going to work, so we established a new position, Literacenter Concierge, whose job is just what a concierge would do — be welcoming, help people figure out where they need to go, handling the scheduling of meetings in our reserveble meeting rooms, and being an all-around friendly face!

I’ve attached the job description.


Kim McNamer, Deschutes Foundation
Sure thing, please find it attached. After I looked at it, I updated it a bit because there was a section in there about participating in assisting the E.D. in organizing fundraising events and strategies, but that hasn’t really happened since my arrival, with the exception of our office and facility manager at the main administration building. The pay range is $10-$14/hour. It can be a tough position to find the right person primarily due to the variety of the skills needed, which ideally includes light repair and maintenance and because it is part time. My current demographic of this position at our three remote sites (meaning, not where the main DCF administration office is located) is three women, aged 65+. Two of them have been with us for 14 & 15 years though – I am so nervous for when they retire because they truly do everything in their power to fix something on their own and save money wherever they can. In fact, I have had to tell them to call in someone before to ensure they didn’t try and do it on their own. I know they do way more than I even know about as well. One of the facility managers has all the partners in check and has truly formed and extended family at her location. When she had to be out for a major surgery a couple years ago, they all pitched in and helped take care of the facility so I didn’t have to be on site every day to help manage it – in fact, I think I didn’t have to go there once while she was out. It truly is something I am grateful for every day. The hours vary depending on the facility size and need, so I have one who works 20 hours, one 25 and one 30. The one thing we don’t have at our sites is a VoP. We manage the phone and data system overall at one location but all still have their own phone lines and numbers; otherwise, the rest of the locations and partners manage their own phone and data service.

The Facility/Office Manager position is at our administration office that is a campus of three buildings. It includes administrative assistance and bookkeeping duties. This pay range is $14-$17/hour due to the additional duties. I have attached that description as well.

I also did assess the work of the facility managers and wondered if I could remove their positions and add a full time maintenance position, possibly on-call and would spend a certain amount of time each week at each facility. After observing the current structure and the facility managers at work, it really showed me the importance of having them on-site and there to be the eyes and ears of the campus – even if only part time. They are there to promote collaboration, they become part of the facility itself, they truly keep our partners in check while also proving to be a great resource to the partners in assisting the clients and visitors who enter their doors each day. To me the value of that interaction and oversight was more important than finding a maintenance person who I may or may not be able to keep busy full time. We have three maintenance volunteers who we call on for things we can’t necessarily do and for minor repairs. That has worked well so far.

Just as a reminder to all or an FYI if you didn’t know, Deschutes Children’s Foundation operates four nonprofit children and family focused service centers in Deschutes County, Oregon where we provide rent-free office and classroom space, and no-cost property management. The 26 nonprofit partners we serve all have a use fee that basically covers basic CAMs. This is just under half our budget, so the other half we fundraise for is for straight operations, which is primarily wages & benefits but also includes repairs and maintenance. This proves to be a bit of a challenge when fundraising due to funders not wanting to pay for “operations” – even when it is your actual program!!

Hope this helps! Just let me know if you have any questions.

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