Shared Spaces is a 9,200 square foot center in Mankato, Minnesota, owned and managed by the Mankato Area Foundation. The center hosts 7 nonprofits with about 35 staff plus interns: United Way, Mankato Area Foundation, YWCA, Diversity Council, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, and Miracle League of North Mankato. The center itself is primarily administrative; direct services are not offered at the center itself.
When convincing the community of the need for and benefit of a shared space center, Mankato Area Foundation had success with a few different messages.
First, the foundation found it impactful to emphasize to the community that without the tax-exempt status, nonprofits would not be able to afford to be housed in the center. Community members were being asked for donations by many nonprofits, and so the idea of combining back-end functions to make those dollars go further was appealing; however, Mankato Area Foundation emphasized that this could not happen without tax-exempt status.
Mankato Area Foundation does not make a profit from the center; all operational expenses are split among the nonprofits based on the amount of space they occupy. This paired with Mankato’s tax-exempt status means that nonprofits housed in the space pay $7 per square foot compared to the $25 per square foot rate in the neighborhood. The YWCA of Mankato has saved between $9,000 and $10,000 per year by housing its office in the shared space.
Another thing that was helpful in gaining community buy-in was the support of a major donor and well-respected community figure. This donor could open doors and gain funds that the foundation would have been unable to otherwise.
When establishing the center, Mankato Area Foundation did not encounter resistance when it came to loss of property taxes for the community. Mankato Area Foundation chose to house Shared Spaces in a historical building in the heart of Mankato’s business district that would have been difficult to lease/sell in its current configuration. The loss of this building would have been negative for the community, so Mankato Area Foundation’s decision to use it for a shared space was received positively.
Mankato Area Foundation has found that they “can’t have enough meeting space.” They currently have three meeting rooms, two smaller meeting rooms accommodating 8-12 people and one larger room accommodating up to fifty, and ended up remodeling their kitchen space to include more room for informal lunch meetings. The meeting space is open to any nonprofit in the community, which has provided excellent exposure for tenants as bank presidents, lawyers, and other notable community members are often at the center for nonprofit board meetings.
The only space that has not been utilized is a coffee shop-style space in the back of the center, designed to be a workspace for nonprofits who did not need a full office. Mankato Area Foundation charges nonprofits $70/month to use the space, and has found that it’s not utilized often. The foundation is planning on converting the space to cubicles for interns and overflow space for current tenants.