In three separate consulting engagements this past month, NCN emphasized the importance of answering the “why a nonprofit center for us.” Sure, we can go on about the measured benefits of shared space – from space and equipment amenities, designated staff handling printer troubles, cost savings reallocated towards programming, employee retention and more. These initial basic wins lead to deeper collaboration and reduced duplication of efforts. It doesn’t take much convincing when we present this data and a selection of nonprofit center case studies in the visioning and town hall steps of our consulting feasibility assessments. But, why now, when so much can be done remotely? Why should my organization belong to a shared space? What can we accomplish here by being in proximity with one another, that we could not do alone? Why does our community need this space?
NCN encourages addressing this through a collective Statement of Purpose exercise for a future shared space, by thinking about who is served/engaged, what will be provided and what the impact will be. This reflection and its answers have to be present side-by-side with the captured demand of square footage, amenities and ability to pay data, because that it is ultimately the spark to activate your future space. Yes, it acts as a guidepost to your planning and development process and is the foundation for making the case to funders. But your collective “why” is also what will attract users to space, tenants and beyond, creating a ripple effect out into the community. While concrete data helps determine right-sizing and long-term financial sustainability, we must continue to make room, in our heads, in the physical layout, and in the budget, for ALL of the users of the spaces. Don’t neglect your “why,” and don’t neglect this vital larger community piece when answering the “why.”