I first heard of Joanne Posner-Mayer when I was a consultant working with a fledgling shared space in Denver focused on international development in 2013. The project was in trouble. They had secured a lease for a building through the Denver Housing Authority, but it was a historic structure and the group needed to raise the funds for renovations and start-up costs. There was a gap between the projected costs and the actual costs and it wasn’t clear how the project could move forward. I remember thinking, another one bites the dust.
But I was wrong. The project succeeded because of Ms. Posner-Mayer and it is now one of the best examples of mission-driven shared space. Posner-Mayer is a Denver physical-therapist-turned-entrepreneur who invented the FitBall™, which is now ubiquitous in gyms and therapy rooms. She had deep roots with the Curtis Park neighborhood where the international development shared space center was being developed. Her father, a Polish immigrant, had a successful hardware store in that neighborhood. Ms. Posner-Mayer felt she could give back to the neighborhood that enabled her to achieve so much. I remember being so surprised at how it all came together – her contribution was truly pivotal to the center, the difference between life and death. Now in Denver we are lucky to have the Posner Center for International Development, named in honor of her family.
If that wasn’t tribute enough, a recent blog by the Rose Community Foundation reported that Ms. Posner-Mayer has been instrumental in another shared space project, the Rose Andom Center. The Andom Center is a one-stop shop for survivors of domestic violence and houses over 20 agencies in a central location. Previously, those affected by domestic violence had to travel to up to a dozen different locations to access services. Taking a client-centered approach will help stop the cycle of violence by improving rates of reporting abuse. Ms. Posner-Mayer contributed to the Rose Andom Center and is helping it establish an endowment so it can be financially sustainable for a long time to come.
I’m anxious to learn of other philanthropists who have embraced the shared service model as much as Ms. Posner-Mayer. In working with her at an NCN training event in 2015, we discussed the notion of mission-driven shared space centers as a kin to a mutual fund investment vehicle – invest in one shared space center and you’ve touched all the organizations who locate there. It’s a great way to address a pressing community issue in a holistic way. I’ve not heard of many who have invested in multiple centers, but I’d love to see it catch on.
At this time of year, it’s inspiring to think about the many ways our generosity can make a huge difference in people’s lives. The Posner Center addresses global poverty and creates opportunity for men, women and children around the world. The Andom Center is helping local Denver families find safety and peace. I can’t imagine a better example of what we all hope for in this holiday season.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a video worth? Here are a few of our favorite videos to showcase the model of sharing. Take a moment to check out three different models of shared space!
Theme Center: Posner Center for International Development
Service Center: Together Center
Multi-Sector Center: Carroll Nonprofit Center
On Wednesday we experimented with a new format for NCN Boot Camp. In response to feedback about the high cost of travel to an in-person training, we decided to offer our introductory-level training in an online format. We had a great turn-out, even better than our in-person Boot Camp trainings. The curriculum covered most aspects of starting a nonprofit shared space, but it’s always interesting to see the kinds of questions and conversations that emerge during these trainings. I thought I would share some of them with you, along with our shortened responses. My burning question is: where do we start?!
Lately we’ve been hearing a lot from funders about their interest in addressing inequality: in income, race, sex, education, economic opportunities and more (see Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation here). The Ford Foundation has used this lens to rethink how it conducts its grantmaking and how it measures its success. Other foundations are following suit and there’s even some controversy around how to define the goal of equity. This has led me to wonder how nonprofit shared space fits into this new lens. How do we, as a sector, address inequality? Here are three ideas:
Do Your Due Diligence: Four Things To Do Before Committing To a Vacant Building
This post is the first in a series by Mike Gilbert of The Jones Trust that will focus on how to repurpose existing and vacant buildings in a cost effective way. It is very important not to cut corners in the due diligence process before you commit to renovating a property – you might end up with some unfortunate and costly surprises.
Many buildings throughout North America are unoccupied, in a state of disrepair and/or abandoned. These buildings present amazing opportunities to preserve history or unique architecture, and it can be more cost effective to renovate than to build new. However, older buildings are typically constructed using asbestos containing materials in varying components. Many of these facilities were built under older building codes with less stringent requirements for life, safety and accessibility.
Repurposing older buildings can deliver outstanding project economics and return on investment if we do the hard work on the front end. Before you commit to a vacant building, make sure to do your due diligence. Identifying and fully understanding the potential risks of building renovation is a monumental task for the skilled developer and even more challenging for an individual, organization or group that does not do so on a regular basis. It is critical to be conservative at this stage of the project, investigating all possible risks that can become known prior to commitment to proceed.
As you plan your project, here are some tips to keep yourself from purchasing a money pit.
The due diligence phase of project evaluation is a very detailed process and can range in cost from as little as 1% of your project budget up to 3%, depending on the scope of work and level of detail desired.
Analysis of the various reports will allow you to fully develop a preliminary renovation budget that will feed into the pro forma budget for the project. Our next post will dive into strategies to consider in developing a preliminary project budget and feasibility study.
Running a nonprofit shared space can be a challenge. In addition to the hard skills of leasing, facility maintenance, and tenant improvements, nonprofit center managers must also be equipped with the soft skills of culture management and facilitating partnerships in order to create meaningful collaborations among the tenant partners under one roof. In our 2015 State of the Shared Space Sector survey, we at NCN wanted to answer some long standing questions about what it really takes to run a nonprofit center. The full findings of our research can be found in Managing Collaboration: Staffing & Salaries in Shared Space (available for free download). Here are a few highlights:
Is your organization ready to get out of the rental market and build a lasting asset? You should consider including shared space for other organizations as part of your plan. While designing your project to generate revenue from shared space users, can strengthen your case to lenders and improve the long-term financial sustainability of your project, that’s not the real value. Shared space connects your organization and its work to a wider community of nonprofits or social ventures, increases staff retention by making your organization a more vibrant and interesting place to work, and raises your organization's profile through your role as a dynamic community hub.
Lately I’ve been working with a number of organizations who are in the early stages of a new shared space project. It’s an exciting time, but it can also quickly become stressful and chaotic. Here are some survival tips that will hopefully make your journey smoother. #1 – Communicate. Your project may shift, the ideal location may change, your partners may have second thoughts, but someone has to maintain clear communication to a variety of stakeholders (potential funders, potential tenants, government agencies, media, real estate professionals, etc). Commit to some type of regular communication, whether it’s a newsletter or notes emailed to a distribution list. It can prevent misunderstandings down the line and it establishes norms for your shared space around transparency, inclusivity and decision-making.
One of the biggest reasons nonprofit centers and coworking spaces exists is to give people the chance to get to one another – to connect in the kitchen, chat around the coffee pot, and share ideas. At the same time, so many of us live at least a part of our lives online, checking Facebook and twitter, searching for connections on LinkedIn, or exploring the latest MMORPG. Connecting in person can be a huge breath of fresh air.