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Paul Evensen

Donors and co-locating agencies create projects in pursuit of more than one of six benefits. Typical combinations include the desire to both enhance access and to strengthen partnering agencies. The hope: to strengthen agencies that have a shared mission. The goal: simultaneously promoting sustainability and innovation. These are only the most common combinations. When done well, all real estate and location decisions are made with the intention of building community. However, the attempt to aid neighborhood development alone without careful consideration of the "mission benefit" of colocation first can have a profoundly negative consequence for non-profit organizations. At the inducement of neighborhood leaders, non-profits can feel compelled to move to locations that do not enhance their ability to deliver on mission. To borrow a phrase from the movie Field of Dreams - if we build a new community services center they will indeed come. Unfortunately, they may come for the wrong reasons and the project is likely to be unsustainable.

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For most nonprofits, office space is the second largest expense, after personnel costs. Most of the time we make do with what we can get our hands on – working out of our living rooms or a donated church basement. Too often, we let our office space work against us instead of for us!

You may be fighting your office instead of fighting for your cause if in the past year, you have

  • Had to reschedule a meeting with a community member to deal with a flood in your program space
  • Wrapped up in blankets to stay warm since your furnace couldn’t keep up while typing up your latest appeal letter.
  • Spent time shoveling the walk instead of filing grant reports
  • Lost connection to the internet and your cloud-based file storage because of old wiring

I challenge you to keep track of how much time you spend fighting with your office the next week. I think you’ll be surprised. You can also take it a step further and multiply that by your hourly salary to figure out how much your space costs your organization each week. If time is money, your board may be interested to see how much your “free” or “cheap” office space really costs.

What should you be paying for office space anyway? (Here’s a clue: the answer isn’t $0.) For a quick estimate, do this math: multiply 250 sq. ft. per person times the per square foot lease rate for Class B office space. You can find the average per square foot by searching for real estate market reports in your region (typically made public by major real estate firms like CBRE or Cushman Wakefield). For example, since NCN has two staff in Denver, we should be paying $11,595 per year. (Depending on the local custom, you might be given the square footage cost by the month, so pay attention and adjust accordingly.) You’ll still need to budget for utilities, internet, cleaning, security, etc., and more.

Sharing space allows us to achieve several thousand dollars in cost savings every year – not to mention the time of managing the internet, cleaning the office, keeping the printer up and running, and more! Think you might be up for running a shared space? Check out Virtual Nonprofit Centers Boot Camp today!

Jenny Camhi

The Hive is a coworking and events center where we build a stronger, more connected community. Inspired by Jewish wisdom and our natural and farmy surroundings, we provide a thriving environment for social entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and local community organizations to work, meet, and grow in a unique environment. Our goal is to become a model for community collaboration and to promote creative Jewish expression, both at home in Encinitas, San Diego, California, and around the world. The Hive offers robust monthly professional development programs to service our local nonprofit community from a range of topics including: board management, public speaking, emotional intelligence, strengths based leadership, fundraising, and grant writing to name a few! In addition, The Hive offers arts and cultural programming for creative Jewish expression and exploration. These programs include: theatre performances, meditation workshop, art galleries, and holiday celebrations. Collaboration, connection, and learning all with an ocean view!

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It’s a new year! Time to get into shape! No, I’m not here to harass you on how well your New Year’s resolution towards good health is going, or if you’ve already given up on it. (You can do it!) I’m here to help your nonprofit get its plan about sharing space into shape, so you can present your best self to your community. This year, we're bringing you a different kind of Boot Camp, that's making it super easy and cost effective to learn about nonprofit shared space with Virtual Nonprofit Centers Boot Camp. You can get in shape on your own (in your pjs) over 2 months or with your colleagues (maybe not in your pjs) over 6 months, starting whenever you register. Make this year the year you dive into the idea that you, your board, or community has been thinking about: getting serious about shared space. Here are just a few ways Virtual Nonprofit Centers Boot Camp will get you and your team there:

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The Discovery Center & Pier are a shared campus to five water-based nonprofit organizations in northwest Michigan: • Great Lakes Children’s Museum • Maritime Heritage Alliance • Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay • Inland Seas Education Association • Traverse Area Community Sailing The Traverse Tall Ship Company operates from the campus as an affiliate business partner. The organizations, while co-located on the 15-acre campus, largely operate from their own buildings. Obviously, having access to a deepwater port and more than 11,000 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline make this facility different and uniquely suited for organizations with boats and/or a connection to water. (Only Great Lakes Children’s Museum does not operate a boat.) The owner is a division of the local Rotary Club. It is mainly managed by the member organizations through a separate nonprofit. A plan is being developed for a new nonprofit center that would house most of the partners’ operations under one roof.

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Langs began as a community development project close to 40 years ago. Today, the organization provides a range of social, recreational and health services for all ages. The Community Hub@ 1145 was made possible with federal and municipal funding; a successful capital fundraising campaign and bank financing. The 58,000 square foot facility was designed by Laird Robertson and built by Melloul-Blamey Construction in 2011. The organization is co-located with the William E. Pautler Seniors Centre which operates a frail elderly day program and health promotion programs for seniors. Langs is co-located with 20 community partners and is expanding the facility to include space for additional partners. Some current onsite partners include:

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I was recently traveling for my Summer vacation. When I would come across new people and tell them about my work at The Nonprofit Centers Network, I got the typical mix of responses that I’ve come to expect. They range from, “Wow! Sharing space and resources makes so much sense for the nonprofit sector,” to the confused “That’s nice, but what do you really do?” Then there was a conversation with a woman that caught me by surprise.   From the way she reacted, I knew immediately that she was one of those who “got it” right away. Towards the end of our conversation, she asked me, “What can I do to support this idea? I don’t run a nonprofit organization, and I’m not a philanthropist.”  Here are some of the tips I shared (and some I wish I had thought of at the time!):

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When we work with nonprofits, we typically ask how much space they have currently and how much they’re looking for. Usually, the numbers only go up, but so much about the millennial workforce is changing how we interact with our workspace. When you’re thinking about moving or finding office space, don’t use your current space as the baseline – think outside the box. Let form follow function. What will be done in the space? Office work and data processing? Or will you be running child care programs? Counseling clients? Different uses require different amounts of space.

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Thousands of foundations expend dollars each year on offices for their staff. What would occur if each one envisioned its physical facility as a civic space – a place for itself, its grantees and its community? What would such spaces look like? Fortunately, we find the answer to these questions in the stories of the 17 foundations described in this timely and important publication, Planting a Seed: Foundations Build Community with Shared Workspace. To borrow a phrase from John Elkington, a leader in the field of corporate global responsibility, each featured foundation has embraced a ‘triple bottom line’ approach to the design and operation of their facilities. They are creating economic, community and environmental benefits for a broad array of stakeholders. In the economic realm, building projects become investments, create long-term savings, and can create employment opportunities for residents and support local businesses. In the community realm, foundations showcase the work of their grantees, host conference centers and provide quality office space for nonprofit organizations. In the green or sustainability realm, they model energy efficiency and the use of sustainable materials to create healthy places. In addition, these facilities demonstrate how other foundations can use workspace to vividly embody their values and mission. As reported in a recent Foundation Center publication, More Than Grantmaking: A First Look at Foundations’ Direct Charitable Activities, many foundations are finding new ways to augment their grantmaking to advance their respective missions. In the report, one-quarter of the surveyed independent and family foundations now conduct such direct charitable activities, such as:

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