Tenant Recruitment and Selection


Online Resource Center

Expressions of Interest

Preliminary commitments from potential tenants, also known as Letters of Intent
Alliance Center for Sustainability Pre-Leasing Survey
The Vancouver Hive’s Letter of Commitment for Nonprofit Center Tenants
Renewal Partner’s Inquiry Response Letter
Langs’ Community Partner Expression of Interest Form
Letter of Intent – Foster Community Foundation
Letter of Intent – Posner Center for International Development
Midland Shared Spaces Letter of Intent to Participate



Jerry Forbes Centre Tenancy Application
NTC at Liberty Station Tenant Application – Nonprofit
Carroll Nonprofit Center Tenant Application


Selection Criteria and Recruitment Strategies

NCN Webinar| Full House: Tenant Recruitment Strategies
NCN WebinarI Happy Tenant, Happy Landlord: Win-Win Leasing Strategies
NCN Webinar I Transitions
Hope Center Management Plan (Contains Partner Selection Criteria for the project)
Center for Social Innovation NYC Tenant Selection Criteria [Link]
Deschutes Children’s Foundation’s Tenant Selection Criteria
Jerry Forbes Centre Tenant Selection Process
Carroll Nonprofit Center Tenant Selection Criteria and Requirements


Getting Off on the Right Foot

Collaboration Expectations Kukui Center
Collaboration Charter – Jerry Forbes Centre
Denver Shared Spaces Partnership Readiness Assessment
Facilities Use Agreement – HNS Life Center
Resident Rules and Regulations – Chicago Literacy Center
Thoreau Center’s Community Charter for New Tenants

Email info@nonprofitcenters.org with any examples you are willing to share.


Topics Below

Proactive Tenant Recruitment Tenant SelectionCriteria for Recruiting New Tenants
Individual Memberships
Managing Office Space for Nonprofit Organizations
Managing the Appearance of Bias
See also Profit or Non-Profit Mixed Centers (Legalities Page)

Proactive Tenant Recruitment

From an Ask-NCN Discussion, 7/9/15

Katie Edwards, Nonprofit Centers Network
We know that many nonprofit centers have waiting lists, but what do you do if you aren’t completely full and prospective tenants aren’t knocking on your door? Has anyone had this problem? What did you do to actively recruit new tenants?
I’m especially interested in anyone who has used incentives to increase your number of tenants. What incentive did you offer? What were the terms? In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently?
Mike Gilbert, The Jones Centers
We are blessed to be debt free and 100% occupied in two of our three buildings. The other is at 85% today, our lowest rate since our initial tenant mix in 2009 when we open the Center for Nonprofits @ St. Mary’s.
Today, we have nearly 20,000 SF of our 205,000 leasable SF vacant.We are searching for the right tenant and do not feel the pressure to backfill the space to make our pro forma attractive. That said, we have reviewed the synergies that exist within the center and have developed a “target list” of who is the right fit in our community (and region) to complement the services offered in our facilities. I do not have a template or scope of work for this exercise, we just scheduled time with each of our community partners, and began to ask the questions about who do you collaborate with, who would you like to see in the center, who would you collaborate with if they were here, etc.Our rents are well below market rate and that is the primary incentive. We manage the public space and meeting rooms as an amenity to the lease and have 9 meeting rooms of varying sizes. We offer some TI allowance depending on term of lease, size and condition of space, etc.We would also be interested in learning of specific incentives both for leasing and retention.
Whitney Roux, NTC Foundation
At NTC Arts & Culture district we have a Tenant Referral Program. If a current tenant refers us a new tenant who signs a 2+ year lease we give them the new tenants first month’s rent. We find this builds cohesion and people refer other groups who support their business being successful. In the past we have had an artist in a small studio refer an art school- the check he received paid his rent for the next year.We also use multiple advertising opportunities including craigslist, co-star and social media to promote our available spaces. If you have a lot of space to fill it could be beneficial to work with a real estate broker. In the past we had a leasing specialist on staff, but after becoming 100% leased we moved to a model where we now work with an outside broker who can focus on that so staff can focus on programming.
Karen Maciorowski, The CT Nonprofit Center
We utilized a variety of strategies to recruit nonprofits to our space. We have officially been open 1 year this July and have nearly reached capacity. We have 20 nonprofit tenants about 160 employees and 3 vacant spaces. We have 3 for-profit organizations that have not yet left (there were over 40 when we started that have all vacated). They take up about 20,000 square feet and are here for another 3-5 years so we will have space available at that time. Right now we have about 5,000 square feet left.Strategies were informal:
1. Every time a new tenant joined us we did a press release2. The local community foundation has quarterly events for nonprofits – we speak at them and leave a flyer3. We have an email and mail database of 8,000 or about 4,000 nonprofits – we mail/email them regularly and if they are interested they fill out a short survey (2 mins) and we contact them4. We had a block party in May – all of our tenants had display tables in the courtyard and we invited the neighborhood, local businesses, elected officials, residents, nonprofits, etc. and had an open house and Center presentation – from that we received a lot of interest in both renting meeting space and renting space. About 1/3rd of our tenants came to us because they used our meeting space and loved it and wanted to stay.5. Word of mouth by tenants brought in another 1/3rd of the tenants.SO far the informal touch has worked for us. We have marketing collateral and are constantly promoting, but once the large space becomes available, we will need to be more formal about the process.

Hope it helps – see our Center page and our Facebook page for pictures http://www.ctnonprofits.org/about/CTNonprofitCenter https://www.facebook.com/CTNonprofits

Tenant Selection

From an Ask-NCN Discussion – 5/22/2014

Brandi Stanley, Posner Center
I’m wondering if any of you have developed a tenant selection criteria or rubric of any sort that helps you determine tenants in your building (I’m assuming those that are particularly centered around a specific mission/theme)?If so, we would love to see any that you’d be willing to share, as we’re starting discussions around whether to do this, and how to do it well.
Russell Johnson, Community Partners Center for Health and Human Services
We do not have a tenant selection criteria. From a purely business perspective of ensuring the financial solvency and viability of your building, I would suggest you consider guidelines or priorities for tenants rather than any published policy. These can be tailored around messaging to prospective tenants. For our building, we seek tenants that have a primary mission of health and/or human services.
Shelby Fox, Knight Nonprofit Center
Our board votes but we do not have a common mission “theme” other than being a nonprofit however below is a list of our requirements that the board reviews.REQUIREMENTS
In order to join the Knight Nonprofit Center we will need the following information:
1. 501c3 Letter (we do sometimes allow in with proof of application or other 501c status)
2. Letter of Good Standing from Secretary of State
3. Financial Statement – where do funds come from
4. Certificate of Insurance – Insurance requirements below as reads in lease
5. Prospectus; Information about nonprofit (website/brochure)
6. Mission Statement
7. How space will be utilized and traffic flow estimate/no direct services. Insurance. Tenant will at all times during the term of this Lease maintain general comprehensive public liability insurance against claims for bodily injury, death, or property damage occurring on, in, or about the Premises, such insurance to afford protection of not less than One Million Dollars ($1,000,000) with respect to bodily injury or death to all persons in any one accident, and not less than One Million Dollars ($1,000,000) with respect to property damage in any one occurrence, or such other amounts in excess of the amounts set forth above as Landlord shall reasonably request. Such insurance shall be primary as to all claims arising out, related to or in any way connected with Tenant’s lease or use of the Premises. Such insurance shall be written by companies of recognized financial standing which are well rated by a national rating agency and are legally qualified to issue such insurance in the State of Mississippi, and such insurance shall name as an additional insured thereunder, Landlord, or its assigns, and Tenant. Such insurance may be obtained by Tenant by endorsement on its blanket insurance policies, provided that such blanket policies satisfy the requirements specified herein. Landlord shall not be required to prosecute any claim against any insurer or to contest any settlement proposed by any insurer, provided that Tenant may, at its cost and expense, prosecute any such claim or contest any such settlement, and in such event Tenant may bring any such prosecution or contest in the name of Landlord, Tenant, or both, and Landlord shall cooperate with Tenant and will join therein at Tenant’s written request upon receipt by Landlord of an indemnity from Tenant against all costs, liabilities, and expenses in connection with such cooperation, prosecution, or contest.
Bruce DeMartini, Thoreau Center for Sustainability
Thoreau Center’s requirements mimic Knight Nonprofit Center’s, but we ask for $2,000,000 for insurance coverage to include worker’s comp.
Eli Malinsky, Centre for Social Innovation
Our selection criteria is is quite different in tone and emphasis…attached…
Center for Social Innovation NYC Tenant Selection Criteria [Link]
Kim McNamer, Deschutes Children’s Foundation
Deschutes Children’s Foundation’s list of requirements is attached. It is a bit more detailed considering we do not charge rent. We request a proposal letter from interested nonprofits and then our Facilities and Program Committee reviews and proposes groups to the board for a vote.
Deschutes Children’s Foundation’s Tenant Selection Criteria
Shelly Hamilton, MarinSpace
Great replies so far. Just wanted to add in a few pragmatic items beyond the mission & collaboration criteria:

  • We ask for bank statements and last 990 to confirm financial ability to be a stable tenant
  • Tenant will need to have, or be able & willing to apply for (and receive within 3 years of occupancy) an Organizational Clearance Certificate (OCC) from the California State Board of Equalization (BOE) in order for us to claim the property tax deduction on their space (which is part of the reason we’re able to offer low rents). The process of getting an OCC# is ridiculously onerous and basically repeats the entire IRS process (submitting Bylaws, Articles of Inc., forms etc.) and the BOE has its own set of criteria as to what qualifies as an exempt use of a facility (which sometimes does not match the IRS qualifications – we’ve had nonprofits with many years of IRS standing be denied by the BOE! Go figure). We have to do A LOT of hand holding with new tenants to get them through this process.
  • Insurance minimum and additional insured certificates

From a similar Ask-NCN Discussion 1/14/2013:

Criteria for recruiting new tenants

Mary Jo Shircliffe, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky has recently purchased a 28,800 sf. building in Louisville, Kentucky. The building will house Foundation offices and a conference facility. The Foundation is an endowed public charity that makes grants and other programmatic investments for health in Kentucky.We seek to identify organizations working for health in Kentucky to take up tenancy in the space…to collaborate and share in the use of common areas and the conference facility. We want organizations under one roof that are aligned with the Foundation’s mission and “play well with others”. Would anyone like to share their experience, criteria or policy on bringing in new tenants who best fit the goals of your center?
Judy Link, Kukui Children’s Center
The main issue is buy in and prevention.
Before we accepted anyone, I met with the ED and board president and went over the expectations.
For a year before we opened, we help planning meetings with all the tenant ED’s and got their input on policies.
The attached is part of the lease and was written collaboratively.I had been working here long enough that I didn’t consider ED’s that I thought would be “trouble” in fact withdrew one offer because of a “bad” attitude.
Before we opened we sponsored an off site day long facilitated retreat for everyone who would be working in the building.
After we opened, we have quarterly tenant pot lucks for everyone in the building, on a rotating basis. We also have quarterly tenant meetings with the ED’s with agency updates are reports on collaboration as part of the agenda.
You might want to look at our website www.kukuicenter.org. Hope this helps.Attachment: Collaboration Expectations Kukui Center
Jonathan Spack, Third Sector New England
Excellent query, Mary Jo. At Third Sector New England we were faced with exactly the same issue when we opened our 110,000 sq. ft. NonProfit Center here in Boston in 2004. We also have a broad mission, focused on social change. And like your foundation, we have other programs besides the NonProfit Center. In an effort to be consistent in our decisions about tenants, we did two things:First, we created a diverse committee of board members and staff to vet potential tenants and to take up other policy issues relating to the Center. Second, we did our best to come up with a definition of social change to guide the committee members and ultimately the board of directors. It was important to us to be fairly strict about this because the only reason we bought and developed the NonProfit Center was to further our social justice mission. Our building is full now but in the first few years, even when we had quite a bit of vacant space, we said No to some sizable and very respectable potential tenants because they didn’t meet our social change criteria. It was scary but I’m glad we held firm. It hasn’t been a perfect system – we didn’t always have consensus on our committee – but at least it was a defensible system.Based on your message, it seems to me that if you try to base your tenant decisions on criteria as vague as “organizations … that are aligned with the Foundation’s mission and play well with others” you may run into problems because virtually every group that wants to be there will argue that they meet those standards. So I suggest you spend some time drilling down on those criteria with a goal of devising a more specific set of desired organizational characteristics that matches up as closely as possible with the kinds of groups you want to share the space and that you put in place a rational and transparent system for making those decisions. Good luck!
Debbie Walker, Jerry Forbes Center for Community Spirit
The Jerry Forbes Centre has a Tenant Selection committee which reports to our Centre Policy and Management Committee. It has taken us over 2 years to set this up as our Centre is themed on ‘volunteerism’ and sustainability (ability to pay). We needed to get it right. We find that meeting the Executive Director and a board member of tenant prospects helps during an interview to determine if they will fit the culture of the Centre even if it all looks good on paper.The tenant team uses the process above and based on our Tenant Policy (page 1 of the Application) we are able to say yes and no and final recommendations are sent to the Board of Directors. *(We are NOT even open yet but have made decisions and it is great to have specifics ready as saying ‘No’ can become political and must be done correctly.) We are also fortunate to have a lot of interest.Hope this helps, proceed to http://jerryforbescentre.ca/join-the-spirit-tenants to see our online processAttachment: Tenant Selection Process
Attachment: Jerry Forbes Center Tenancy Application

Individual Memberships

From an Ask-NCN Discussion 7/15/15

Alison Hanold, Chicago Literacy Alliance
Hello all! We’re a non-profit shared workspace in Chicago focused specifically on literacy. We’ve received a number of requests for individual memberships from people whose personal work is relevant to our mission, but they are only working as an individual and not as a part of a broader non-profit. I’m curious if anyone out there has tackled this issue, and how you’ve dealt with it.Specifically, if you have created individual memberships, what is your pricing compared to non-profit memberships?
Pam Mauk, Together Center
I am sure there are shared space organizations that would have more to say, possibly positive, but as a one stop center focused on human services, we find that limiting tenants to 501(c)(3) organizations means that 1) someone is doing some vetting of them, such as the state, 2) someone is supervising their work, such as a Board of Directors, 3) they likely have appropriate insurance, and 4) there is some assurance that what they tell others about their credentials is likely to be true, and we can see mission and marketing materials. There are great volunteers and solo practitioners that would no doubt be an asset in many arenas, but this is our thinking when we consider having a volunteer provide a service on campus.
China Brotsky
Many individual co-working spaces offer individual as well as organizational space licenses. I’m not sure if that is what you’re referring to my the Impact Hub around the country has their pricing structure on their website

Managing Office Space for Nonprofit Organizations

Ted Dang, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation
It was interesting to hear all the comments from various members of the Nonprofit Centers Network. I’d like to add a little different perspective having spent over 42 years in the commercial real estate business with experience in office leasing, development, non profit housing and community development.The underlying foundation of a successful center for non profit organizations is economic viability. Long term sustainability for a building owner requires income to exceed operating expenses and cost of funds. Excess income can provide the building ownership with the ability to expand operations, improve services, or reduce rent to existing tenants depending on the ownership’s mission.If the ownership is a non profit organization with additional revenue sources, they can be more lenient with sister agencies who rent their space. Flexible lease terms, greater patience with late payments, even program or operational improvement suggestions would be welcome from fellow non profits as everyone is working for the benefit of the greater community. Non profit tenants are usually committed to longer term occupancies knowing that they have a flexible and understanding landlord.The optimum rent charged to a non profit tenant may not be the highest rate established by the market. Certainly the rent should reflect rates available in alternative comparable spaces, but the unique funding sources for a non profit could be structured to benefit both landlord and tenant. For example, many non profits receive funding for operations that include a set budget for space. Their annual funding is designed to cover those costs and their funders (in many cases, different government agencies) have no problem continuing to fund these annual budgets as long as the programs meet their goals. However, if a non profit entity has already received substantial outside subsidies that allows for reduced rents to qualified tenants, should the non profit tenant pay less than what they have already budgeted?Depending on the individual circumstances, it may be possible to charge the non profit tenant the full budgeted market rent. The non profit landlord could credit any “surplus” towards the future in the event the tenant’s financial situation changes.Occupancy in non profit centers should not be limited to non profit tenants. Non profit organizations do a lot of business with for profit companies. Many of these companies pay market rent in other buildings. Non profit building owners should not hesitate to persuade these market rate tenants to move into their buildings if they want to continue other business relationships.Non profit owners should also consider tenanting their buildings with a special focus. The objective is to create a center that would attract organizations that provide different services but serve a similar constituency. A social service center catering to a special ethnic community, a health center offering conventional and holistic treatments, a youth center with organizations providing tutoring, job training, and/or recreation are all models that can stimulate symbiotic relationships.

Subdividing office space into smaller executive offices or even individual desk spaces has always been an option to attract smaller tenants in a soft market. The key to filling these spaces is to provide services that would add value for the tenant. Having a concierge, a fully furnished office, high speed internet, state of the art phone system, executive conference rooms, and the latest multi media equipment are all amenities that could be factored into rental rates as these spaces cater to a specialized tenant market.

There is no magic formula that can guarantee that a non profit center will be successful as there are so many variables in the process of development and management. It used to be said that the secret to a successful real estate project is “location, location,location”. Today, I would say it’s more likely to be “location, timing, and financing”. Focusing on these factors is key to providing the necessary leadership and guidance.

The Board of Directors plays the primary role in carrying out the mission. It is absolutely essential that the Board be comprised of community minded members who are sensitive to the community needs and are connected with the organization’s constituents. However, equally important is including business members who are familiar with the financial, legal, and operational aspects of the business world. Any gap in expertise should be filled by recruiting and retaining experts with the appropriate skills and experience. Frequently, the merging of a variety of community and business minds yield creative ideas that allow for amazing accomplishments.

Managing the Appearance of Bias

From Ask-NCN 3/10/17

Community Foundation of Southern Arizona
I am with the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona. This is a community foundation and gives grants to many different types of nonprofit. We are currently setting up a nonprofit center. Our question is how does a community foundation set up tenants without showing any bias? Any ideas on the specific criteria other community foundations have used to select tenants and nonprofit members (a collaborative work space) for their nonprofit organizations.
Mike Gilbert, The Jones Trust
Do you anticipate demand that exceeds available space and are you building out the tenant space to suit or utilizing existing space? We have an application process and like to promote a climate of collaboration. Selection criteria would include mission, financial strength, success in delivering outcomes, past collaboration projects, level of community support, space needs. Every tenant in our building is a grantee. They are a grantee in the difference in the rent we charge and market rate rent. The concept of charging below market rent is a win-win for both organizations and it helps build a group of organizations vested in the collaborative environment that we seek.
We are exploring ways to incentivize collaboration among tenants, so starting from scratch it is important to establish synergy and opportunity for natural collaboration by locating organizations near each other for efficiency. We have dedicated incubator spaces that are small offices with access to the shared space for the smaller and start up organizations.
Good luck on working out your procedure and process. As long as you define your process and follow it, you will succeed.

Nada Zohdy, OpenGov Hub

Here at the OpenGov Hub, we are one of the themed centers, which means the one fundamental requirement we have for membership is that organizations are generally doing work related to our theme of open government.

But over time as we’ve seen more demand we’ve also added a few questions to our online application, specifically which ask how the applicant would contribute to (not just take/benefit from) collaboration in the community. I think its important to set specific membership eligibility criteria up front that align with your mission and then just be consistent about following those to avoid any perceptions of bias.

Alan Ziter, The NTC Foundation
The NTC Foundation is responsible for the renovation and operation of the 26-building ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station in San Diego now home to 82 arts and culture organizations and artists. We have long had a tenant application process whereby the tenant completes a Program Plan for their use of space, and provides financial information to confirm they can carry out the terms of the lease. The application is reviewed by staff, then sent to our Board’s Program Committee. And all applications approved by the Program Committee then go to the board the next week for approval. It’s rare that any one is declined (though it has happened), but overall the process allows us to have an answer as to why one group was approved and another was not. (Could be programming, could be financial, could be it doesn’t conform to land use restrictions or our mission. Attached is a sample application. Hope this helps.

Last updated byNonprofit Centers Network