This week I was fortunate to attend the Social Purpose Real Estate Conference at the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, organized by Social Innovation StL (https://www.sistl.org). The meeting of developers, financiers, consultants, academics and others was devoted to the concept of Colocation for nonprofits -- how facilities can be built, renovated and otherwise created to provide homes for multiple nonprofits. Some of the tremendous benefits of these Colocated facilities include:
*Reduced occupancy costs.
*Shared common facilities, including: conference rooms, kitchens, A/V, workspaces, education and planning spaces, and informal small group gathering places.
*The potential for other shared costs, such as insurance, phone and data.
*A shared sense of purpose and the ability to learn from each other.
*The ability to serve as a hub for a neighborhood or community.
There is no one model for such facilities. Some are on a large scale, such as the Jesse Ball duPont Center in Jacksonville, FL (www.dupontcenter.org), or the proposed Delmar Divine project (delmardivine.com) underway in the former St. Luke's Hospital on Delmar Boulevard in St. Louis. Others are of a smaller scale, and might support just a handful of nonprofits.
Somewhat surprising in some of the research on the matter are the priorities that the participating nonprofits can have regarding colocation. For instance, for many, having a mission commonality is not as important as the ability for each participating nonprofit to feel an important and equal partner in the building and operation. Understanding the goals and objectives of the nonprofits as a project is getting underway is essential to the prospective success of the project.
For good information on Colocation, visit the Nonprofit Centers Network website (www.nonprofitcenters.org).