Unless you’ve founded a nonprofit before, you might need a little help getting things off the ground. Honing your mission, putting together a marketing and fundraising plan, and submitting all the necessary paperwork can be a daunting roadblock.
Furthermore, many new nonprofits struggle to establish credibility without investing heavily in traditional office space. Some have called for the creation of technology co-ops, but why limit sharing to just technology?
For-profit startup company incubators are popping up nationally, and with good reason. Entrepreneurs understand the value of shared costs, collaboration and flexibility when it comes to space to do work in.
So why not duplicate this model for nonprofits?
Here are five reasons why startup and established nonprofits would benefit from an incubator or co-working space:
1) Any time organizations, which are even somewhat similar in nature, are grouped together, sharing of good ideas and best practices happen effortlessly. Being able to ask questions or share ideas as you pass someone grabbing coffee or slipping to the restroom become second nature. You can only imagine what the improvements stemming from such sharing means to the mission work of each organization.
Having multiple organizations together in one place would allow for low cost, regularly scheduled education sessions provided by proven and screened third parties on a regular basis, as well as weekly accountability sessions led by talented leaders.
2) Small to mid-size nonprofits are notorious for having little to no IT expertise in house or even nearby. In an incubator, the entire IT infrastructure is taken care of from Internet access to phone systems to printers and copiers to faxing and scanning. Usually the costs for top-notch service in each of these critical areas are shared among many.
But it doesn’t have to stop with just the basic IT needs. Software for donor management, prospect research or accounting, and services such as mailing, insurance, financial planning, 1099 filing and auditing could be provided to members at a special discounted price due to group purchasing power.
3) Speaking of costs – if the incubator would happen to be a nonprofit itself, there would not be a need for large profits to be made. In fact, individuals, corporations and foundations would be able to support the incubator and as such help numerous charities at one time. Our friends at The Nonprofit Hub follow this model, as will we in our planned corporate expansion.
4) Being housed in a short-term lease arrangement, sharing space, furniture, systems, conference rooms, break areas and most other needed infrastructure items keeps a charity’s budget for those items small and the dollars devoted to mission large.
5) Flexibility reigns supreme if the rate of growth is unknown or if the need for the charity is perhaps temporary in some manner. In both cases, having the flexibility to add or remove staff and space easily and quickly without penalty becomes quite a benefit.
Does such an incubator exist in your city? Is it planned for the future?
Is there a definite need for any and all of the above items in a nonprofit-only incubation environment?
We at Bloomerang would love to hear your thoughts.
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.