MEASURING COLLABORATION: The Benefits and Impacts of Nonprofit Centers


Thriving communities, better social services for more people, new civic infrastructure, and successful models for public and private partnerships are just some of the benefits when nonprofit organizations co-locate and share resources. Models of shared facilities, known as nonprofit centers, are as diverse as the many communities that house them. Yet, this first-ever assessment of organizations sharing facilities in the US and Canada found that organizations in shared spaces experience significant improvements in their overall effectiveness and efficiency, which ultimately yield greater impacts for the communities they serve.

Community Need
The NonprofitCenters Network (NCN), a program of Tides, was launched in 2004 to provide education and resources for the creation and operation of quality nonprofit workspaces across North America. NCN provides training, technical assistance, and project consulting for community leaders creating and operating facilities that house multiple organizations, known as nonprofit centers. Increasingly, NCN and nonprofit centers have been asked to provide more data, both quantitative and qualitative, about the benefits associated with co-location of nonprofit organizations as well as the broader impact of these centers. In response to this call for evidence-based research, NCN commissioned the first impact study of shared nonprofit facilities in the US and Canada.

Mt. Auburn Associates led the study and conducted the primary research between August 2010 and May 2011. The research included a survey of the directors of nonprofit centers (146 responses1), a survey of tenants of 16 nonprofit centers (167 responses, a 57% response rate), interviews with center directors in 15 centers, four focus groups of center directors, and, finally, five in-depth case studies. The research focused on “intentional” nonprofit centers, facilities that were established with the explicit mission of providing share spaces and services for nonprofit organizations in the community.

This Executive Summary draws from the study research. The summary provides an overview of some of the major findings of the research, particularly the survey results. The full report provides significantly more qualitative findings about best practices as well as stories of the transformative outcomes that resident organizations and center directors revealed in the interviews completed for the report.

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