You’ve likely heard about co-working spaces for start-ups and small businesses — large spaces that offer shared offices and boardrooms for entrepreneurs who don’t need to sign long-term leases in office towers.
But the co-working model doesn’t just work for those who look to one day make mad stacks. Located just a stone’s throw from the slated-for-demolition Edmonton Coliseum, the Jerry Forbes Centre Foundation houses 23 charities in over 90,000 square feet of combined office and warehouse space.
“What we have is a village of non-profits,” says Holly Pshyk, partnerships and charitable giving facilitator for the Centre.
While operations were impacted by COVID, the Centre reopened in September because some charities that serve pre-school-age children and families in need had to ramp up their operations. And the Christmas Bureau and Santa’s Anonymous, both major tenants, had campaigns that had to get going.
Both of those Christmas charities are examples of non-profits who benefit not only from the office space and amenities, but from the warehouse space that can be accessed 24/7. Many non-profits had depended on volunteers for storage; some would even use the garages of board members. But now, the Centre allows them to have a central base of operation. For a non-profit like Alberta Search and Rescue, which could receive an emergency call at any time, the ability to access its life-saving equipment from a central location is vital.
Executive Director Diana Davis says that, by combining in one central space, charities can save 30 to 60 per cent on facility costs. Each charity pays for its overhead proportionate to how much space they need and its share of operating costs.
But it’s about more than sharing space and physical resources. They can also share expertise and, well, people.
Davis said that there was an example of one charity borrowing an IT person from another, then lending back a volunteer coordinator.
And, smaller organizations can look up to the larger non-profits, how they’ve managed growth. They hear stories of, “yeah, we went through that, this is how we managed.” But the mentorship goes both ways.
“It is true that a smaller organization can learn from a larger organization and vice versa,” she says. “That smaller organization is tenacious, they fight to get what they want and what they need. They don’t give up, ever. I think, sometimes, a large organization gets to be a bigger machine, and they kind of forget about some of the things that they learned when they were smaller.”
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This article appears in the Winter 2021 issue of Edify.