nonprofit-office-space

How To Set Up Your Nonprofit Office Space on a Tight Budget

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Léa

Working for a nonprofit, your office space has to be affordable to direct as much funding as possible toward your mission. Like HR policies, workspace is necessary for any nonprofit to operate. To help you find and set up an office, we put together this guide. It explains:

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Where and How To Find Nonprofit Office Space

Choosing office space is an important decision. Many times, employee turnover in nonprofit organizations is high because the office provides subpar working conditions. The physical location of your organization also directly correlates to how effective you are in your mission, as you want to be close to the community you serve. 

With the right amount of research and determination, you can find the perfect space for your team. Below, we have some information to help you start this process.

nonprofit-office-space-where-and-howSam has started his search for an office space!

Rental Listings

There are many listing services that you can use to rent office space. A lot of them have a booking process that is similar to Airbnb. Here are some examples of places where you can find lease listings in your area:

  • Compass: Use this website to find coworking spaces.

  • Craigslist: This resource shows available offices for rent. It offers good deals because there is no agency to act as an intermediary.

  • PivotDesk: Use this listing service to find shared and private rental spaces.

  • ShareDesk: This is a subscription-based service for finding any type of space you need.

One final option is to reach out to a local realtor who has a history of working with nonprofits. You can tell them your must-have amenities, such as parking spots and covered utilities. From there, they can put together a list of several such leases that match your criteria. Depending on the agent you use, this might not cost you anything. Oftentimes, they make money because property owners pay them to list and advertise their properties.

Connections

Connections build nonprofits. A successful nonprofit is one that has the ability to connect and form a collaboration with individuals, companies, and others that all believe in the same altruistic values and goals. Use these relationships to find office space for your organization.

The first obvious place to start is with other charitable organizations in your community that have a similar mission statement to yours. If you are not already friendly with a given organization, a call or email cannot hurt. Maybe the other nonprofit is also looking and is interested in working together to find a joint office space that cuts down on costs for both of you. Or, they may already have a building and want to rent out any excess space to you as a tenant.

Another potential pool of connections exists within your donor network. If you are a rapidly growing nonprofit with a robust donor network, reach out to them using your email newsletters and social media accounts to see if they have any leads or tips on office space. Maybe one of them owns property. Or, maybe they are real estate agents themselves. You never know!

Also, remember to look outside of your donor network and into other networks in your life. Take the same approach you would with your donors when you contact your:

  • Friends

  • Family members

  • Members

  • Volunteers

  • Employees

  • Neighbors

Associations

Some localities have nonprofit assistance associations that can help you with finding office space and completing other tasks. You can see if your area has one by visiting the Council of Foundations and using the search tool. 

On a state or national scale, check out the National Council of Nonprofits (NCN). The NCN is an association that believes all nonprofits deserve access to a quality workspace. From shared workspaces to commercial leases, it has more than 400 rentable nonprofit center facilities across North America. Just contact your state association for a referral.

Pro Tip: If you are thinking about buying instead of renting, check with your local Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). CDFIs help nonprofits secure loans for facilities.

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How To Get Cheap Equipment and Furniture for Your Nonprofit Space

Whether you have chosen to rent or buy a space, you now have to furnish it. As with any business, you want to keep operating expenses like these low. With a little planning and ingenuity, you can find some amazing deals on equipment and furniture!

nonprofit-office-space-how-to-getInexpensive equipment gets two thumbs up from Oliver!

Get Donations From Supporters

You are a nonprofit. The simplest and most logical way to get office equipment is to ask for donations from your supporters. Maybe they have an old phone system that your nonprofit organization can use. Or, maybe they can support your data-driven nonprofit with computers, monitors, printers, and keyboards. Make a list of all of your necessities, and email it to your stakeholders. You can even call your most dedicated supporters and ask that they keep your office space needs in mind if they are looking to make a donation soon.

These types of contributions are called "in-kind donations." An in-kind donation is a non-monetary donation. In-kind donations are a tax write-off for the donor, so make sure to write them a receipt. 

You also need to record all of these donations at their fair market value as revenue on your statement of activities. If the value of the donation is under $1,000, any competent individual can assess the item. If the value of the donation is over $1,000, consult a professional appraisal service

Pro Tip: Have detailed guidelines about in-kind donations so that you do not accept any goods that you cannot use. It can be difficult to decline a donation from someone when they offer it so thoughtfully and willingly, so having these rules to refer back to can help.

Go To Thrift Stores

If you are a newer nonprofit organization, you may not have many donors to call on. In which case, an alternative is to check thrift stores for donated items that you can purchase for a fraction of their original price. You can try national chains, such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill, or you can go to local stores.

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Can I Run My Nonprofit From Home?

The short answer is: yes, you can run your nonprofit from your own home. However, before you remodel your home office, you need to consider the potential obstacles and drawbacks. For one, your home has many distractions that a dedicated office space does not. For example, you cannot conduct a productive board meeting with screaming kids or barking dogs in the background.

Also make sure that you are well-versed on the state and city laws that concern running a business from your home. Check with your homeowners association as well. If you meet face to face with clients frequently, this increased car or foot traffic on your street may cause issues with other residents.

Additionally, consider that your nonprofit needs both a physical address and a mailing address. You can always pay for a PO box to cover mailing, but your physical address is going to be public knowledge. Maybe you are not comfortable with your home address being available to any stranger who searches your organization.

nonprofit-office-space-can-i-runThea is excited to hear she can run her nonprofit from home!

One final note about working from home: just because you are starting out does not mean that you do not have to consider human resources. As you start to grow, one of the first employees you need to hire is an HR professional. Even if you are going to let everyone work from home, you still need someone who knows how to staff a nonprofit organization in a way that encourages employee retention in your nonprofit organization.

To learn more about what HR and management could look like for your organization, start by researching:

  • HR training for nonprofits

  • HR services for nonprofits

  • Paid HR software for nonprofits

  • Free HR software for nonprofits

  • Manager prioritization for nonprofits

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Final Thoughts

Most nonprofits operate on extremely tight annual budgets, so it can be a challenge to find the right space for them to carry out their mission. Whether that space is your home, a rented floor, or a coworking building, with enough research and due diligence, you can find the right place to set up shop while keeping operating expenses low!

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FAQ

💡How can my nonprofit find office space?

Your nonprofit can find office space through rental listings, community connections, and nonprofit assistance associations. Find out more. 

🔑 How can my nonprofit get cheap office furniture?

You nonprofit can get cheap — or free — office furniture through in-kind donations or thrift stores. Find out more. 

📝 Can I run my nonprofit from home?

Yes. You can run your nonprofit from your home, but you need to be aware of all of the state, city, and HOA regulations on it. Find out more.

 

Organization & HR
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Léa
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