After the Forbes Funds sent an email blast announcing it was creating a website designed to help local nonprofits find affordable office space, three people forwarded the news to Colleen Fedor.
Those helpful people apparently knew that Ms. Fedor has been scouring the city since last summer for about 1,000 square feet of cheap, functional digs for the Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania, a nonprofit for which she serves as executive director.
“We still haven’t found any space, but this might make this [process] a whole lot easier,” she said.
NonProfitSpaces.org, the free site recently launched by the Forbes Funds and the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership, is meant to both give nonprofits access to search-available real estate listings and allow them to market their own surplus space.
For many nonprofits faced with tight budgets and programming cuts following the Great Recession, leasing extra space could help boost revenues, said Peter Licastro, president of Point Bridge Realty Advisors, a Ross brokerage that served as a consultant, along with digital strategy firm Community Elf, in developing the site.
“Real estate challenges are pretty significant when you’re working on a razor-thin budget or losing margins,” Mr. Licastro said. “This is really intended to help nonprofits maximize the value of real estate they own or lease. They may have lost a program and they have empty space to market or sublease that could generate rental income.”
Many nonprofits, he said, are housed in properties that include pools, gymnasiums or event centers “that could generate one or two bookings a month. That’s largely incremental revenue to their bottom line.”
With about 4,000 square feet of open space at its primary facility in Turtle Creek, Human Services Center hopes NonProfitSpaces.org can help it reach its target audience: other agencies that serve low-income or struggling populations.
“We’re a mall of agencies, sort of a throwback to the social work of the old settlement house movement,” said Dave Coplan, executive director of HSC which occupies a 79-year-old former elementary school.
Among the organizations it houses are a senior center, child care provider, alternative school, mental health agency and a small Carnegie Library branch.
Though Mr. Coplan declined to disclose the asking rental rate, he said amenities include free parking, conference rooms, utilities and on-site security.
“It’s an easy tie-in,” he said. “If the website can help us bring in other nonprofits to rent space, it means people will have more access to a greater number of services all in one location.”
The practice of “co-locating” nonprofits to cut costs and more efficiently provide assistance to clients has been happening largely through word of mouth, said Kate Dewey, president of the Forbes Funds. The website, she said, “will really help provide a matching service.”
Many users will likely be searching for space priced from $9 to $15 per square foot, she said. That compares with the going rate of about $26 per square foot for Class A office space Downtown, according to a first-quarter report from commercial brokerage CBRE.
For the Mentoring Partnership, space priced at $10 to $12 per square foot would be ideal, said Ms. Fedor.
Its current lease at One Hope Square in the Hill District expired last week but it is staying there temporarily under a holdover option, she said.
For the last several years, the partnership shared space with another mentoring agency, Strong Women, Strong Girls. That organization recently moved to the South Side “and we could not find a space that fit us both,” said Ms. Fedor.
She hopes to find a location “on the rim” of the city that would include plentiful parking, proximity to public transportation and modest offices with some private meeting rooms.
“Nonprofits have a unique need of minimal expenses for quality space,” she said. “We all like some privacy to get our work done, but we need places our clients can get to easily. It doesn’t sound too hard to find … But those present unique challenges.”
The first of two launch sessions for NonProfitSpaces.org is scheduled today from 10:30 a.m. to noon at UCP/Class, Swissvale. The second session is 10:30 a.m. to noon, next Wednesday, at the Pittsburgh Foundation, Downtown. To reserve a space, contact email@example.com.
Joyce Gannon: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1580.