Well Designed Space Supports Non Profit Mission

A well designed work environment is often a key resource in recruitment, retention and productivity in the corporate community. Corporate branding and culture inform the work environment more than ever, and in Cincinnati, known worldwide as a Branding powerhouse of talent, that comes as little surprise. This phenomenon is no less present and critical in the not-for-profit world. GBBN has had the opportunity to work with many not-for-profit organizations, designing buildings and work environments that don’t just support their functional needs, but serve to expand and promote their Mission and their Brand – both internally and externally.

Almost all not-for-profits prioritize those they serve over their own staff and work environment. Rare access to resources drives the necessity to spend them with great respect for the future. However, settling for an environment where equipment and finishes need to be constantly replaced, leads to more expense and can be a distraction from the Mission. Alternatively, a decision about the work environment that takes into account a Life-Cycle assessment to invest in more efficient systems, will pay dividends for years to come. Moreover, what many don’t know is there are resources available through state and federal tax credits to enable non profit organizations to fund capital expenditures and thus invest in their infrastructure and staff satisfaction, but not distract from the mission and vision of their organization.

The United Way of Greater Cincinnati underwent a major renovation for which GBBN not only was the designer, but also created the financial strategy using governmental tax credits to fund the work. It was important that the funding for this project not compromise UWGC’s annual campaign, which is recognized as one the top in the nation. The New Markets Tax Credits utilized as catalytic funding for low-income neighborhoods, allowed UWGC to save almost 30% of the construction costs, and implement a less aggressive capital campaign from an already-completed building. The renovation also allowed the United Way to reduce their energy consumption by over 60% – savings that will continue to pay dividends.

On a much smaller scale, Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired is completing a café renovation, modeled on a ‘corporate café’ solution. GBBN provided a conceptual study and budget that became a compelling collateral piece for grant and funding requests, ultimately bringing additional donor funds to the institution. This project creates a flexible and inviting space that becomes far more valuable than the traditional ‘lunch room’ that it replaces, offering respite and a collaborative meeting space for staff and clients that will now be active all day long. In both cases, the resources used for these projects were specifically targeted – funds that would not have been otherwise available for operational budgets, and therefore did not distract from their Mission.

One of the most important investments to be made by any company is in the people who work there. Statistics demonstrate that the costs of high staff turnover and training, and difficulty in recruiting the best available talent, are a constant threat to not-for-profits. Therefore it pays to invest in these facilities. At the United Way, the renovation of their Reading Road Headquarters has resulted in higher satisfaction with the work environment, and has aided in recruitment. The staff departments themselves are better connected and working more collaboratively than ever before, which improves the organization’s efficiency. The new Convening Center has increased traffic and use of the building, making the institution more accessible and visible to the community.

The good news is there are now ways to fund these projects while not distracting from the overall mission of the organization. With those kinds of results, Staff, Board and Volunteers, and the Community can all see the benefit.