Charity Infrastructure Study – Phase 3

On Feb 9th leaders from six different sectors came together for a HeroWork forum on the renewal of charitable infrastructure. Represented were real estate, funders & donors, non-profits, construction, financial, and governments. Despite cold weather and snow, they arrived at the Rainbow Kitchen, the site of HeroWork’s 2016 Radical Renovation.

This forum was Phase 3 of a study we’ve been quietly conducting in the background of our Radical Renovations.

You see, buildings don’t exist in isolation. They exist within a “system” of societal stakeholders, each connected to charity buildings in a specific way. Each of these leaders represented part of a sector, which is why HeroWork asked them to lend their voice and experience to the issue.

The Background

HeroWork’s experience has shown us that many charity buildings are in need of repairs or upgrades.  We’ve seen the evidence across the non-profit sector.

However, our evidence has been anecdotal. No comprehensive data existed on the state of non-profit buildings—not in the Greater Victoria area nor anywhere else in Canada. Moreover, no study has been done on the challenges faced by charities in relation to their infrastructure, nor has a full system collaboration been attempted.

In order for HeroWork to serve other charities better, we embarked on a three phase study.

HeroWork’s 3 Phase Study

Conclusions from our Study: Phase 1 & 2

Charities need better infrastructure. Our comprehensive survey completed by 87 non-profits showed that a wide range of charities are operating in poorly designed and maintained facilities and that could be more efficient, effective and sustainable with a solid infrastructure renewal plan.

Collaboration is key. Organizations are supportive of collaboration, improved networking and shared learning. The sector is eager to find more ways to collaborate on infrastructure, including multi-use space and common areas for specific activities or services.

Clarity of Vision and mandate is essential. This is essential for organizations to establish service priorities from which to build their infrastructure plans. Infrastructure changes follow impacts which flows from the vision and mandate.  

Professional development is needed. There is clearly a need for information and professional development resources on infrastructure planning. 

HeroWork’s Needs Assessment Survey 2017

Logic Behind Phase 3 of Our Study

From Phase 1 of our study we know that many charities need infrastructure improvements and expansions. When considering changes to their buildings and spaces, charities have a range of options: 

  • Renovate and/or expand their current building. (This is what HeroWork does.)
  • Sell their current building and purchase a different one. 
  • Re-development their current property, building a purpose built building on their existing land.
  • Purchase or lease a building for the first time. 

To pursue any of these options a charity must engage a wide range of system stakeholders, who each can exert significant influence. However, from Phase 2 of our study we know charities face several key challenges in this regard: 

  • A lack of capacity to engage internal stakeholders and processes in order to be prepared. 
  • A lack of capacity and knowledge regarding best practices on how to engage elements of the system, such as the financial sector, governments, funders, construction professionals, etc.
  • Stakeholders from the various elements of the system often appear unaware (or are only  peripherally aware) of the societal impact of diminished charity buildings.

To address these challenges, Calliope Learning designed an elegant process that gave the leaders from these 6 different sectors an opportunity to lend their voice on:

  • Best practices for how charities should engage system stakeholders.
  • Best practices for how charities can work with multiple stakeholders at once.
  • How the different system stakeholders interrelate with each other.
  • How system stakeholders can be a bigger part of the solution.

Outcomes of Full Study

HeroWork will produce a report that will be distributed to all charities in the CRD and be freely available to everyone through the HeroWork website.

The goals with this study are:

  • Outline data that indicates the condition of charity buildings in the CRD.
  • Outline the opportunities and challenges faced by charities in relation to their infrastructure.
  • Distill the best internal practices (board engagement, communications, strategic planning, etc.) a charity should employ to be ready to engage system stakeholders. 
  • Distill best practices on how to engage and work with various system stakeholders.

Thanks to All the Participants

Thanks to the Study’s Funders!