Love Your Non-Profit Space

Most non-profit employees are drawn to their organization’s mission, along with friendly colleagues and the general feeling that you are changing your community for the better. But every person who has spent enough time in the non-profit sector can also remember the gloomy cubicles, dreary conference tables, and fluorescent lighting that dims an otherwise sunny outlook. This past year, we partnered with the Forbes Fund to see how our positivity powered peers could improve their work spaces, and in turn, create an even greater impact in the world. After nine months of consultations with 11 organizations, we’ve collected several key takeaways to get you loving your space too.

Mission matters, but it’s not just found in your projects and programs. The space where you work speaks equally to your values, and the construction and aesthetics of your office can illustrate your effectiveness as an organization. To understand the impact of quality space, imagine if GBA’s office weren’t environmentally friendly. We surely wouldn’t be entrusted to aid in the building plans and renovations of countless Pittsburgh buildings.

In many ways, employees are the most fundamental stakeholders, and serve as a micro testing ground for programmatic impact. One Love Your Space participant focused on helping others achieve a better quality of life, yet their employees were working in low quality office conditions. Besides serving as an ironic dose of demotivation, potential funders might question the organization’s commitment to healthy people. The challenge, or the opportunity, is to use the space you have as an extension of your mission, no matter what that mission may be.

Most nonprofits don’t have the luxury to muse about whether they like their workspaces or not. But reconsidering the functionality and the comfort of the space has two benefits. First, implementing more sustainable features like new appliances or air sealing or even reusable utensils can result in a lot of money saved. That is, money that can be put back into the mission.

Second, your workspace probably contributes more to employee retention than you think. High turnover in nonprofits is usually due to insufficient pay, burnout, and limited upward mobility. While raising salaries or providing more advancement opportunities may not be possible, providing a better environment to work in is. Employees that are happier and healthier – both mentally and physically – will in turn be more productive.

We began our own Love Your Space program at GBA a year ago, and with simple additions like an office bike and community umbrellas, we’ve pinpointed some of the most persnickety problems in the office. Our reusable napkins are also pretty swanky.

Giving employees a say in their work habitat also indicates the value of employee’s input within organizational administration. Even something as simple as a suggestion basket illustrates an openness to feedback and a commitment to employee comfort.

After GBA’s individual visits to each organization, it was evident that each nonprofit has vastly different spatial and financial situations. Pair those with the variety of missions and cultures, and there is no cookie-cutter solution to improving the workspace. That is where the creativity comes in. Ask employees and other stakeholders for engagement. Don’t be afraid of trial and error. You may end up with something brilliant.

If you would like to collaborate with GBA to create a more loveable workspace, contact Leslie Montgomery at

The Love Your Space Cohort wouldn’t have been possible without:

Participating Organizations: Auberle, Carnegie Library of Homestead, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Community Living & Support Services (CLASS), Global Links, Macedonia Family & Community Enrichment Center, Neighborhood Legal Services Association, Quantum Theatre, SLB Radio Productions, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum Trust, Three Rivers Rowing Association

Presenters: Angelica Ciranni, GBA; Aurora Sharrard, GBA; Christine Haas, The Midwife Center for Birth and Women’s Health; Gary Diley, Erie Insurance; Gary Moshier, Moshier Studio; Guy McUmber, GBA; Jenni Cooper, Bridgeway Capital; Katherine Hart, Hart Consulting; Pete Jefferson, Forte Building Science; Quinn Zeagler, GBA; Tom Hardy, Palo Alto Partners

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