Insights from Maine Organizations on Sharing Space

Posted By: Molly O'Connell Strategic Alliances, Nonprofit News + Trends,

Many nonprofits have been evaluating their needs and rethinking opportunities for their workspaces given shifts in work schedules and arrangements, rental markets, and demand for services.

In Spring 2023, Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Maine Association of Nonprofits, Maine Initiatives, and Maine Philanthropy Center conducted a pilot survey of nonprofits and funders to better understand what organizations have learned so far about the benefits and challenges of sharing workspace, as well as preferences and priorities when assessing opportunities. 

A full summary of responses was shared with the approximately 100 participating organizations, and there are interesting themes for the entire nonprofit community in the data that we are sharing below.

Benefits + Challenges

Organizations with experience sharing workspace were asked what has worked well and what challenges they uncovered. Common benefits included cost savings, relationship-building, and collaboration, while challenges that were frequently mentioned included issues with privacy, facility maintenance, and communication.

Red heart-shaped with word cloud overlay. Words include: shared resources, cost savings; collaboration; meeting spaces; technology; community; better space; positive energy; accessibility; meeting spaces; program development; shared HR; belonging; visibility; connection; 24/7 access; economical; networking; solidarity; storage; kitchen; informal interactions; relationship building; incubation; share staff; shared reception; increased community access; video conferencing; social benefits; internet; shared marketing; conference room. llenges-wordcloud Blue circle with white exclamation point in middle with word cloud overlay. Words include: noice; communication; booking spaces; privacy; zoom calls; public meetings; cleanliness; space available; social distancing; technical support; finances; consistency; conflict, distractions, COVID precautions; culture misalignment; location; scheduling; relationships; responsibilities; consistency; confidentiality; space management; number of people.

When asked for their top three reasons for considering shared space moving forward, similar themes arose - sharing space was more affordable, offered opportunity for a broader sharing of resources, and helped to facilitate collaboration. 

Stacked bar chart showing top three reasons to share a space, ranked by respondents’ average overall response. First to last: more affordable; share resources; increase collaboration; increase visibility/accessibility; flexible work environment; increase impact of programs; more space for nonprofits; improve access to funders.


The majority of responding organizations were looking for dedicated/private workspaces where they could work along or meet with partners, as opposed to spaces for serving the public. 

Packed circle chart showing how people want to use a space. The circles are scaled in size by percent of respondents interested. First to last: meet with partners and collaborators - 82%; have a dedicated office - 72%; have private work space - 66%; serve the public - 31%; other - 17%.

About a third wanted access roughly full-time, while another third anticipated needing a space 2-4 days a week.

Pie chart showing how frequently organizations want to use shared space. Responses include: 7 days a week - 12%; 5 days a week - 31%; 2-4 days a week - 37%; 2-4 days a month - 8%; 1 day or less a month - 5%.

Services + Features

Survey takers were asked what kinds of services they would hope to share with workspace partners, and what features were most important to them in a space. Topping these lists were accessibility, parking, and dedicated office spaces with the opportunity to share technology and internet services. 

Stacked bar chart showing important services in a shared space, ranked by respondents’ average overall response. First to last: internet service; shared photocopier; shared technology; security system; phone service; receptionist; bookkeeping; marketing/PR; human resources; childcare.

Stacked bar chart showing important features of a space, ranked by respondents’ average overall response. First to last: accessibility; parking; dedicated offices; meeting space - 5-12 people; meeting space - 3-5 people; walkability; kitchen and eating space; meeting space - 12-30 people; storage space; program space; near public transit; networking space; outdoor/green space; co-working space; event space - 30-75 people; event space - 75-200 people; community cafe; exercise space; prayer or meditation room; performance space; childcare space; connected housing.

What's Next?

This initial data gathering effort demonstrates a strong interest in the potential of sharing space to make efficient use of resources, collaborate, network, and spend time together. With learnings from this initial survey in mind, we will be continuing to explore ways to facilitate connections for sharing workspaces. Stay tuned!

This summary is published on the blogs of Maine Association of Nonprofits, Maine Initiatives, and Maine Philanthropy Center. It was created by Molly O'Connell, MANP; Joanna Clarke, Maine Initiatives; and Jeannette Andre, MPC.