All about venues

The Nonprofiteer was talking to a friend who had just scored an amazing venue for the fundraiser of which she is chair: a church close to all forms of public transportation and parking, with a youth group willing and able to provide valet and food service and an adult auxiliary willing to take responsibility for the building so her agency doesn’t have to pay for a security guard.  A wonderful welcoming space for free–isn’t that what every nonprofit wants?

Whereupon we realized how much time we and all the other nonprofit professionals we know spend trying to find exactly that: a free place to hold the meetings of our tiny all-volunteer association, or to hold the public forum sponsored by our small civic group, or to conduct the fundraiser for our grassroots coalition.  Wouldn’t it be great, my friend suggested, if all the nonprofits in our area (Chicago, but the same would be true for any metroplex) pooled our knowledge about who will share space for free under what circumstances?

If we had a venue registry, we could save endless time–and what is time in nonprofits but the only resource we have with which to secure money?  Anything which saves one saves the other, for as it is written “A rental fee saved is a grant earned.”

Surely someone with more social-networking capability than the Nonprofiteer could figure out how to set such a thing up (isn’t this the very definition of a wiki?).  Or is there one already in Chicago and the Nonprofiteer just isn’t in the (you should pardon the expression) loop?

Thoughts on how other people approach this chronic issue welcomed!


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6 Responses to “All about venues”

  1. Morgan Pulleyblank Says:

    The Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York used to maintain such a list for NYC. Local United Ways often also have this information.

  2. Deborah Halpern Says:

    Dear Nonprofiteer –

    This is a great idea.

  3. Jane Beckett Says:

    I know this gets tricky, but I’d also welcome a listing of venues that charge below market rates, or that only attempt to cover their insurance and utility costs.

    • Nonprofiteer Says:

      That would be great. I think the trickier part, actually, will be to get nonprofits to share their own secret places, and/or to get venues to be willing to acknowledge their availability. But surely we can overcome that reluctance somehow.

  4. Katherine Says:

    From the other end of the negotiation – being a parishioner of a place having a tiny church hall which does get rented out from time to time – nonprofits using such a wiki would need to consider how much time the venue’s administrators actually have to field such enquiries, meet the requesters, judge whether the organisations are trustworthy users of the space, and deal with any insurance issues which might come up depending on who the users actually are and what they want to do with the space.

    The first port of call would be getting each venue to agree to being listed on the wiki, I’d have thought?

    • Nonprofiteer Says:

      Yes, I think the biggest challenge is securing the venues’ permission to be listed, as many of them may be willing to offer themselves as a special favor without being willing to be known generally as a free space for others to use. If venues are willing to be listed, then I think prospective users of the space would be justified in presuming that they’d be willing to have further conversations about a specific event. The listing/wiki might also include preliminary requirements for each space: “no political groups,” “nothing after 7 p.m.,” “extra charges for groups of 150 or more.”

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