Working with Not for Profits

I must first preface this by stating that no two companies whether For Profit or Not For Profit operate exactly the same. Much depends on the individuals in key leadership positions as well as the makeup and operation of their respective Boards of Directors.

Many confuse “Not-for-Profit” and “Nonprofit” and while legal statutes may claim that they are one and the same, the Internal Revenue Service has two different definitions. According to the IRS, a “Not-for-Profit” is a group that refers specific activity while “Nonprofit” is an organization established for purposes other than turning a profit. This does not necessarily mean charitable, but refers to any organization that does not intend to turn a profit. This tern usually is used for clubs and civic organizations.

As a consultant your role doesn’t change very much. We are engaged to solve a specific problem, to manage or facilitate projects, to provide advice and sometimes to teach from our experiences. Many of the same processes we use can be brought over from the For Profit world and work seamlessly in the Not-for-Profit sector. Quite often it is how those processes are performed that may be different.

The amount of influence at the Board level in the Not-for-Profit is usually far greater than in the For Profit. Not-for-Profit Board members typically are more directly involved in decisions at more detail in the Not-For-Profit’s. Board Members tend to have more emotional commitment to the cause that they are associated with. Quite often they are also large financial contributors to the organization. Very often the passion of the Board Members has a trickle-down effect directly to the employee level.

Cost quite often becomes the overriding factor in the decision-making process for the Not-for-Profit. A  Not-for-Profit does not consider financial “payoff, or return” as the catalyst the way a For Profit company would. Not-for-Profit funding typically has been hard to come by in the form of grants and donations, boards tend to think long and hard before using those funds where there may be any amount of risk involved. Dollars are not often spent unless they can be tied directly back to the mission and vision of the organization.

So what does all this mean when dealing with a Not-for-Profit?

–        Projects will sometimes move at the speed of light and at other times take 20%-40% longer. Be flexible.

–        Projects may be put on hold while another task takes priority.

–        Relationships are extremely important in any arena. This is also true in the Not-for Profit world.

–        Prove your value as a member of their team with their best interests in mind they will keep calling you back.

–        Know the Mission and Vision of the organization so that you can best serve their needs and desires.

–        Be prepared to find an alternate way of providing the same result for less money

I pride myself on solving the client’s problem within the confines of their culture, and by understanding what drives them I can incorporate my personal values to help them achieve their mission and vision.

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Integrated Design Process: A lower overall cost and a better end product

The use of an Integrated Design Process has been growing around the globe. In today’s world of technology and information sharing, owners are finding that there are many benefits to this process, most notably a lower overall cost and a better end product.

The design of a building, or most any project for that matter, requires the integration of a multitude of information, all which must be seamlessly integrated into the end product. An integrated process, sometimes call a “Whole Building Process”, is one which includes the participation of users, Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Code Officials, Estimators, Specifications Writers, and Consultants from many other specialized fields. The best buildings are created as a result of active and ongoing, collaboration of all the players.

Generally the end user identifies the need for a building. An experienced architect can perform a Facilities Audit to identify existing space use and the need for expansion in specific areas. Depending on the size and scope of the project, engineers and a construction manager may be used to assist in this process.

Once the Preliminary assessment is complete, the architect, in collaboration with his or her team of consultants, may produce initial design concept for the project or portions of it. These concepts are meant to provoke thought and debate, not necessarily to outline the final product. Sub-consultant participation is critical at this stage their individual experiences and knowledge can prevent costly changes down the road.

A design will develop which meets the requirements of all participants while also meeting the overall requirements established by the project budget. This stage will establish items such as site location and organization, building form, space allocation and adjacency, and an outline specification. This is often a good opportunity to have a cost estimate performed.

The next step is to establish greater detail for all aspects of the building the collaboration continues with the architect coordinating the various team members. Greater detail is developed. The product of this phase is a detailed design on which all players agree.

The preparation of construction documents involves translating the previously gathered information into formats for pricing, permitting, and construction. No set of construction documents are ever perfect, but higher quality control can be achieved through constant communication, adhering to the program needs by the design team and the client, along with careful coordination among all the consultants on the team. Decisions continue to be made with the contributions of all players. One last cost estimate should be performed at this point to ensure that the project has stayed within budget.

Throughout the construction phase, all members of the team must remain fully involved. Clarifications will be required. The end users requirements may change, these changes require collaboration among the entire team.

To ensure that the building is functioning as intended, a process known as commissioning should be undertaken. All of the functions of the building are tested and the team can be needed to make adjustments as needed.

To ensure a successful project it is imperative that, constant communication, attention to detail and active collaboration among all team members occur throughout the project. Strict adherence to these 3 principles will enable the best possible result.