• Chicago

Meeting the Nonprofit Recruitment and Retention Challenge

By: Brian Chernett, Senior Director and Eric Sorensen, Managing Director
Not-for-Profit Advisory Group

Recruitment and retention of top talent is a key objective of most organizations. For nonprofits, it is a significant challenge that can have a dramatic impact on the ability to deliver services to constituents. 501(c)(3) entities compete for the same talent as startups, corporate leaders, and the creative enterprises that are attracting new graduates, Millennials and Gen Xers with valuable skills and leadership abilities. While this has always been true, on the 10th anniversary of the financial crisis we are witnessing a greater battle for talent than ever before.

While much of this battle is in the hands of human resources and frankly can often come down to compensation and growth opportunities for existing staff and candidates, we believe that the physical workspace – and the very real amenities you can offer – can be a determinant factor.

As real estate solution providers for leading nonprofits in Chicagoland and beyond, we have seen these challenges first-hand and offer some points of consideration if your organization is facing similar challenges. Understanding how your real estate choices accommodate your valued employees is a great first step to ensuring you are staffed with a team that can fulfill your nonprofit’s mission.

Location, Location, Location

One of the most important factors that affects workforce talent and retention is location. Your employees need to be close to the clients they serve, which starts with access to transportation for burgeoning talent. Our Chicago market has some of the most expensive parking in the country ($450 per month), according to C&W’s recent Space Matters report, which makes proximity to public transit a deciding real estate factor for many nonprofits.

Our client, One Goal, on a mission to ensure college graduation of high schoolers, recently underwent a relocation from River North to the Central Loop and transformed its work environment to better connect students and teachers and encourage collaboration.

“The impact of our relocation, and new workplace strategy has enhanced collaboration and staff engagement. Our space helps us retain and attract new employees, provides better proximity to our students and teachers, and more prominently showcases our brand to promote team culture,” said Danielle Durante, Senior Director of Operations of One Goal.

The most important factor for nonprofits is to be in neighborhoods where your mission is identifiable and supported by your area’s demographic and talent pool.

Getting Started

Being creative starts with a frank and thorough examination of space use. Take the long-view as you compare current against long-term space needs. Examine staff needs, and engage IT in the process to ensure technology advances are understood. This “forecast” will help you execute on a strategy that is inclusive of your employees’ needs.

Assemble your real estate team early. They are your experts in the field, and will help you to navigate the ever-changing market fundamentals. This will allow you to remain focused on your mission as they help find solutions to your real estate needs.

BE CREATIVE: the contemporary workspace is about efficiency, productivity, and employee satisfaction. Quite often the best solution is incorporating multiple options such as a re-stack, hoteling, and splitting operations.

The more time you spend examining your anticipated space needs as they relate to real estate – what we refer to as programming – the better you’ll be able to meet constituent needs now and for years to come.

Make Your Landlord Work for You

And lastly, landlords have a singular mission – keeping their assets filled with happy tenants paying market rents. In the tenant-favorable markets we are seeing across the nation, landlords are willing to invest in pre-built space in a variety of configurations that are move-in ready. In some cases, primarily in larger office buildings, landlords are adding or updating rooftop terraces, conferencing facilities, and fitness centers to help tenants and their employees engage. Landlords want your business, so explore your options.

Brian Chernett has 14 years of experience developing and executing comprehensive real estate solutions for organizations across the U.S. and around the world. Specialties include large, complex transactions, portfolio strategies and management, strategic planning, site selection and sublease/disposition assignments.



Eric Sorensen has over 20 years of experience structuring strategic plans that align his client’s real estate with their mission. His experience includes site selection for office and technology centers and executing corporate and professional relocations.

  • Chicago

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