New York City
A GreaterSpace for the Greater Good
As many of you know, I’m intrigued by the world of philanthropy and work with many worthy nonprofit organizations and causes. I love being part of the meaningful work of others who are truly helping other human beings not only nationally, but internationally!
I had the opportunity to sit down and interview the co-founders of GreaterSpace, Edward Leibman and Hannah Odell, and learn about their background, the concept and how so many nonprofit organizations are benefitting from this community. From discounted office space at convenient locations all over Manhattan to an array of services available to their clients at a moment’s notice, GreaterSpace has the solution.
OR: Share a little of your background.
GreaterSpace co-founders are both lifetime career fundraisers. Ed Leibman founded Hudson Ferris, one of NYC’s premier boutique fundraising firms, ten years ago, and Hannah Odell has been a formative member of the consultancy for more than half of its lifetime. Together, the pair has worked with more than 80 nonprofit organizations to help them launch major campaigns, access new funding, and achieve efficiency and sustainability in their development efforts.
Leibman has led highly successful fundraising efforts for some of New York’s most prominent institutions, including The New York Botanical Garden, The Public Theater, The National Institute for Reproductive Health, and Theater Communications Group, among others, raising millions of dollars in the process.
Odell spearheaded fundraising efforts for international nonprofits in El Salvador and South Africa, before bringing her talents home to New York City, where she served as the Director of Development for Brooklyn-based Children of the City prior to joining the Hudson Ferris team.
OR: How did you come up with the GreaterSpace concept?
GreaterSpace was conceived in direct response to a rising trend of real estate prices forcing Manhattan nonprofits out of permanent office space, into remote working situations, undesirable and crowded coworking offices, or isolating spaces far outside the city that do not accommodate their needs. Seeing so many nonprofits facing this existential threat created an urgency for a solution that could transform the sector, and from this need, GreaterSpace was born.
GreaterSpace does not just provide state-of-the-art office space to nonprofits at a price they can afford, but it creates efficiencies and enables organizations to reduce their overhead by accessing best-in-class essential services at a significant discount. The platform is designed to streamline our clients’ operations and empower them with resources to grow, but more broadly, it’s built to promote the collaboration so desperately needed in the nonprofit sector.
OR: Where are the offices located and will you be expanding outside of NYC?
GreaterSpace offices are housed in some of NYC’s most prestigious and internationally recognized addresses, including One World Trade Center, The Seagram Building, The Financial Times Building, 667 Madison Avenue and 17 State Street. We certainly do plan to expand, as we are seeing a growing need for our platform in most major U.S. cities. In the near term, Boston and DC are the next locations for expansion, and our exclusive partnership with Servcorp gives us access to their highly desirable locations, including One International Place in Boston and 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue next to the White House in Washington, D.C.
OR: How is GreaterSpace different than WeWork?
GreaterSpace is a community just for nonprofits. It is a place where nonprofits become part of a network of like-minded organizations working to make the world a better place, where they can let our service partners handle their operational needs so they can focus on what they do best – achieving their mission.
Further, Servcorp is a pioneer in the coworking and shared office industry, having developed a reputation for longevity and professionalism since its founding in 1978. At GreaterSpace, clients know they are taken care of at every operational level, and their funders and board members can support them with total confidence in their sustainability.
OR: Nonprofits have many expenses since they have to run just like a for profit business. Why is renting space one of the biggest expenses?
Rent prices have nearly tripled since the 2008 economic crash, so many nonprofits that signed ten-year leases around that time are seeing their square footage costs skyrocket to a level that is unrealistic to maintain. Nonprofits are expected to operate on the 85/15 rule – with 85% of budget going directly to programming. This leaves organizations with very little funding for overhead, including salaries, rent, and supplies, and so these critical expenses end up getting cut to an unthinkable low. Businesses cannot run successfully in this restrictive environment, and so we’ve engineered a solution that can help nonprofits thrive in the way that so many for-profits are able to.
OR: What do you see as the many different challenges for nonprofits?
Funders want to see efficiency of spending in all areas, which can be extremely challenging in a city where the cost of putting on a gala, renting office space and hiring professionals to handle fundraising or accounting, for example, are increasing exponentially. Funding is also only renewable to a certain degree, so nonprofits are constantly in a place where they must infuse additional resources into development in order to maintain and increase their budgets year over year. This constant uphill battle forces nonprofits to sometimes cut programs, minimize staff and trim expenses in order to stay afloat. At GreaterSpace, we’ve created a strong support system for nonprofits that helps them mitigate these risks and access pathways to efficiency and growth.
OR: The idea of collaborating is brilliant for organizations that need to share their resources. Do you have a success story that you can share with us?
We see this concept encouraged in many areas of the nonprofit world, but one notable example is right here in NYC at Robin Hood’s Blue Ridge Labs. Robin Hood, NYC’s largest poverty-fighting foundation, launched an incubator to propel startup tech-focused nonprofits into growth by enabling them to access critical shared resources. In some ways, GreaterSpace builds upon the innovative approach of the Robin Hood Foundation and Blue Ridge Labs, but unlike that initiative, GreaterSpace’s support services encompass every aspect of a nonprofit’s operations, and our platform is designed for nonprofits of any kind and at every stage of their evolution.
OR: We see you have a team of professionals from various industries that can help service the nonprofit clients. Can you share the services that are offered?
GreaterSpace services include fundraising, a core function of any successful nonprofit, accounting, which laser focuses on adhering to nonprofit regulations, event planning, a resource-heavy task so many nonprofits are burdened with, and PR, a service commonly out of reach for small-to-mid-sized organizations. We also offer web/graphic design, IT support, CRM implementation, social media, grant writing, administrative support and executive mentorship.
OR: Do you think that these type of collaborations are the way the industry is going to continue in the future?
Absolutely! The philanthropic community strongly encourages collaboration, and the nonprofit sector always follows the funding, historically always trending towards funder expectations.
OR: Will clients have the opportunity to virtually rent space, book offices, via a GreaterSpace app?
Yes, the GreaterSpace online portal will allow for easy booking of services with no credit card required. It will enable seamless communication between service providers and clients as well as form a virtual community where nonprofits can interact with each other as part of our membership bulletin board. We will also be posting notifications about our curated lecture series, networking events, and industry-focused gatherings.
As a part of the 60,000+ Servcorp community, clients will also be able to use their Servcorp Home portal to book board rooms, executive administrative services, breakout meeting rooms and events in our beautiful conference center at 667 Madison Avenue.
OR: Anything additional that you can share with nonprofit organizations/potential clients on why they should at least visit the space before making any type of real estate decisions?
The best way to experience and understand how GreaterSpace can transform your nonprofit’s operations is to visit us for a tour. The spaces are gorgeous, the views from our downtown locations are unforgettable, and the team will immediately feel like your own.
OR: Thank you for taking the time to interview with me. I truly love the GreaterSpace concept and I know that this will continue to be a great success.
You can follow GreaterSpace on their social media sites and visit their website for the many great offerings and services.