Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Lexi Paza


Nonprofits need a lot of things to run effectively, some of which are easy to take for granted – like space.

Even during a time when working from home has become far more common, nonprofits that are active in their communities still need a way to bring people – staff, board members, partners, the people they serve, and more – into a shared space.

Often, however, that can be in short supply. Small towns don’t have enough, and in big cities, it’s too expensive to rent or own. That’s where nonprofit centers come into play.

These spaces provide a place multiple nonprofits in a community can use when needed. Several already exist throughout the Southeast – examples include The Spartanburg County Foundation’s Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy and the PATH Foundation’s Resource Center.

Foundations, however, aren’t usually in the real estate business. Thankfully, The Nonprofit Centers Network, based in Denver, has established itself as a thought leader in what it calls “social purpose real estate.”

At this year’s Annual Meeting, attendees interested in learning more about nonprofit centers will be able to hear from the two co-directors of The Nonprofit Centers Network, David Schrayer and Lexi Paza.

Paza has 15 years of experience working with nonprofit centers, from a small facility she supported on Maryland’s Eastern Shore up to Tides Converge in San Francisco, which provided a space for 80 nonprofits and social enterprises. Today, she’s an advocate for nonprofit centers as a driver of equity – especially when thought goes into their design.

“It’s inarguable that the bricks and beams that comprise the places in which we live, work, and learn impact the way we feel, the health of our bodies, and even our lifetime earning potential,” she said in an interview on the Tides website. “The irony is that good design is so rarely part of the national discourse when we evaluate how best to serve our most vulnerable communities.”

In that interview, she argued that the space in which a charitable organization works can have a direct impact on its ability to serve the community.

“If every charity officed in a building with the same amenities offered by tech firms, like spaces and technology specifically designed to encourage collaboration and creativity, would staff be less likely to burn out?” she said. “How would that trickle down to the people receiving the charity’s services?”

In a blog post on The Nonprofit Centers Network website, Paza writes that growing social awareness of inequity in society should be reflected not just in words, but in brick and mortar.

“In an era when our collective social consciousness has grown in unimaginable ways and seemingly every company on the planet is regularly issuing statements about values, now is the time for our workplaces to also have a conscience,” Paza wrote recently on The Nonprofit Centers Network blog. “This all bodes well for the future of nonprofit workspace.”

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