1 min Read
September 23, 2011

Making it matter: Using your office to express your nonprofit

The Taproot Foundation invited me over this week to talk about Brandraising with their grantees.

If you don’t know Taproot, you probably should. Unlike traditional foundations that make cash grants, the Taproot Foundation makes grants of professional consulting services, called Service Grants, through their Service Grant Program. Every Service Grant is delivered pro bono by a team of 5-6 business professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to help a nonprofit in their community. Good stuff, right?

Lower Manhattan offices are typically dominated by cubicles, windowless offices, and generic signage. Taproot has broken the mold, though: their office is bright, cheery, and very on-brand. The space isn’t fancy or expensive. It’s open, painted in their key brand color, and punctuated by interesting light fixtures. Other touches like a muppet-like puppet that greets you at the front desk if nobody’s there, or their tagline, “Make it Matter” in big letters on the wall are inexpensive but add to the space’s humanity and warmth. 

During my workshop, I asked the participants to free associate with the adjectives that the Taproot office brings to mind. Friendly, warm, innovative, open came up. The staff was delighted.

To express your nonprofit’s personality in your offices or program spaces more fully, consider the following low-cost ideas:

  • Paint at least one accent wall using your brand’s main color, with the rest of the walls a clean white. Avoid using the drab, institutional colors many office buildings suggest.
  • Use vinyl to post your logo, tagline, or mission statement visibly and boldly rather than using the building’s generic signage.  Just google ‘vinyl signage’ to find a vendor near you.
  • Consider going with open desks rather than cubicles.
  • Consider sourcing your furniture at nontraditional places like Ikea, flea markets, or antique stores to break out of the cubicle box and add some texture.
  • Use funky chairs and tables as accent pieces to add warmth.
  • Display photos of your clients prominently in your waiting areas.

Seen any great nonprofit offices? Please let me know.