Like many lean nonprofits that provide critical services to the homeless, The Night Ministry has utilized every spare inch of free space to achieve its mission. But when its modest headquarters in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood became so crowded that it had to convert meeting spaces and storage rooms into makeshift offices and work areas, the agency knew it was time to consider a move. In fact, it already had its eye on a new home and was hopeful that the property would be the right fit.
To be sure about the property, The Night Ministry reached out to long-time partner IFF for a comprehensive facility assessment. The Night Ministry was one of IFF’s first borrowers over 25 years ago, and since then the two nonprofits have worked together on several successful real estate projects. Unfortunately, when the assessment was completed, the news was disappointing: the property they had in mind would be too costly to make work. They would have to keep looking.
According to IFF’s Director of Real Estate Services Kate Ansorge, this is a common challenge for nonprofits. “We see this all the time. Assessing the physical condition of a building, understanding zoning and environmental concerns, managing contractors – these are not the things most nonprofit managers are focused on,” she said. “That’s why IFF is here to help. We can handle the real estate challenges associated with finding a new home while they continue to focus on achieving their mission.”
Together, IFF and The Night Ministry went back to the drawing board with an in-depth facility feasibility analysis to identify space needs and align them with the organization’s financial capacity and strategic growth goals. A site search is now underway for a facility that can provide generous living space for guests, a large kitchen for meal preparation, and increased office space for shelter and youth outreach staff.
“IFF’s expertise provided us with a solid analysis of practical opportunities and the cost of various options,” said Paul Hamann, The Night Ministry’s President and CEO. “Their analysis guided strategic conversations between our Board and senior staff, which led us to trust IFF in conducting our next site search.”
The Night Ministry has been working with individuals facing poverty and homelessness in Chicago since 1976. Through its shelters and health outreach bus, the organization reaches more than 5,000 people annually. Its services include HIV testing and counseling, social service referrals, temporary shelter, transitional housing, and meals.
IFF’s real estate services were supported by a special grant from the Polk Bros. Foundation designed to assist foundation grantees that are considering facility changes. Thanks to the grant, IFF is able to offer some of its affordable consulting services at an even lower cost.