Could Co-working Transform your Charity?

Charities tackle the world’s hardest problems. But their people often do so in cramped offices in remote parts of town. Though this is often the best option in terms of limiting operational spend, it can be inadvertently demotivating for the staff that work there. Combine that with the pressures of working with at-risk communities, and a restrictive workspace can quickly take its toll. 

It begs the question—could charities be doing more to create work environments that inspire productivity and better mental wellbeing? 

A new generation of small charities and social enterprises now understand that in order to have the highest impact, they need to create the culture and workplace that allows their teams to deliver. For these organisations, co-working is the perfect solution.

charity productive co-working environment

Why co-working is a worthwhile investment

Co-working spaces offer charities a host of advantages including a sense of community, the potential for innovation and collaboration, and a focus on wellbeing, design and flexibility—all at an affordable price. 

That’s why co-working spaces, like Cahoots in Old Street, are creating office communities designed specifically for charities and social enterprises. Not only do you get a modern, comfortable workspace, but these offices are stocked with everything you need—from printers and coffee machines to a super-fast internet connection. 

You get a flexible workspace without breaking the bank and can keep making the world a better place—what could be better than that?

Cahoots co-working space - branded jugs

But first, you need to ask, ‘Is co-working right for you and your charity?’

It’s hard to ignore the exponential growth of co-working from its humble origins in San Francisco in 2005. Now a lucrative industry, many think that co-working is redefining the future of work. But most charities shy away from moving office unless absolutely necessary. This comes as no surprise since pressure from donors has historically meant that many charities prefer to keep overheads low, despite evidence that investing in your work environment maximises productivity and motivation.

People doing great work deserve a great place to work and we’ve already started to see the transformative impact that co-working has had. In other words, it’s an investment worth making.

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A ready-made network for charities to work together 

For charities that struggle to collaborate, joining a ready-made network of like-minded professionals can be a brilliant source of professional and social support. 

All co-working offices promote an ethos of openness and collaboration, but they all have different atmospheres. Visit different spaces until you find one that feels like the right fit and ask about the values and mission of the space. Find out who’s already a member and whether they’re the type of organisation you could learn from.

The best co-working spaces will host their own events and help their members to share expertise and make connections. For example, when new members join the Cahoots community, they have targeted introductions with other members according to the skills they want to learn and those that they can offer to others. Cahoots is a small-scale community of 30 people meaning that new members get to know each other quickly and instantly feel like a part of a bigger team. And members can both attend Cahoots events and hold their own for free, widening their networks even further.

co-working group on beanbags

Encouraging productive and friendly cultures 

Co-working offices are less formal and more flexible and creative than traditional workspaces. These spaces promote collaboration above competition; according to the Harvard Business Review, co-working members are likely to interact more freely since there is little direct competition between members. 

The diverse perspectives and approaches of different members mean co-working spaces don’t have rigid cultures and people are more likely to be themselves at work. This diversity can also spark innovation. 

By providing spaces to socialise and ingredients to make a healthy breakfast and lunch every day for free, the culture at Cahoots enables members to work productively. Members look after the space and have an opportunity to shape it; they can host learning lunches, launch initiatives and make suggestions for improvements.

Animal-friendly co-working space for charities

Flexibility at an affordable price 

Renting from a fully serviced co-working space means you can avoid or dramatically reduce your overhead costs. Paid for within your monthly rent, a serviced co-working space takes care of broken printers and service providers so you don’t have to. Write a list of the amenities you need and ask whether these are included in your membership.

Co-working offices usually offer flexible working hours and a choice of rental options. Cahoots, for example, offers full memberships—which come with perks like 24/7 access and free events space hire, as well as flexible weekly rolling memberships.

“ Cahoots creates the kind of environment that’s important to Utopy’s culture. We know our workspace is key to optimising our impact and Cahoots offers an open, creative space that supports collaboration, innovation and staff well-being. The Cahoots team are brilliantly human and understand the need for flexibility as our organisation changes and grows. ”

Emma Whelan, Co-founder of Utopy

How to find the right co-working space for your charity

Moving office can be a daunting process, but co-working spaces like Cahoots have already seen the incredible impact co-working has had on their members.

Before you make any long-term decisions, ask yourself…

  1. What’s your ideal location? Is the co-working space accessible and does it offer flexible working hours?
  2. What are the values of the co-working space? Do these align with those of your organisation? 
  3. Who would you be sharing the space with? Could your charity benefit from working with those already in the space?
  4. Is the space within budget? Prioritise culture above amenities as everyone in your organisation needs to feel comfortable in the space.
  5. Are you looking for a hot desk or fixed desk? Are the lease terms flexible?
  6. Is the space appealing and welcoming? Are there different areas for quiet work, meetings and more relaxed spaces?
  7. Is a trial day on offer? This would give you a better understanding of the culture.
  8. What services does your rent cover? Most will cover wi-fi, cleaning and printing but some have additional services like 24/7 access, events space hire and are pet-friendly. 
  9. What kind of community events are held? Are there opportunities to network with other members and the wider community?
  10. And very importantly—how fast is the internet?

Cahoots co-working space

Interested in Cahoots?

Cahoots is looking for bright, bold new members. For more information, check out their website, sign up for the newsletter or get in touch with [email protected] to organise a tour. 

Cahoots is a social enterprise itself—all profits go to Child.org, the international development charity that created it.

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About the author

Flora Scorer

Flora Scorer is Community Manager at Cahoots, a friendly and flexible co-working space in central London designed for charities and social enterprises.