MANKATO — After nearly 40 years of dreaming of a nonprofit center based in Mankato — where nonprofits large and small could share resources and ideas — the Mankato Area Foundation is poised to shape.
A group of Mankato benefactors has pledged $750,000 to buy a building in downtown Mankato to create the new Center for Nonprofits, a concept new to Minnesota but proven elsewhere, according to organizers.
“For a person, a non-profit organization, an entity, a donor, I have never been part of an initiative that has received such overwhelming support,” said Nancy Zallek, executive director of the Mankato Area Foundation. .
What made the concept a reality was the upcoming availability of the Blethen, Gage and Krause law firm building at 127 S. Second St., with its professional offices, ample parking, storage capacity substantial and its downtown location, Zallek said. Once the purchase is complete, once the law firm has moved to its new premises and the renovation has been completed, the center should be open by September.
When he does, he’ll join others across the country — Denver alone has 25 — but may be unique in this state.
“We don’t know of any other center like this in Minnesota,” she said.
The Mankato Area Foundation will make no profit on rents, which will be below market rates, and major parts of the building will be shared by tenants – including a conference room for 30 people, audio-visual technology for meetings, machines office space such as printers and kitchen/breakroom area. That means nonprofit groups won’t duplicate those purchases or rent much of that space, Zallek said.
The law firm was outgrowing the 9,300 square foot space and is considering moving to the seven-story Profinium Place office tower under construction five blocks southwest. Blethen’s senior partners Gage and Krause had an obvious affection for their longtime home and were excited about the concept of using it for community betterment in the years to come, Zallek said.
“We think they gave us a very fair price,” she said.
Still, $750,000 was needed to close the deal, and some of the biggest names in local philanthropy soon donated the money, including the Glen A. Taylor Foundation, the Dotson Family Fund, Ogden and Jane Confer, Lyle and Kay Jacobson, Jeff and Cindy Thom, The Andreas Foundation, The Tailwind Group, The Fallenstein Family Fund, and The Thin Film Technology Fund.
Even as this work was being completed, the Mankato Area Foundation was talking to leaders of other larger local nonprofits about the new space. Major potential tenants include a regional office of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, City Center Partnership, Greater Mankato Area United Way, Greater Mankato Diversity Council and YWCA of Mankato, as well as the Mankato Area Foundation.
Nonprofits seem pleased
Potential tenants seemed excited about a shared space, though they pointed out that nothing was concrete yet.
Barb Dorn, executive director of YWCA Mankato, said collaboration and efficiency are important to the YWCA. She said the YWCA board is aware of the conversations regarding the center but has not yet voted on participation.
“We’re very happy to be part of the conversation,” Dorn said, “but we need more information before deciding what our next steps will be.”
The YWCA has outgrown its location, which it leases from the Centenary United Methodist Church, Dorn said. The organization would like to be able to stay where it is, she said, but “there is definitely more growth on the horizon.”
Eric Harriman, executive director of the City Center Partnership, said his organization is currently in research mode and assessing how the center fits into its operations.
Amy Jo Lennartson, regional coordinator for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, said the council is happy to be part of the conversation.
“One thing that nonprofits are always looking for is how to maximize their money,” she said. “A center like this enhances all of those efficiencies… It’s very exciting in that it’s certainly the dream of a lot of communities to have something like this.”
Little guys, big ideas welcome
In addition to major tenants, the Center for Nonprofits will have office space for smaller nonprofit tenants and expects common space to be available for even smaller organizations – some of which operate out of from private homes – to work occasionally, hold meetings, make copies and use other technologies available at the center, Zallek said.
“We hope to have space for them to come and go,” she said. “…We kind of hope it’s going to be a non-profit center.”
The facility will be much more than sharing a building, sharing equipment, sharing 41 parking spaces and 6,000 square feet of basement storage space. After talking to tenants at Denver-area nonprofit centers, Zallek expects the greatest benefit to come from sharing information and creativity among office neighbors.
“They said it was just amazing what came out of those conversations,” she said. “And I’m really excited about it.”