Shacking up with another charity could save money

If you decide to office-share, it may be you can find a neighbour who will complement your own services, says Helen Simmons of the Diocese of London

Helen Simmons
Helen Simmons

Trying to keep your core costs down is always in the back of every financial director's mind.

It's been brought to the front of mine as staff at the Diocese of London have gradually found themselves sitting closer and closer together over fewer floors at our offices so that we can rent out space to others and generate unrestricted income.

Making the best of your space is not a new concept, yet it is likely to be one of the more common consequences of this horrendous restructuring within the sector.

Many charities are finding that they have spare space in their offices, even if it is for only a few desks. Now anyone who knows me will be well aware that, given a few spare desks, I like nothing better than to fill them with volunteers or spread out my leaning towers of paperwork. But charities are more likely to need the additional income to keep the wolves at bay in the present climate.

They could always downscale their offices to match their needs or snuggle up and offer the extra space to others. Downsizing could involve an office move and negotiating a new lease, or even selling up - all of which involves a load of hassle you could probably do without. It's easier if you can either sublet or share a lease with other charities, or (if you own your offices) lease to others directly.

Why not spend some time thinking about who you'd most like to squeeze in with? If they are in a similar boat, it could prove to be a match made in heaven.

You don't always have the option of choosing your neighbours, though. I can't help remembering the lovely Sally who lived next to me in Putney, years ago. She tempted me with her Avon catalogue in between stealing clothing bags from outside charity shops and making contact with 'poltergeists'. Ideally, you want people able to contribute to your work in a practical or strategic way, who use deodorant and who don't eat curry at their desks (although I'd quite like the last one, actually).

Don't wait to be approached or even let an agent find you tenants for spare space - just look through your list of working partners (and competitors) and pick up the phone. After all, what do you have to lose? Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Helen Simmons is finance director at the Diocese of London

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