by Alex Kopicki | May 01, 2016

There is no rest for the association executive. They are charged with leading the organization, building and retaining membership, fundraising and creating ways to offer valuable member benefits. And all of this must be done within the constraint of tight budgets.

For the many associations getting by without a steadily growing income stream, the day-to-day financial realities of running the business can significantly detract from the organization’s mission. In fact, some associations have started looking for alternative ways to supplement their income streams so that funding issues don’t get in the way of their success. And they’re finding a solution in the burgeoning sharing economy business model.

Most people are familiar with consumer-focused, sharing economy services such as Uber and Airbnb. But the sharing economy isn’t limited to individuals. It has expanded, and there are now services that provide businesses with financial opportunities as well.

Have Space, Should Rent. The commercial real estate industry is one sector using the sharing economy model to offer valuable services to businesses, and associations have started to leverage those services to create income that can be recycled back into the organization. Here’s how: Companies like Kinglet, PivotDesk and LiquidSpace, all of which specialize in serving as the middle-man for those who have available office space and those who need it, seamlessly connect associations that have unused office space with small businesses looking for flexible, often temporary, space to rent. By subleasing unused office space through one of these services, an association can offset some of its operating costs, thus relieving itself of a bit of its financial burden.

One Baltimore trade association is currently using an office space rental site to increase funds that go toward member benefits. The association currently spends $10,000 dollars a month—about 15 percent of its overall operating budget—on office space in a desirable location. Its 5,000 square feet of office space consists of combined private and open space, but four of the office workstations were not occupied by association staff. By renting those unused workstations for $1,000 per workstation per month, the association can generate 40 percent of its monthly office space expense. The association’s director said he intends to put that additional income toward member benefits, including educational guest speakers and advocacy work.

Tentative About Tenants. As with any member-based organization, image is very important to this Baltimore trade association. Its leaders and staff are sensitive to the fact that a guest tenant’s behavior could impact the perception of the association when members visit the office. That’s why this organization chose a rental service to assist them with finding the right tenant. Most office space rentals provide a complementary situation for both the association and its tenant. Because no fee is usually required to list unused space, there is no financial risk for the association to use these sites to find tenants.

Benefits for Both Sides. Although associations that rent out unused office space are obviously reaping financial benefits, associations looking for temporary space will find the perks of this new system equally appealing. That’s because associations, like any other business, are subject to periods of both growth and reduction, which equates to the need for more or less office space. Office space rental sites make a point of catering to the immediate needs of both hosts and guests, providing them with opportunities that include flexibility as their space needs change. In addition, both hosts and guests are able to choose to seek out companies with related or complementary business skills and missions in order to build a physical community network within their office walls.

Reducing operating costs and increasing income are always going to be priorities for any association, and by using the sharing economy model, there are new options available to offset operating expenses. Today’s office space rental services offer associations a risk-free and reliable way to find just the right tenants without having to invest the time or money to do so.