Facility Management Software for Non-Profits

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering

Consider the heroic efforts of nonprofits around the world. They do so much for so many, with funds that largely depend on the generosity of others. Nonprofits need to make every penny count and often, the best way to do that is to run lean. It’s why facilities management software for nonprofits is such a good investment.

Nonprofits, like any other organization, need a base of operations where they can coordinate their efforts. Unfortunately, that means big overhead. Facility management software helps justify this overhead and maximize its return on investment as an asset to the organization, rather than an anchor.

Here’s a look at three different ways nonprofits use FM software to further their mission, even despite the cost of a commercial real estate lease.

1. Coordinate an event

Donor events are a mainstay in the world of nonprofits. Many nonprofits depend on the deep pockets of generous donors to fund their operations—even as soon as next quarter. These organizations need powerful tools that help them put together a major event quickly, at the lowest possible cost. This is where nonprofit facility management shines.

Rather than rent a ballroom for untold thousands, many nonprofits use facility management software to transform their own facilities into the backdrop for donor events. To show attendees “where the magic happens” brings an element of realness to their donation. But it takes work to create the space for an event. Floor plans change, furniture moves, and orchestrators need to be mindful to create an environment for entertaining.

From cordoning off important work areas to pathing guests from the entrance to the event, facility managers play an instrumental role in turning the workplace into an event space. Done right, it’s a savvy way to court donors.

2. Create an agile workplace

The goal of any nonprofit is simple: do more with less. When you’re always up against a shoestring budget, you learn to get creative with what you’ve got. That goes double for facilities, since they’re a major investment. Nonprofits need to milk every ounce of efficiency out of their investment in a workplace. What better way than by adopting an agile work environment?

Managing an agile work environment is tricky in and of itself. Facility management for non-profits is even more difficult. There aren’t just full- and part-time employees to orchestrate—there are volunteers, interns, donors, members, visitors, and innumerable other personnel to keep track of. There’s just no feasible way to maximize facilities without a coordinated software approach.

A facilities management platform ensures every office, workspace, and meeting room are used to their fullest, and that everyone has a space to focus on the organization’s mission. It can also serve as the central command center for badges and access control, as well as allocation of assets. Nonprofits can’t leave anything unchecked. Facilities management software gives them the oversight they need to run lean without hamstringing themselves.

3. Track regional offices

Consider facility management for 501(c)(3) organizations with nationwide or global locations like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF has eight major locations in the United States, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Japan, Republic of Korea, and Hungary. An organization with this scope needs a way to manage facilities at the location level, as well as from above.

How is the desking layout at the Hungary building different from that of the Italian location? What effect does this have on operational efficiency? What is the adjusted lease rate of all buildings in the portfolio? How many employees work at each location? All this information is very relevant to nonprofits spread over multiple locations, be it nationally or globally.

Whether for the annual report, budgeting and forecasting, or compliance with local municipal standards, nonprofits need immediate visibility over their workplaces. Facility management software gives it to them. Each location can use the software as part of daily operations and facility management reporting. Then, that data is fed to the cloud, where top executives, real estate managers, and governing voices have instant access for data-backed decision-making and reporting.

Facility management matters for nonprofits

Whether it’s to set up a successful donor event, maximize the ROI of a commercial lease, or track satellite locations as they grow, nonprofits need facility management software. There’s so much opportunity that stems from good facilities management, and nonprofits are smart to capitalize on it. Proper facilities management leads to more dollars spent on the mission, instead of on overhead or lost to inefficiency.

Keep Reading: How To Select The Right Facilities Management Software For Your Organization


An Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19…What Now?

By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing

Employers across the country are hard at work in efforts to keep their workplaces clean, sanitary, and sterilized to prevent COVID-19 transmission. Unfortunately, coronavirus is tenacious. It survives on airborne particles, on surfaces, and through asymptomatic carriers. Even your best cleaning efforts might not be enough to prevent the virus from entering your workplace. It begs the question: what do you do when your employee tests positive for COVID-19?

It’s a situation every employer hopes to avoid, but one you need to plan for nevertheless. Fast, thorough action and the appropriate response could be lifesaving for other employees. Here’s what to do if your employee tests positive for COVID-19:

Don’t panic!

Consider this step zero. Most employers will immediately fill with dread and feel pangs of panic creep up. Push these emotions down. Panic clouds judgement. In the face of a positive COVID-19 test affecting your workforce, you need a clear head. Count back from 10. Take a deep breath. Whatever it takes to ground yourself.

Express sympathy and act with empathy

The first real step is to make sure your employee is okay. Even if they’re asymptomatic, the person who tested positive is likely filled with anxiety and fear. Take the appropriate time to console them and to let them know you’re there for them in whatever capacity you can be—whether it’s to lighten their workload or help them with FMLA paperwork. Be genuine and understanding. Taking the time to listen can unburden an employee.

Collaborate with HR for traceability

Once you’ve consoled your employee, loop in Human Resources. You’ll need to know who that employee has been in close contact with within the past two weeks. CDC guidelines define close contact as prolonged exposure to an infected individual or repeated exposure within a distance of six feet. Talk through the last two weeks with the infected employee to compile a list of individuals who may need to be notified of exposure.

Contact potentially affected individuals

It’s important to get HR involved early because there are confidentiality laws for notifying individuals exposed to a person who has tested positive for coronavirus. Employers must not reveal the identity of the infected individual when reaching out to those at risk. The safest, legal way to proceed is to notify at-risk employees of potential exposure and refer them to their doctor for testing.

Here again, act with sympathy and compassion. This will be alarming news and employees will likely have questions. Maintain the privacy of the individual who contacted you about a positive test, and offer clear support and advice. It’s best to notify these individuals via phone or email to avoid further in-person contact, just in case.

Answer questions tactfully

Word of COVID-19 exposure will spread quickly in your workplace, which is why it’s important to address the issue upfront and tactfully. Be honest about the situation and provide as much detail as is reasonable while respecting the privacy of employees. Here’s an example of a succinct memo:

There has been a confirmed positive test for COVID-19 at our company. We have already notified individuals who may have had close contact with this person, and taken appropriate action to ensure ongoing workplace safety for all employees. We will continue to monitor the situation closely. We are here to support all of our employees and will do our best to answer any questions you may have.

Follow up this memo to employees with information about how you’re responding to the situation. Outline action items like workplace sanitization, offer information about self-quarantine, and provide resources for coronavirus testing. Again, do not disclose any identifying information about employees. Do not offer medical advice or speculate. Only outline what you’re doing for the workplace and refer employees to public guidance from the CDC and WHO.

Stay connected to positive cases

As a case (or cases) of coronavirus unfolds in your company, stay close to it. Check in with employees who test positive to see how they’re doing and offer support. Check-ins should come not only from an employee’s manager, but from senior leaders within the company. As they recover, make sure they have documentation from a physician deeming when it’s safe to return to the workplace.

Whether they test positive or not, employees will feel stress and anxiety knowing the pandemic is so close to them. Decisive action, good leadership, and empathy go a long way as you strive to quell fears and reassure employees in these uncertain times.

Keep Reading: COVID-19 Company Resources


Smart Building Sensors Today and in the Future

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing

In 1954, inventors Lew Hewitt and Dee Horton created the first automatic door for commercial use. It worked by stepping on a mat, which concealed an actuator that triggered the door opening mechanism. It was a marvel of science and engineering in its time, and soon gave way to the optical door sensor that we still see today at grocery stores and other retail establishments. Smart building sensors, however, have grown by leaps and bounds over the last 65 years—specifically in the last decade.

Our jaws don’t drop at automatic sliding doors like they might’ve 65 years ago, but smart building technology today still has the power to wow us. As smart building sensors become more commonplace in offices, the capabilities of these mechanisms will redefine how we interact with our workplaces.

Get to know smart building sensors

What are smart building sensors? Well, they’re not unlike Hewitt and Horton’s clever actuator mat. Building sensors use stimuli to trigger an action. Which stimuli depends on the type of sensor. Stepping on the actuator mat triggered the door to open, so it’s logical to say that it was a pressure sensor. Today, motion might trigger an occupancy sensor, which feeds data to an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) that marks the room as “occupied.”

The action and reaction relationship between sensors and the workplace has opened the door to all types of smart building sensors. Each relies on unique stimuli to trigger it, but all of these sensors are the same in that they’re part of the Internet of Things (IoT):

  • Temperature sensors: Monitor temperature changes and trigger above or below a specific threshold. Usually paired with a central thermostat or HVAC components.
  • Humidity sensors: Measure water content in the air and activate once it reaches a preset threshold. Usually linked to HVAC or a dehumidification system.
  • Air/water quality sensors: Check the integrity of air or water and activate with the presence of contaminants. Often linked to an alert system or reporting program.
  • Electrical sensors: Measure active electrical current, often in voltage or amperage. Often linked to an alert system or maintenance ticketing program.
  • Status sensors: A diverse type of sensor that acts as a simple on-off (I/O), changing status from one to the other in the presence of specific stimuli.
  • Motion sensors: Activate in the presence of movement to trigger a peripheral action, such as turning on lights or changing the status of a variable (I/O).
  • Optical sensors: Light-activated sensors that trigger an action, usually compliant with on-off (I/O) standards.

This list only scratches the surface of current and future building sensor technology. Right now, engineers around the world are also experimenting with numerous custom sensors, including gyroscopic sensors, proximity sensors, and accelerometer sensors. These types of sensors don’t currently have widespread applications in commercial buildings, but it’s likely we’ll see them in time.

As sensors get traction in different commercial buildings, they become more refined. First, they need to find their niche. It’s all about how facility managers can capitalize on them. That question usually comes down to whether they can provide viable data or automate a specific action.

Gathering data vs. automating actions

Selecting smart building sensors depends on what you want to accomplish with them. Do you need a sensor to gather data so you can make ongoing decisions in an informed way? Or, do you need the reaction of a smart building sensor to trigger an automated workflow? Take a look at some simple examples:

  • Motion sensors turn the office lights on when someone walks past. (action)
  • Status sensors show when a desk is occupied vs. not. (data)
  • Temperature sensors control zone temperatures in the building. (action)
  • Humidity sensors gauge the moisture content of air in the server room. (data)

It’s important to realize that most smart building sensors are capable of providing both data and automation. The motion sensor can activate the lights and provide a report of how frequently they’re activated. The humidity sensor can provide real-time readings and activate a dehumidifier if moisture content reaches a certain level. Look for sensors based on your primary need, then explore secondary capabilities.

Do your facilities need building sensors?

When Hewitt and Horton began mass-producing their automatic door in the 1960s, not every business jumped on the bandwagon. For many, the investment didn’t make sense. Why would an old-time malt shop need sliding doors to sell penny candy and pop? Today, many businesses need to ask themselves a similar question: Do we need building sensors?

The answer depends on how they’ll meaningfully contribute to the success of your business by bolstering your workplace. Can you create real savings through data collection or automation via these sensors? How long will it take to offset their cost? What’s the cost of maintenance vs. the top- or bottom-line savings they generate?

The moral of the story is simple: technology has the power to amaze and impress, but it also needs to benefit. How will your business benefit from smart building sensors?

Keep Reading: Workplace Occupancy Sensors to Improve Agility, Utilization and Efficiency