How a Real Estate Purchase May Help Nonprofits in Tulsa

Here at IP, we love seeing bad news turn into good news, especially when philanthropy helps turn the tide. The Tulsa community recently suffered a hit when Hertz Global Holdings announced it would close its Tulsa service center and lay off 80 employees (45 percent of the center’s workforce). Now, one local funder has stepped in to turn this situation into something more promising.

There are a lot of ways that a foundation could use $5.9 million for the local nonprofit sector, but buying up prime real estate isn’t one we see too often. The Tulsa-based Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation bought the Tulsa Service Center for $5.9 million and plans to house nonprofit organizations in the building.

The first two nonprofits that will be setting up shop in the newly owned Zarrow buildings (the purchase included the east and west towers as well as the reservation center) are the Assistance League of Tulsa and the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma. The Zarrow Foundation approached the groups about moving in, not the other way around.

“We’re spaced out all over town, and our property and maintenance needs have become fragmented. Because of that, we’re losing efficiency,” said Mike Brose, the executive director for the Mental Health Association. “This will allow us to consolidate, gain efficiency and find new and better ways to serve the communities in the state of Oklahoma.”

Funding to build nonprofit capacity is a big trend in philanthropy lately, and perhaps Zarrow is onto something with its real estate approach. Nonprofits are seeing growing needs and therefore outgrowing their spaces. Meanwhile, real estate prices are on the rise and a major hurdle for groups with already strained budgets. Congregating nonprofit organizations into the same space also brings increased potential for collaboration among groups that otherwise may have never crossed paths.

The Zarrow Foundation will donate up to five floors of the west tower for Brose’s agency. However, nonprofits moving into this new Zarrow-owned space will still need to support their expanded operations in other ways. For example, the Mental Health Association will run a capital campaign to raise money for renovations in the new space, furniture, and technology. According to a foundation press release, Zarrow plans communicate with other nonprofits about relocating to the towers in the near future as well.

Traditionally, Anne and Henry’s foundation has mostly supported Jewish causes and social services that aid disadvantaged and homeless residents. The foundation considers online grant requests in the months of February and September; proposals are due January 15th and July 15th, respectively. Questions about Zarrow’s nonprofit opportunities should be directed to the foundation’s executive director, Bill Major, at 918-295-8004 or bmajor@zarrow.com.

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