Helping nonprofits expand and find new homes – New York Nonprofit Media

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Acquiring real estate in New York for nonprofit organizations can be challenging due to the fast-paced property market, thus limiting their ability to expand their operations and serve more New Yorkers.

Denham Wolf Real Estate, founded in 1998 by John Denham and Paul Wolf, provides nonprofit organizations with a tool-kit to tackle the real estate market. With a focus on slowing down the process, Denham Wolf relies on a nonprofit real estate model that has helped nonprofit organizations expand their operations. Slowing down the acquisition process allows nonprofits to do extensive planning with professionals on financing and capacity. This year the organization helped Joyce Theater Foundation acquire a former Boys’ Club in Manhattan’s East Village.


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“We’ve been arguing for a long time, we need to give nonprofits time and resources to be deliberate and intentional in pursuing these assets. And we talked to a lot of foundations and other philanthropic entities about trying to help them in that way,” said Wolf. 

New York City’s real estate market can be cuthroat. 

Nonprofit organizations have to compete with buyers who want to build condominiums and have readily available funds, unlike nonprofits that don’t have ready access to cash and have to rely on fundraising and foundations for financial support. 

“We used to say that for a nonprofit, owning real estate was the Holy Grail,” Wolf told New York Nonprofit Media. “Owning real estate can be a real burden, because now you have to carry it. You have fewer performances you’re putting on, or the cost to maintain it costs more.”

Denham Wolf focuses on creating in depth plans for nonprofits in order to see if expanding will be the healthiest choice for the organization. The firm helps to connect nonprofits with experts who can help them explore real estate ventures and expansion interests. 

The former Boys’ Club in the Joyce Theater Foundation deal was on the market for $32 million. Denham Wolf approached philanthropic entities with a plan to take the multimillion dollar location and return it to the community. These groups acquired the property and sold it to the Joyce Theater Foundation for $16 million, half of its original market value.

Nonprofits that use the Denham Wolf real estate model have to serve their communities, Wolf said, although there aren’t strict definitions on how they must serve their communities. Denham Wolf also can help nonprofits interested in deriving revenue from real estate assets. For example, Denham Wolf worked with St. Luke in the Fields Church and used their existing real estate holdings to generate an upfront payment and a significant annuity from multiple on-site projects.

Wolf calls the firm an “aggressive advocate” for organizations to expand their capacity and reach bigger audiences in their communities and insists preparation is key. 

“They should make sure they have their house in order,” Wolf said. “If they come and talk to us, we will help them understand what work they might need to do before they’re ready. I think that becomes really critical for nonprofits in any kind of capital project.

Denham Wolf adheres to their mantra ‘mission leads, real estate follows’, thus 

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