Community Improvement, Capacity Building

501 Commons

Seattle, WA


501 Commons' mission is to boost the capacity of nonprofit organizations to thrive over the long term and effectively serve the community.

Notes from the Nonprofit

501 Commons is the most comprehensive management support organization in the United States. We offer a wide array of services, consulting, specialized tools, and special programs that strengthen the more than 800 nonprofits we serve annually. We also demonstrate the value of deploying the talents and expertise of the thousands of professionals who are willing and able to contribute nonprofits in our communities.

501 Commons' services are based in the Five Elements of a Healthy Nonprofit model we developed based on research and the thousands of projects we have done with nonprofits.

This model allows organizations to measure their performance on 58 standards that are important to an organization's sustainability and effectiveness, and its relationship with donors, volunteers, clients and community members.

Our goal is to give organizations the ability to demonstrate that they have the capacity to deliver on their mission so that donors and funders can use meaningful measures to determine the value of investing in an organization, rather than the meaningless and destructive standard of "overhead expenses."

We believe that nonprofit organizations of all sizes can demonstrate the specific behaviors and practices that are described in the standards and that doing well on the standards measures what we have been calling "capacity." Getting to a working definition of capacity means we can seriously address the limitations that are preventing too many of our nonprofits from being more effective in solving the critical problems faced by our communities and our world.

If you are interested in learning more about this approach, contact us at

Ruling Year


Principal Officer

Ms. Nancy Long

Main Address

Pacific Tower, Suite 1101 1200 12th Avenue South

Seattle, WA 98144 USA


management and technology consulting, capacity building, Information & Referral, contracted HR, finanical services & technology services,





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Nonprofit Management (S50)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Social Media


Programs + Results

What we aim to solve New!

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Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Technology Services

Management Consulting

Financial Services

Information & Referral

Where we workNew!

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Our Results

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one. These quantitative program results are self-reported by the organization, illustrating their committment to transparency, learning, and interest in helping the whole sector learn and grow.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Number of unique website visitors

Population(s) served


Related program

Information & Referral

Context notes

The 501 Commons website is used by nonprofits throughout the United States and the world because of the extensive curated resources for nonprofits available on the site.

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

Nonprofit organizations are tackling problems we all want addressed, such as: hunger, youth suicide, and homelessness; economic development, water policy, and emergency services; drop-out prevention, illiteracy, and college access. The staff, boards, and volunteers of these organizations are working hard; however, they cannot realize their potential without the proper tools, services, and expertise.

501 Commons provides nonprofits with affordable access to an array of resources and customized services necessary to increase the number of people, families, and communities that benefit from nonprofits.

Our board has defined three overarching goals into the following end policies:

End Policies
End #1: Washington nonprofit leaders access and benefit from the skills, knowledge, and practices required for a healthy nonprofit.
End #2: Organizations exhibit the characteristics described in the Five Elements of a Healthy Nonprofit.
End #3: Nonprofits, government, philanthropy, and businesses in Washington are working together to solve community problems.

Strategy 1: Provide customized and affordable services to build nonprofit capacity

Consulting Services
• Management Consulting (Service Corps & Staff)
• Tech Consulting (Strategy, Online communications, Database, Infrastructure)
• Active learning Assessment and Planning Programs with cohorts of organizations
• Other Customized Services

Foundational Capacity Building - contracted ongoing services as well as projects
• Financial Services
• Human Resource Services
• IT Infrastructure and Salesforce Administration

Information and Referral
• Nonprofit Resource Directory (searchable listings of vetted service providers and curated resources)
• Phone and email information & referral, including navigational assistance.

Strategy 2: Promote partnerships/collaborations with capacity builders, nonprofits, philanthropy, government and business. For example, execute our new "Zap the Gap" campaign will build partnerships with business to address the gap in access to technology that is holding back nonprofits.

Strategy 3: Act as a thought leader to the nonprofit, philanthropic, government and business community through speeches, blog posts, research and funding proposal for innovative approaches to increasing nonprofit effectiveness.

Our broad contact with the sector - 600+ engagement a year and 450 information and referral cases - gives us information on the needs of the sector that we can disseminate to funders, government, and business.

Ideally, we hope to bring about changes in funding practices. For example we would like to encourage increased funding for volunteer management and for technology. Our trusted relationships with nonprofit leaders give us access to an understanding of the sector that is not available to other organizations or individuals. We build this through day-to-day interactions that allow us to see some of the underlying issues that drive lower performance in the sector.

Because of our unique perspective on the nonprofits in our community, 501 Commons is able to create programs, resources, and services to assist our philanthropic partners in meeting their goals, including through our cohort programs (e.g. Catalyst, Springboard, Volunteer Manager Corps, and HR Toolkit.)

501 Commons is currently the largest nonprofit support organization in the Pacific Northwest and one of the largest in the country. No other similar organization offers such a broad array of services - with the added bonus of generating a $1.3 million in donated services from volunteers.

501 Commons staff, subcontractors and volunteer consultants, advisors, and coaches worked on over 600 contracted projects in 2016 with about 400 organizations. This is a 357% increase over 2012 levels. In addition our Information and Referral Program Manager, Matt Fikejs, and many expert staff members completed 450 I&R cases. Approximately 850 nonprofit staff attended one of the trainings offered by 501 Commons, including several ED Forums and the King County Board Training series

Our internationally sought out website which includes thousands of pages of carefully curated resources, tools and best practices had 113,000 sessions in 2016. We offer the first of its kind vetted directory of 110+ consultants and service providers.

We measure our progress in the following ways:

Service levels:
We monitor levels of service by type of service, including monitoring how many organizations use multiple services and the location of the services.

Client satisfaction and reported impact:
We collect client satisfaction with our services overall and with the staff members, contractors or volunteers with whom they worked.

Financial performance:
We monitor performance to budget, receivables, P&L overall and by major line of business. Cost per FTE, and months of cash on hand.

501 Commons has served Washington State since 1989. Through our online resources, especially the Best Practices section of the Resource Director, the organization now provides support to individuals throughout the world.

The organization has experienced a very high level of growth over the last 6 years and currently has a staff of 50, ~12 contractors, and a Executive Service Corps program that includes 500+ skilled volunteers. This allows us to provide a the broadest array of resources and services available to nonprofits anywhere in the United States.

External Reviews


501 Commons

Fiscal year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

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  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2016, 2015 and 2015
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Click here to view a Sample Report.


The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Need more info?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2016, 2015 and 2015
A Pro report is also available for this organization for $125.
Click here to see what's included.

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


Organizational Demographics

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Full-Time Staff, Part-Time Staff and Volunteers.

Race & Ethnicity

This organization reports that it does not collect this information.

Sexual Orientation

This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members and Volunteers.


This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members and Volunteers.

Diversity Strategies

We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
We have a diversity committee in place
We have a diversity manager in place
We have a diversity plan
We use other methods to support diversity
Diversity notes from the nonprofit
When hiring we focus on gaining a pool of applicants that represents various kinds of diversity before selecting a person for the position.