Hotels and Motels and What They Mean for Nonprofit Centers


Many people use the words “hotel” and “motel” interchangeably, but there is a history behind the words that gives a clue to the lodging available. Hotel is a French word for public residence, and now typically means an inn of higher quality. Motel is an American invention from the 1920s that played on Hotel with a new twist – an added motor. With Americans traveling more and traveling further in their autos, it became the new norm to stay short amounts of time at an inn before hitting the road again. A motel sign let you know you could motor right up to your room door and be ready to leave again quickly. While the habits and expectations for each are strikingly dissimilar, the only key difference in a hotel and a motel is the location of the room doors – inside or outside.

When planning nonprofit center construction or considering buildings for renovation, it is vital to consider the “travelers” and how they will adapt their journey based on the accommodations you offer. For nonprofit centers, “travelers” can include nonprofit agency staff, clients, and general community members. Do you plan to provide a destination where real living occurs, or might you accidentally create a place to only check in and out?

For a nonprofit center that seeks to build collaboration among nonprofit agencies, a shared hallway might not be high on your list of requirements. However, consider where you would plan a retreat or conference if you were making reservations. Most, if not all, would choose a hotel, even at a higher rate, because of the many small but valuable connections made when people share common spaces, common entrances, hallways, and more. There is no easy way to quantify the magic of these connections and how they accumulate into collaboration. But, when removed, you may find tenants who don’t even know one another. It can resemble the difference in the camaraderie of a college dorm hall and the anonymity of an apartment complex.

For nonprofit centers serving clients, the location of your doors can signal the cooperation awaiting them or simply a coincidental near-location. By locating each nonprofit’s front doors within, your nonprofit center can show a united and welcoming portal where the way is clear, instead of a confusing set of similar options.

If an average community member seeking to donate, volunteer, or start a new initiative is faced with 20 front doors vs. one, uncertainty might stop questions or solutions before they even begin. Your nonprofit center design can remove uncertainty and provide one front door for issues, solutions, and new ideas.

While they are always the first things to be used, doors are often overlooked as symbols of the culture inside. Even a more expensive building that follows the hotel model can save money in the long run if your center proves a success at real collaboration. While we can never measure just how many greetings at the door, chats in the hall, and shared experiences in shared spaces generate that collaboration, we know without it, we can have little foundation on which to build.



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