In our third year, CGIN moved beyond its start-up and into an organization with a growing range of activities. Administratively, the organization runs pretty smoothly, providing a strong foundation for services to members. We were able to use our tax-exempt status to leverage reduced conference call rates on behalf of all CGIN members and regional cooperative grocers’ associations (CGAs).
CGIN’s primary service continue to be focused on activities we can provide to members through our web pages.
Listserve: Our listserve has over 320 subscribers as of the end of 2000 and is a well-recognized forum for exchanging information, doing research, and enhancing communications among members of the food co-op community.
Items in the “Resource Exchange:” We currently have 284 items pledged with 268 on-line. This almost doubles the number of items we have available in our on-line library of resources since last year at this time. In addition, our deli recipe exchange has a total of 139 deli recipes on-line and another 11 “on the way.” We’d like to see at least 150 new recipes added in 2001 or may consider dropping it.
Public access resources: We added several pages that we hope are useful to members, such as our extensive list of links to other web sites and a listing of current jobs available within the food co-op network. In addition, we are working on developing an on-line publication about how to start a food co-op (see “New projects”).
Perhaps more important than how many items are on-line is whether people find our web pages useful and of value. The primary indicator we have for that is monthly site statistics. In the eighteen months for which we have regular data, we’ve seen continued growth in usage of our web site. In that time (since June 1999), the number of “user sessions” per month has increased by four-fold (to 2,100 in November), as has the number of user sessions per day (to 70). In addition the number of unique users has tripled (to 1,100) as has the number of users who visit the site more than once a month (to 250). The average user session length has fluctuated between 9-12 minutes per session. We take this data as an indicator of the value of our site to members and other users.
Membership and sponsors
As of the end of 2000, CGIN has 98 retail members and ten associate (non-retail) members. In addition, four groups have provided sponsorship support to CGIN. Our thanks to Northeast Cooperatives, Ozark Cooperative Warehouse, Tucson Cooperative Warehouse, and Blooming Prairie for their sponsorship support of CGIN. The annual fee for CGIN retail members will increase to $150 in 2001; small co-ops may request a discount of $50 and all members are eligible to get a $25 credit for contributing 10 items or 25 deli recipes for on-line sharing.
CGIN is committed to remaining accessible to all co-ops regardless of size or scope of operations. To help make CGIN affordable to small co-ops, we continue to accept contributions to a “scholarship fund. This year, we were able to provide scholarships totaling $425 to nine co-ops. Once again we thank our members for their generous contributions to our scholarship fund.
CGIN developed and circulated a proposal for grant funding to a number of agencies in 2000. Our proposal was to develop an on-line publication on “How to Start a Food Co-op.” We were fortunate to receive pledges of grant funds for the $6,000 budget for this project from three groups. Our thanks to these groups for their support:
Howard Bowers Fund – $3,000
Associated Cooperatives/Twin Pines Co-op Foundation – $2,000
The Cooperative Foundation – $1,000
We expect to have this publication available on-line by mid-2001. In addition, we will be making a file of the publication available to CGIN members who would like to add names of local resources and contacts, add their name as a local sponsor of the publication, and make hard copy versions available to interested groups.
In 2000, CGIN’s total income will amount to a little over $34,000 and expenses will be about $27,000. For the year, CGIN will show a surplus of almost $7,000, though $3,000 of this is due to a timing difference due to grant funds received for which no expenses have yet been incurred. For 2001, we project our income at $35,275 while expenses are expected to total $37,750. The grant funds received in 2000 make up this shortfall, leaving the organization with a projected surplus of a little over $500.
More thanks and acknowledgements
CGIN continues to receive invaluable technical support from Anne Reynolds of the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives. Anne and her staff, including Jody Padgham and Matt Lewandowski, handle all of the technical details related to CGIN’s web pages. Matt has done an outstanding job getting items on-line soon after CGIN members send them to him, working through some of the tedious details needed to make CGIN’s pages work the way they do, and helping in a redesign of our home page. CGIN is especially grateful to Matt, Anne, and Jody, as well as the UWCC, for their help and support.
CGIN also has benefitted from the support of other individuals and organizations, including:
Paul Hazen and the National Cooperative Business Association: NCBA has supported CGIN since its inception and continues to be an invaluable partner in CGIN’s success.
Sophia Raday and the NCB Development Corporation: NCBDC has generously provided refreshments to members attending our annual meeting. Thanks to all the NCBDC for this support.
Dave Gutknecht, publisher and editor of Cooperative Grocer magazine: CGIN’s board serves as the editorial advisory board to the magazine. This has naturally led to Dave being involved in many other discussions related to CGIN’s operations, plans, and systems, as well as his participation in our first strategic planning session last June. In addition, CGIN and Cooperative Grocer magazine work together to offer discounted rates to sponsoring organizations that support both organizations. We appreciate Dave’s contributions to CGIN and the closer collaboration that this brings to both organizations.
We are working on a complete overhaul of our home page and minor design changes for the rest of our pages — to enhance usability and to accommodate the growing complexity of our site. We hope you’ll see evidence of this work early in 2001. We look forward to having a useable resource on-line to support the development of new food co-ops soon. In June, the CGIN board will hold its second annual strategic planning session in Chicago to consider the future for our organization. It’s also possible that other structural changes are in store for CGIN in 2001 — to minimize duplication and ensure that CGIN provides services most efficiently and effectively to support the growth and sustainability of food co-ops. We look forward to being a partner in helping your co-op survive and thrive in the dynamic industry and times in which we all live.