Annual Report 2002

CGIN is an organization that only works with active member support. At this point, our members continue to be very generous with great items and supportive of CGIN. Although the pace of our growth slowed somewhat in this, our fifth year of operations, we continue to receive support from members in many ways. Our growth continues to be strong in some areas, and steady in all.

As of the end of 2002, CGIN now has:

  • 117 retail co-op members; 12 “associate” members (wholesalers, organizations, consultants, etc.)
  • received scholarship contributions totaling $2,300 from members and given 26 “scholarships” to small co-ops to offer them a reduced annual fee
  • posted 534 different items on our website in our basic resource library, of which 127 (24%) are newsletter articles and 54 (10%) are job descriptions
  • 348 different delicious and successful deli recipes available for exchange
  • eleven different exhibits in the CGIN “photo gallery”
  • 407 users subscribed to our listserve
  • 28% more users who visit the site on average per day than a year ago, up 104% from two years ago
  • seen an increase in “page views” by 68% since last yeat at this time, 147% higher than 2000
  • We hope that we are correct in interpreting these results to mean that our members continue to find CGIN relevant and useful to the success of their co-ops.

New in 2002

We put our new guide, “How to start a food co-op,” online in early 2002. This basic manual covers an overview of what a food co-op is, how it operates, and the basic steps to organize a new co-op. It has already proven to be a useful resource to about 25 groups working on starting a new food co-op, or converting an existing privately owned store into a co-op. The manual is available to the public in either HTML (web pages) or PDF (Adobe Acrobat Reader) format. We also negotiated an exclusive reprint deal with Cooperative Grocer magazine so that those who prefer to get hard copy versions of these kinds of resources can easily obtain one through an established publications distributor.

CGIN also decided to take on the “Co-op Livable Wage” project this year — as proposed by Carolee Colter. We’re grateful to our funders, GreenStar Co-op (Ithaca, NY), Brattleboro Food Co-op (Brattleboro, VT), and the midwest cooperative grocers’ associations (Twin Cities Natural Foods Co-ops and CGA Midwest) for contributing funds as well as individuals to serve on a task force for this project. The aim of this project is to develop a model that can be used by co-ops around the country in calculating the basic costs of living in a particular community or region and what base wage would be necessary for the co-op to pay at that level after the value of benefits is calculated. This model will be online in January or February of 2003 and will feature a spreadsheet to make these calculations (for single employees, as well as optional spreadsheets for a family of three and a family of four), as well as web links to get data for a particular region, and background explanatory materials. We hope this model proves useful in addressing the critical issue of fair compensation within the realities of food retailing.

CGIN is also very pleased to have the chance to collaborate with the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) to bring members a national co-op event calendar. You can find our joint calendar at http://www.cgin.coop/cal_go.asp.

Coming in 2003, we hope to launch a “virtual trade show,” an online place where members can view displays by equipment or product manufacturers (for instance, featuring new products). We’re excited about being able to offer a place to help co-ops gather information for store expansions, about product qualities, and about the manufacturers of the products they sell. We also are hopeful that we can add some enhanced features to our site in 2003, including the ability to search portions of our site (e.g. the deli recipe exchange, or the basic resources library) using key words. The wide diversity and volume of materials now available on our site necessitates this step so that users will be able to find what they’re looking for more easily.

Finances

In 2002, CGIN’s total income will amount to a little over $46,000 and expenses will likely be around $40,000. Though we expected to break even, we had higher than expected membership renewals and more new members than we projected. Additionally, we were able to keep basic overhead costs to a minimum, giving us a nice small profit for the year. Our 2003 budget projects a small loss but we are hopeful that we can manage it to result in a breakeven year. While CGIN continues to operate as a very lean organization financially, its balance sheet is relatively strong and its expenses can be trimmed if membership renewals do not meet projections.

Thanks and acknowledgements

In addition to our members, seven groups provided sponsorship support to CGIN in 2002. Our thanks to Northeast Cooperatives, Ozark Cooperative Warehouse, Tucson Cooperative Warehouse, Blooming Prairie, NCB Development Corporation, Ontario Natural Foods Co-op, and CROPP/Organic Valley for their support of CGIN.

CGIN continues to receive invaluable technical support from the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives. Matt Lewandowski served as our webmaster through August and then turned the reins over to the very able Cara Patton, while Jody Padgham, Ashwini Rao, and Anne Reynolds provide supervision and technical support on CGIN’s behalf. CGIN also continues to benefit from a strong partnership with 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.

Looking ahead

We continue to be excited by all of the possibilities for service delivery through CGIN. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of our members in sending in materials to share with their colleagues and to all listserve participants for maintaining a respectful and dynamic forum for exchange of ideas and news relevant to co-ops. In June, the CGIN board will hold its fourth annual strategic planning session at the CCMA (Consumer Co-op Management Association) conference and all members will be able to join us for our sixth annual membership meeting. 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.