2003 YEAR IN REVIEW
Wrapping up our sixth year of operations, it’s fun to think back on what CGIN has accomplished with its modest means and commitment to being a “low-overhead organization that cranks out services, not studies.” All signs indicate that our members continue to find value through CGIN every day. And our organization continues to grow in terms of capacity, services, and member participation.
As of the end of 2003, CGIN now has:
- 123 retail co-op members and 10 “associate” members (wholesalers, organizations, consultants)
- received scholarship contributions totaling $3,825 from members and given 29 “scholarships” to small co-ops to make CGIN accessible to them at a reduced annual fee
- posted over 685 different items on our website in our basic resource library, of which 194 (28%) are newsletter articles
- 393 different delicious and successful deli recipes available for sharing
- 17 different exhibits in the CGIN “photo gallery”
- 407 users subscribed to our listserve
- an average of 25% more users who visit the site each day than a year ago
- seen an increase in “page views” of 47% since last year at this time and a 38% increase in “unique” users (different individuals visiting the site) each month
Of course, these numbers don’t tell us if CGIN is actually helping our members. However, we hope that they are an indicator that we’re doing something right and that members continue to find CGIN relevant and useful to the success of their co-ops.
New in 2003
We were very pleased to be able to complete development of the CGIN “Livable Wage” model this year and make it available on our site. This model was developed by Carolee Colter, with the assistance of the Livable Wage Project task force: Alex Gyori (Brattleboro Food Co-op), Patrice Jennings (GreenStar Co-op Market), Claire Strader (Willy Street Co-op) and Karen Zimbelman. It provides co-ops with background materials, detailed instructions, a worksheet, and online links for looking up local cost of living information. In this way, co-ops can calculate what the “livable wage” would be for their own communities and develop strategies to achieve this goal, if desired. We are charging users a nominal fee of $50 to access these materials so that we can fund an annual update to the links and improvements to all of the materials. We expect to begin our first phase of those updates in early 2004.
In response to a request, CGIN launched a new, specialized listserve this year — this one for membership and marketing staff. This listserve, called the “M and M” listserve is available on a subscription basis and now has 59 subscribers. To get more information on this listserve, see the information at http://www.cgin.coop/listserve.html.
Similarly, when the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) wanted to set up a web discussion board to provide a forum for exchange of views and a centralized information source for its proposed national reorganization, CGIN stepped up to the plate. We worked with our internet service provider to source software that would work for our needs, get a new web board set up, and to help NCGA staff make it work for their specific purpose. Since its inception in September, this web board has since expanded its focus to also incorporate a section where co-op board members can exchange views, ideas, and seek help from one another. We continue to be pleased to find ways to collaborate with the NCGA to maximize the services available to support and strengthen food co-ops.
Plenty happens behind the scenes at CGIN just to keep the site functioning and updated. We have thousands of links to online sources of information that are updated every week. In 2003, we moved the archive of our listserve to our own pages (hosted previously by the University of Colorado’s Center for Sustainable Futures — for which we offer our sincere thanks). Given the increased size of our site and our listserve archive, we introduced a search function, which required a number of other “architectural” changes to the way our site works. Finally, as the year closes, we are pleased to add a new service — the “CGIN Classifieds” to allow co-ops around the country to source and sell equipment or items of interest.
In 2003, CGIN’s total income will amount to a little over $41,000 and expenses will likely be around $37,000. Though we expected a small loss for the year, we had higher than anticipated membership renewals and usage fees than we projected. Additionally, our basic overhead costs were kept to a minimum, in spite of programming costs exceeding budget by over 50%. For 2004, our budget again projects a small loss but we’re hopeful that we can keep red ink to a minimum, if not turn it into another breakeven year. CGIN’s resources are relatively small, but its balance sheet continues to be strong and its expenses can be trimmed if membership renewals do not meet projections.
Thanks and acknowledgements
In addition to members, eight groups provided sponsorship support to CGIN in 2003. Our thanks to Albert’s Organics, Cooperative Development Services, Frontier Natural Products Co-op, Hershey Import Company, the National Cooperative Bank Development Corporation, CROPP/Organic Valley, Ozark Cooperative Warehouse, and United Natural Foods for their support of CGIN.
CGIN continues to receive invaluable technical support from the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives. Cara Patton served as our webmaster through July and then turned the reins over to the very able Daniel Wurdinger, while 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.
CGIN is an organization that only works with active member support. We continue to be inspired and excited by all of the possibilities for services through CGIN that can help minimize the disadvantages of independent retail operations and that can help strengthen the benefits of local, community ownership. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of our members who send 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 fifth annual strategic planning session at the CCMA (Consumer Co-op Management Association) conference and we’ll look forward to seeing you at our seventh annual membership meeting. And throughout the upcoming year, we look forward to being a partner in helping strengthen and support your co-op in all ways that we can.