Before CGIN was formed, those wanting to research other co-ops’ practices or get sample docu ments would send out letters or call each other by phone. Those able to take the time to answer such requests could be seen at a copy machine reproducing documents and then stuffing samples into envelopes. These tasks were repeated over and over again – sometimes for the same items.
CGIN has streamlined the entire research and response process for all involved. By creating a library of sample materials that co-ops are willing to share with one another, we’ve made it easy for those needing information to instantly access samples or documents that they can simply use or adapt. Our website now makes available:
- over 800 different items such as employee handbooks, newsletter articles, operational forms, job descriptions, board policies, membership materials, consumer information items, etc.
- 422 different delicious and successful recipes from some of the best co-op delis
- 24 photo gallery exhibits illustrating such things as specific departments (bulk), merchandising (signs and displays), co-op logos, T-shirts, individual co-op tours, etc.
- the CGIN Livable Wage model
- basic retail operations training materials produced by the Urban Cooperative Institute
- the CGIN/NCGA events calendar
2004 highlights and accomplishments
Working with Carolee Colter, we updated the Livable Wage model and materials. This involved updating links for calculating costs, adding notes on how to make additional adjustments where cost data isn’t current or seems inaccurate, including a page of frequently asked questions for explaining the model to employees and boards of directors, and developing case studies illustrating how several co-ops have adapted the model to suit their unique needs or circumstances.
Invisible to most members, we moved our site to a new web host, and changed vendors for webmastering services. These services are now provided by the same vendor, which is leading to financial savings for CGIN, as well as higher quality service. Our new webmaster is also better able to assess CGIN’s technical needs and help us make changes to keep the site operating optimally.
As the year winds to a close, we are about ready to go live with several long-promised upgrades to our pages. A portion of the members-only section of our site will be directly accessible to the board members of CGIN member co-ops. While we have always recognized that some of the materials on our site are useful to directors, not all CGIN members have been comfortable with having volunteer directors being able to access materials that are highly proprietary and very operationally oriented items (e.g. deli recipes, marketing plans, department financial indicators and analysis tools, etc.). A majority of CGIN members have indicated that they would prefer that these items, which would be easily adaptable to competitor stores, remain accessible only to paid co-op staff. By setting up different levels of access to the CGIN site, we can make selected items, such as sample board policies, committee charters, member loan documents, etc., available to directors without compromising the security of other materials.
Other year-end changes include making it possible for CGIN members to directly post their own job announcements and classifieds, and an automated password retrieval system. CGIN’s job postings pages receive new listings weekly and provide a great way for co-ops to recruit key staff. If these changes aren’t all operating by the time you read this report, they will be soon!
CGIN also continues to operate two listserves – our basic listserve (CGIN-list) that is open to anyone and currently has 400 subscribers, and a specialized listserve for member ship and marketing staff (“M & M”) that is available on a subscription basis and now has 81subscribers. CGIN also operates the online discussion board for the members of the National Cooperative Grocers Associa tion (NCGA). This web board also has a section where co-op board members can exchange views, ideas, and seek help from one another. We’re pleased to find ways to collaborate with the NCGA to maximize the services available to support and strengthen food co-ops.
In 2004, CGIN’s total income will amount to a little less than $47,000 and expenses will likely be around $36,000. While we expected a small loss for the year, we once again benefited from strong membership renewals and were able to realize good savings by consolidating our technical support services this year. Our 2005 budget projects a very small loss but we expect it will more likely be a break even year. CGIN’s resources are relatively small, but its balance sheet continues to be strong and 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 2004. 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.
Since its founding in 1997 through August of 2004, CGIN received technical support from the University of Wiscon sin Center for Cooperatives. For over six years, UWCC provided CGIN with consistent, reliable technical support through a unique contractual arrangement. Part of CGIN’s success in building a strong and viable organization with limited resources belongs to the UWCC and, in particular, to the steady support and guidance of Anne Reynolds. UWCC has long been a major asset to the entire cooperative community and its support of CGIN is just one small tangible example of that commitment and value to co-ops.
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 in many ways. Thanks, Paul!
CGIN is an organization that only works with active member support. We continue to be inspired and excited by the possibilities for services through CGIN that can help minimize the disadvantages of independent retail operations and that can help strengthen the benefits of community owner ship. We’re deeply grateful to our members who so generously send in materials to share with their colleagues and to all listserve participants for maintaining a respectful and dynamic forum for the exchange of ideas and news relevant to co-ops. In 2005, we look forward to being a partner in helping strengthen and support your co-op in all ways that we can.