Expanding Cooperative Community Funds

The Cooperative Community Fund Program, sponsored by the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation is accepting applications for its 2001 grant cycle. TPCF will make $5,000 matching grants to three food cooperatives outside California. Please contact Cathy Mulcahy, our executive director, to be placed on our 2001 grant application list ([email protected] or 916-944-4935). Applications are due by October 19. Awards for 2001 will be announced on November 5.

At time of publication there are eight cooperatives operating Cooperative Community Funds (CCF). The eight CCF sponsors do $94 million in sales, serve about 180,000 people, and annually are host to over 7 million member/customer visits. The eight co-op sponsors in order of joining are: North Coast Cooperatives, Davis Food Co-op, Briarpatch Community Market, Coopportunity, Isla Vista Food Co-op, Hanover Co-op, Weaver Street, and Food Conspiracy Co-op. After just three years, TPCF manages $130,000 in aggregate CCF endowments.

The Twin Pines program is replicating nationally the success of the Cooperative Community Fund set up by North Coast Cooperatives. In 1990, North Coast began building its CCF endowment in order to give the annual interest to local community groups. Each day at the check stand hundreds of co-op members donate their patronage to the CCF. In 2001, their CCF endowment has assets of over $700,000. During the year 2000, CCF gave $33,000 to 95 community groups, and the CCF is now one of Humboldt County's largest donors.

Four years ago Twin Pines Co-op Foundation (TPCF) adopted a long term plan to replicate North Coast Co-op's CCF. In 1997, TPCF matched co-ops in California with contributions to endow five local foundations. In 2000 TPCF awarded matching grants of $5,000 each to three additional non-California co-ops and in 2001 will match another three non-California co-ops.

Twin Pines Co-op Foundation intends to provide an ongoing subsidy to support the CCF start-up program. TPCF provides full administrative support of about $20,000 per annum to the program from its own income. TPCF charges a .05% administrative fee on CCF funds under $50,000 and 1% administrative fee on funds above $50,000. This means that at least 99% of the donated funds benefit the local groups in your community. This is one of the lowest administrative costs of any fundraising program in the USA.

Consider the potential of your co-op's capacity to support a co-op donation program. Let's use the Davis Food Co-op as an example. The co-op has 6,500 household members, and the median income in Yolo County is $55,000. Presuming a correlation between our member households and median income, the household members of the Davis Food Co-op therefore collectively earn $357,500,000 annually. Co-op member households, being regular good citizens, probably contribute 3% of their gross income to charity. Therefore, our DFC member households annually give $10,700,000 to charity. Even if our members only diverted 1%, that would mean $107,000 annually donated to the local CCF.

We can add to the respect of our members for our community support through an effective CCF program. Our co-ops are trusted organizations in the community. Co-ops are uncommon retailers based upon principles with a rich past and practices that sustain the future. We are rich in opportunities to make a local Cooperative Community Fund an active program and strong tool to fulfill our newest cooperative principle: "concern for community."

As we build the aggregate funds we will provide a mechanism for directly investing in groups such as the Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund (NCDF), and local community development credit unions such as Self-Help Credit Union in North Carolina. This fall I will meet with folks from both organizations to set up an investment program. Groups like NCDF and Self-Help can put the CCF dollars to work for cooperative development in many ways.

TPCF will soon offer an interactive web site to provide replicable materials that actively support local co-ops in their fundraising activity. TPCF's objective is to increase the number of co-ops participating in the CCF, to provide local co-op staff with strong program capacity, to increase the number of co-op members donating to their local CCF program, and to increase the visibility of the sponsor co-op's charitable giving in its community. Ask about our new attractive bumper sticker, "Co-ops Fund Community."

Please join us in building the national Cooperative Community Fund program.

See other articles from this issue: #096 September - October - 2001