This October, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is joining over 30,000 co-ops and credit unions across the United States in celebrating Co-op Month, recognizing the many ways co-operatives help to build stronger communities and more resilient local economies. For 2016, the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International has identified “Co-operatives Build” as the theme, spotlighting the advantages co-ops offer to their members and the communities in which they live and work. For ideas and resources to help your food co-op join the celebration, see below.
“Across New England, food co-ops help people build community,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the NFCA. “For example, the majority of our member co-ops have been in business for over 30 years, providing healthy food, jobs and a market for local producers across generations.”
The NFCA includes more than 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives, locally owned by more than 107,000 people. Together, these co-ops employ over 1,800 people, generate revenues of more than $250 million, and purchase more than $50 million from local producers each year. In recent years, a new wave of community based start-up initiatives has been working to open new food co-ops in communities across our region. (For a map of member co-ops, visit www.nfca.coop/members.)
Co-operatives are businesses that are owned and governed by their members, the people who use the products and services they provide. From food co-ops to farmer co-ops, worker co-ops to credit unions, and housing co-ops to energy co-ops, co-operatives make a difference in people’s lives every day. Co-ops are also more common than you might think: Here in the United States, 1 in 3 people are members of at least one co-op or credit union. Nationwide, co-operatives create 2.1 million jobs and generate more than $650 billion in sales and other revenue annually.
Learning more about some of the co-operatives in our food system is easy: Just look for the “Go Co-op” signs on the shelves of your Neighboring Food Co-ops. You may be surprised to find so many items made by co-operatives in New England, including dairy products from Cabot, McCadam and Organic Valley, fresh produce from Deep Root Organic Co-op, fairly traded coffee, tea and chocolate from Equal Exchange, beverages from Katalyst Kombucha and Green River Ambrosia, seeds and bulbs from FEDCO, naturally fermented vegetables from Real Pickles, northeast grown frozen fruits and vegetables from the Neighboring Food Co-op Association — and many others.
For more examples of how co-operatives empower people to build community, please visit www.nfca.coop/GO.
Below are some ideas on how your food co-op can celebrate Co-op Month and promote the difference that co-operative enterprise makes every day. By working together with other co-op sectors and organizations, we can communicate the impact of the co-operative business model when we connect in our communities and around the world. Whatever you decide to do, let us know so we can spread the word!
- “Co-operatives Build.” The theme for National Co-operative Business Association's celebration this year is an invitation to our food co-ops to promote how they help people build community, food security and economic reslience. How can your co-op use this theme to communicate what sets you apart?
- Spread the Word. Edit the NFCA's Co-op Month template for use in your food co-op's newsletter, website or blog post, or as a press release promoting how your co-op builds community.
- Tell Our Story. Help spread the word about the collective impact and your Neighboring Food Co-ops — 35 food co-ops and start-ups, locally owned by 107,000 people, employing 1,800 people and purchasing over $50 million from local producers each year — and invite people to learn more at www.nfca.coop/about.
- Social Media. Use Co-op Month images on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, and use the hashtag #CoopMonth in social media posts.
- Communicating the Co-op Difference. How can you tie the "co-op difference" into your marketing and messaging? Need a sample Co-op Elevator Pitch? Use this resource to help communicate the co-op difference
In the Store
- Use the NFCA’s “Go Co-op” Shelf Talkers (at right) to promote co-op suppliers in your food co-op. Every September NFCA member co-ops receive rpinted copies to update their shelves. You can download templates here to print on pre-perforated channel tag paper: Bulk, Grocery, Refrigerated & Wellness items, and Cheese & Dairy items.
- Display the NFCA's "Go Co-op" Rack Cards to promote Co-op Month to members and shoppers in your food co-op and at special events. NFCA member co-ops receive a bundle of cards in September in preparation for Co-op Month, or you can request a bundle by e-mailing email@example.com.
- Share the What is a Co-op? Our Co-op and the Wider Co-operative Movement presentation with your co-op's staff, board, and/or members. Email us for a version you can customize: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seek out Co-op Products to offer on your shelves. Visit www.nfca.coop/co-opproducts for a list of co-op suppliers
- Offer Co-op Month Specials on products from co-op suppliers and include a short description of the co-op in promotional materials.
- Organize End Caps of co-op products, and/or include co-op products in special seasonal promotions.
- Invite co-ops to Demo Their Products in your food co-op. Some co-ops in our region that you may want to contact include:
- If your co-op sells Books, consider stocking recent titles that include content on co-ops, such as "Building Co-operative Power," or “Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital”. See more options in our list of books in the "Book Group" section below.
- Post Co-op Month Posters in your store during September and October. Download your 2016 Co-op Month Posters here: Design 1, Blocks & Design 2, Sphere
- Include Co-op Month core messaging and the logo in your co-op’s Advertising during October.
- Do a special Press Release on your co-op’s plans to celebrate Co-op Month. E-mail us for a template.
- Invite other co-ops and credit union in your community to do a shared ad for Co-op Month. For an example from the Valley Co-operative Business Association, click HERE.
- Include Stories about our Region's Co-ops in your food co-op’s newsletter, e-newsletter or website. (Visit www.nfca.coop/co-opprofiles for stories you can reprint.)
- Post a link on your website to the NFCA's Inspiring Videos page, or post the videos driectly on your co-op's webpage: www.nfca.coop/videos
- Help your members Share Your Co-op with others:
- “Bring a Friend to Your Co-op Day.” Offer some incentive for every member who brings in a friend who has never shopped in their Co-op or who brings in a friend to join, or…
- “Bring Your Co-op to Work Day.” Create basic materials for how members can share about their Co-op at work (in staff meetings, bulletin board) or in community groups (book club, sports, etc.).
In the Community
- Promote Other Co-ops in Your Area by inviting farmer co-ops, worker co-ops, energy co-ops, etc., to share information at your co-op or at a co-op event. Invite your local credit union to have an informational table at your food co-op. For a map of co-ops in our region, visit www.nfca.coop/co-opeconomy.
- Use the New England Farmers Union Curriculum, "Co-operatives: The Business of Teamwork" in education & outreach programs at your co-op, or share it with local schools and community organizations that do educational programs. Curriculum includes content for grades 1 to adult. Download a copy HERE or e-mail email@example.com for more information on printed copies.
- Reach out to your local Girl Scouts with Cabot’s “Co-ops for Community” patch program that encourages girls to learn more about the value of co-ops, builds leadership skills and supports community connections for Girl Scout troops.
- Hold a Video Showing and discussion forum with a film that includes information on co-ops such as:
- The Visionaries PBS program (2016) celebrates NCBA CLUSA's 100th anniversary and will be ready for release this fall — your food co-op can sign up to host a screening for Co-op Month!
- "Food for Change" (2014) is an 82-minute documentary film focusing on food co-ops as a force for dynamic social and economic change in American culture.
- "Shift Change" features Spain's Mondragón co-ops and worker co-ops here in the US.
- Start a Book Group on co-operatives for members at your food co-op. Some recent titles include:
- "Building Co-operative Power," is the story of worker co-ops in western New England and the potential for cross sector collaboration in growing the Co-operative Economy.
- “Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital,” by John Restakis. Available at your local bookstore or from New Society Press, www.newsociety.com.
- "The Cooperative Solution," by E.G. Nadeau. This short book (109 pp) makes the case that co-ops across sectors are the solution to many of the major economic, social, and environmental problems in the United States today
- Fundraise for Co-op Development during Co-op Month. Set aside a day, week or the whole month to fundraise for the Howard Bowers Fund (www.cdf.coop/howard-bowers-day/), the Cooperative Fund of New England (www.coopfund.coop), or NFCA start-up members that are seeking donations for development such as Amherst Community Co-op (MA), Assabet Village Food Co-op (MA), Manchester Food Co-op (NH), and Morrisville Food Co-op (VT),
- Join other Co-ops. Your food co-op can become a member of other food co-ops in our region that have organizational members (such as Old Creamery Co-op and River Valley Market), as well as food system co-ops such as FEDCO Seeds (www.fedcoseeds.com/members.htm), or credit unions that have business members.
- Invest in Co-ops. Set aside some of your food co-op’s resources to invest in the success of other co-ops in our region. Some options include:
- Making a social investment loan to the Cooperative Fund of New England (www.coopfund.coop) or the Shared Capital Co-op (www.sharedcapital.coop).
- Exploring investment in other food co-ops that accept external investment such as NFCA member start-up Dorchester Community Food Co-op, or other co-operatives such as Artisan Beverage Co-operative, Equal Exchange and Organic Valley.
- Making a loan to another NFCA member food co-op that is growing or expanding.
Don’t forget to tell us what your co-op is doing to celebrate Co-op Month. Send your ideas and copies of your co-op’s ads, press releases, promotions, and newsletter articles to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share them with other co-ops in our community.