A recurring theme I heard from members at recent board meetings was that they weren’t aware of the financial trouble the Co-op was having. At the same meetings, members offered suggestions for how the Co-op could recover by slashing unnecessary costs. Some members suggested eliminating Co-op News. So, I am left to ponder, how do we balance communicating to our members with the cost of that communication?
Co-op News has been the Co-op’s primary member news tool for years. It is part of providing the ‘more than just a grocery store’ experience that defines our Co-op. It is also a vital connection for members living outside of the area who can’t attend meetings or aren’t in the stores regularly.Many Co-op News readers receive their copy via email or read it online from the Co-op’s website, but the print copies that are shared in the stores and mailed to members come at a cost that impacts our bottom line.
The messages the Co-op shares with members are not limited to news. Members receive an annual statement and election materials each year. Members invested in dividend-earning C-Shares also receive quarterly statements. How do we accomplish sharing all of this with our members? One answer seems clear. Email is likely the quickest, least expensive and most environmentally-sound way to send communications. The software systems needed to ensure secure delivery of emails could be costly, and the work involved with collecting email addresses from more than 18,000 members long. Additionally, not all our members embrace or have access to email, and some of our notices are required to be sent by traditional mail.
The Co-op will turn its focus to email in the coming fiscal years, planning an investment of staff time and budget in collecting email addresses from our members and developing systems that will allow us to efficiently and securely send quarterly dividend statements, annual statements and Co-op updates. Maintaining print options for everything we send, and letting members choose how to receive communications, will need to be part of the plan. It won’t happen overnight, but the effort will be worth it in the long run, both financially and environmentally.
In the meantime, we will continue to share news of the Co-op in as many ways and as often as we can, including via Co-op News. We will focus more energy on promoting the electronic version and email subscriptions. You can subscribe to receive Co-op emails, including Co-op News, on our website. Click here to sign up for emails.