The Coop Directory Service is
dedicated to the memory of
Kris Olsen (1946-1998)
and his life-long effort to introduce people to natural food co-ops and assist them in starting buying clubs.
Computerize: less work is better. A good personal computer program
designed for buying clubs will save a lot of time on order-collating, bookkeeping,
Focus always on making the co-op fast, easy and convenient for your
members. This is the best way to draw and keep satisfied members.
Share the work fairly. Divide up the work so no members are doing a
lot more than others.
Create jobs for interested members who have special scheduling or
Plan to grow. More members mean less work and cheaper food for the
members, and greater stability for the co-op.
Offer your members the largest selection of products possible,
including everything the warehouse sells. More choices make for happier members!
Use a minimum/maximum mail-in ordering system. Have an auction
meeting only if most of your members want one. Schedule it after the min/max compilation
and make it optional.
Use an extras table. If after collating the orders, members have
ordered at least 3/4 of the wholesale amount of an item, order that item and sell the
uncommitted amount at an extras table during the divide. An extras table ensures that
people actually get more of the items they ordered and gives other members a chance to see
products before purchasing them. Many groups swear by it, and rarely have any inventory
left over to sell at the next divide. Put somebody in charge of it.
Orient new members. Let them know clearly from the start what they
can expect from the co-op and what the co-op expects from them. You may want to set up a
trial ordering/trial membership period.
Keep meetings as short as possible.
Share recipes and food often within your group. Usually, members are
willing to order an unfamiliar product if they learn what to do with it and/or get a
chance to taste it first.
Have the co-op itself order one case of a new or unfamiliar item with
each order. Let members sample it while they work. Many co-ops have found new favorites by
Have fun! Enjoy yourselves! The camaraderie of working together is a
big part of a buying club. Also, set aside some time just to socialize: a half hour before
a business meeting, have a potluck or picnic.
Publicly support and recognize your leaders and activists. Have as
many ways of doing this as possible (be inventive!) and your co-op will keep skilled
people and encourage new experts to develop.
Buying clubs are often not visible in their communities. Local people
who would like to join may not even know you exist. Become more visible. Actively network
with as many other community organizations as possible. Have your co-op contribute to your
community by donating a cookbook to the public library, by regularly giving food to the
local food bank, or by co-sponsoring a health-related event. Your buying club can become a
community resource on healthy food. Offer cooking or nutrition classes to senior centers
(lower cholesterol), day-care centers (healthy snacks kids can make for themselves),