Circling Back: Building Member Relations

This year the member linkage committee will be focusing our articles on bringing Member-Owners into the circle of our co-op. We hope to shed light on how we make decisions, how our store handles feedback, how we hope to expand our community as well as our store, and many other topics that hopefully build member relations.

Relationship-building with Member-Owners is not a discrete function to be managed by a department, but rather is the organizing principle for the entire co-op. Every economic, governance, and operation function plays a role in furthering the co-op’s relationship with our Member-Owners.

With this in place, we ensure the mutual success of Member-Owners and our store. Fundamentally we have three core building blocks for strengthening member relations: economic linkage, transparency, and cognition.

In these core blocks are various tactics that we can iterate on and implement—many of which we already are. For example, our Member-Owner survey is a vital tool we use in the cognition category. The survey allows us to know ourselves, in that, it allows us to know you better and bring meaningful change to our co-op that is representative of our Member-Owners’ needs and wishes. It is a vital feedback loop in action.

In case you are wondering, here are more of those vital ingredients to member linkage:

Economic Linkage—the means to mutual benefit

  • Member coupons, discounts, member appreciation or discount days
  • Patronage rebate
  • Member specials
  • Member events
  • Donations (Round it Up)
  • Sponsorships
  • Community alliances

Transparency—building trust, self-interest, and interdependence

  • Member meetings, forums, get to know the board events
  • Annual reports/meetings
  • Board communications to members
  • Member, board, and staff education (about co-op history, principles, economics, our industry, and trends affecting us)

Cognition—knowing yourself

  • Mission/ends
  • Surveys—member and potential members (both current shoppers and non-current shoppers)
  • Focus groups
  • Newsletter content
  • Web Content
  • Suggestion box/comment board
  • Bulletin boards

We, as a member linkage committee, hope this series will fundamentally increase transparency as well as bring together the many ingredients that make for healthy member linkage. We also hope that through transparency, we inspire our members to be an even larger part of what we all are building.