Member capital

Building Member Capital and Equity

Our economic system is predicated on the idea that investor-driven capitalism is the only way to do business successfully.

Cooperatives offer a distinct alternative: the opportunity for average people to participate in local ownership and democratic control of community assets. In the last five years, food cooperatives have more than doubled their retained patronage to reach $42 million, new member equity has increased by 30 percent to over $100 million, and the number of co-ops retaining patronage dividends has grown to over 60. Members get a return based on how much they shopped and the co-op gets to build capital and deduct the profit from sales to members. These overlooked and underutilized tools for raising capital in co-ops is clearly a huge asset.

Building the co-op business through member capital is imperative to its long-term sustainability. Whether you want to change your member benefits to include patronage rebates, institute a member loan program, or undertake a member drive, the CDS Consulting Co-op can help you determine what kind of member financial support is most effective for your co-op’s capital needs.

Member-Owner Capitalization

How will you finance your project? Our consultants have assisted food co-ops in obtaining millions of dollars in capital from co-op owners in the form of member loans or preferred shares. Capital from member owners is an important indication of the commitment and trust of the co-op’s members. Owner capital helps to leverage external financing.

Our services include:

  • Overview of member capitalization options and strategies
  • Assistance with setting goals and timelines
  • Planning a member/owner loan and/or preferred share program
  • Assistance with implementing your campaign including building alignment within your co-op, coaching before and during your campaign, and reviewing materials

Plan Your Membership Drive

Cooperatives offer an opportunity for average people to participate in local ownership and democratic control of community assets. People are drawn to join co-ops by a desire to be part of a community with shared values. Membership drives are an opportunity to invite more people to experience the benefits of a co-op in their community. Whether you are planning for your co-op’s membership drive to raise more capital for a startup, or to enhance equity for an established co-op, successful membership drives involve planning and co-op education for new owner recruitment.

Raising equity for your co-op is serious business; it is the capital base from which your co-op derives its ability to grow into the future. CDS Consulting Co-op can assist with the facilitation and development of a strategy focused on the specific ownership recruitment needs of a cooperative.

  • Ownership recruitment materials and training
  • Ownership systems: member services database, stock records, patronage dividend systems, process for joining the co-op, membership drives
  • Outreach to current members: internal and external outreach plans
  • Education and training
  • Tell the Co-op Story: in-person workshop for individual co-ops or large groups

Associated Consultants

Ben Sandel

Leadership Development, Startup Co-ops, Capitalization

Leslie Watson

Board Leadership Development

Associated Case Studies

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