At the Co-op, we’re proud of the fact that our membership is affordable and accessible to anyone who wants to join us. Almost 20 years ago, the Co-op began offering a free annual membership, including a 10% discount, to anyone who identified as low-income. In addition, we’ve offered free membership and a 10% discount to anyone with a disability or over the age of 62.
Over the years, these memberships have been extremely popular, and we’re pleased to report that the Co-op has provided thousands of members with millions of dollars in discounts on their purchases. But as the years have gone by, the proportion of discount usage has been steadily creeping up. In 2016, 10% discounts amounted to more than $750,000. In order to ensure the Co-op’s sustainability, we decided to research some options for modifying our discount memberships.
A Discount Task Force convened in June of 2015, comprised of Staff and Board members. They set out to look at OFC’s current discount systems and propose possible modifications to the staff and Board. The goals of the Discount Task Force were to:
- Establish an advisory council comprised of discount members and community service providers. The staff task force members created a system for selecting organizations and individuals to serve on this council.
- Develop a work plan that included various ways to solicit member and community input.
- Produce a report including options for modifying the discount structure for the Board and staff to review, with the Board having final consent on an option.
Our Co-op Advisory Council consisted of four Co-op members– at–large. Together with the Task Force, council members actively participated in conducting membership surveys and focus group discussions, and the results led the Task Force to create some recommendations for how to proceed. At the 2016 Annual Membership Meeting, the Task Force presented those recommendations and collected comment cards from members attending. The recommendations are:
- We are adding a new way to determine eligibility for annual Cooperative Access Program Memberships. When we created the Low-income membership, we decided that we wanted members to decide for themselves whether or not they qualified. So we created a list of criteria that prospective members could reference to help determine whether or not they would be considered low-income. The criteria included issues of employment, homelessness, temporary disability, and dependent support. We are now adding the use of a more measurable method for determining qualification, the WA state self-sufficiency calculator, offered by the Workforce Development Councils of Washington State.
- Senior and Disability memberships will no longer include a 10% discount. We conducted surveys of over 1000 members and came to the conclusion that many members who qualify for these memberships do not financially need the accompanying discount. We believe that this is the best way to accomplish the Co-op’s goal to “Make good food accessible to more people.” The changes to these membership types will be implemented in stages, beginning April 15 for new members, and July 3 for existing members. Any member who qualifies is encouraged to switch to an annual CAP membership (formerly Low-income membership), and receive the included 10% discount. This is an annual membership, and will need to be renewed.
The Board of Directors approved these recommendations at their November Meeting, and we’re working toward implementing these changes starting April 15, 2017 for new members joining these membership types, and continuing through July 3, 2017, for existing members with senior or disability memberships.
The Co-op will continue to offer free memberships with no dues payments to anyone over 62 or with a disability.
We also continue to offer free annual memberships for anyone who qualifies for the Cooperative Access Program (formerly known as “Low-Income Membership”). The purpose of the program is to make Co-op membership available to anyone whose access to the Co-op is limited due to financial hardship. The membership is good for one year, and includes a 10% discount on purchases.
COOPERATIVE ACCESS PROGRAM
The Cooperative Access Program offers a free annual membership, with no dues and a 10% discount. The membership is available to anyone whose income falls below self-sufficiency, as described below. Purchases must be for use by the qualifying individual and their financial dependents – this does not include friends, housemates, etc.
- The Coop recognizes the WA state self sufficiency calculator to determine income or monthly budget eligibility. If you fall below the self sufficiency standard you qualify for this annual membership. If you need help accessing the calculator, please ask us. Here is the website to access the calculator. http://www.thecalculator.org/calculator.php
- Underemployed (hours, pay, or income is too low to reasonably cover expenses, and not by choice)
- Unemployed (not by choice) and without familial support and/or other financial resources
- Unable to make a reasonable living due to physical or mental challenges
- Supporting dependents without adequate resources
By Tamara Urich-Rintz
Reprint from Table: A Quarterly Publication of the Olympia Food Co-op
click here for PDF of the magazine