For my Board article I’d like to focus on the following three things: the upcoming annual elections, the newly formed Policy Review Committee and the possible establishment of a Co-op Community Fund.

Annual Board Elections
It’s that time again. Every year, you as a Willy Street Co-op Owner have the right to vote for members of the Board of the Directors. This year there are three seats up for grabs. Whether you like the ways things are going or not, this is your best option to express your opinion. So here’s my advice to you: Read the candidates’ statements, hear them speak at the Annual Meeting (July 7th; see page 14 for details), and chat with them tabling outside the two stores. Then decide and VOTE. You can vote with the traditional paper ballot or online. Either way, make your voice heard. And of course if you feel like you have the time and inclination to join the Board, submit a statement and throw your hat in the ring. As a sideline, it’s worth noting that since the opening of Willy West, our Ownership has grown by over 25%. It will be interesting to see how that affects voter turnout. In the past it has been a challenge to get folks to vote. The use of online voting has raised the numbers considerably to about 10%. I’d like to see that percentage raised even more. If you have any thoughts on that, let me know.

Policy Review
As many of you know, the Willy Street Coop Board of Directors uses Policy Governance to manage itself, as do most food co-ops nationally. (For those more interested in learning more about Policy Governance I would refer you to this article in Wikipedia—en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Policy_Governance.) The Board has established a subcommittee to review our existing policies to see if they need revision. I, along with fellow Board members Deb Shapiro and Jeff Bessmer (Chair) and General Manager Anya Firszt, form that committee. We’ve met once so far and will soon be engaging the help of a professional consultant specializing in issues specific to food co-ops. One of our first tasks will be to review what other Co-op policies look like nationwide and compare. For anyone who wants a copy of our policies, let me know and I’ll see about getting you one.

Co-op Community Fund
If an Owner’s account has remained inactive for over a year, the Coop will make efforts to contact the Owner to update, withdraw or donate the equity in their account. The monies accrued either through donation or abandonment have been used to finance the Co-op’s Community Reinvestment Fund. On average about $14,000 a year has been raised and granted to charitable organizations throughout the Madison Metropolitan area. The Board is considering how this fund might be managed differently and perhaps augmented. One exciting possibility is the establishment of a Cooperative Community Fund. About 27 food co-ops nationwide have established such a fund, including two in Wisconsin (Outpost Natural Foods in Milwaukee and People’s Food Coop in La Crosse). In this down economy and period of government pull-back of funding social needs, wouldn’t it be great if we could increase the amount of funding we provide to groups that depend on charitable giving? If you have thoughts on any of these issues please let me know at rabernst@wisc.edu.