Community CHIP, a project of Community Shares of Wisconsin (CSW), extends a thank you to all that you, the Co-op’s Owners, do for us and our more than 60 member nonprofits (see the list at the end).
CSW was founded in 1971, an outgrowth of the vibrant peace movement in Madison. CSW has been raising money for—and offering training and other help to—grassroots nonprofits ever since.
Willy Street Co-op signed on as a CHIP site in 1978, just a few years after its founding. In 2007 the Co-op became our sole CHIP partner, due to the dedication of the Co-op staff and the Owners.
Building Blocks of the CSW—Co-op Partnership
Since the Co-op became the exclusive CHIP site, the already strong relationship between the Co-op and CSW further solidified into a partnership. The two organizations are unified around several goals: educating people about importantissues that affect us, encouraging the public to get more engaged in the community (and its nonprofits), and the ultimate goal of building a stronger community.
As Brendon Smith, Willy Street Co-op’s Director of Communications said, “All cooperatives follow the Seven Cooperative Principles, and the seventh principle is Concern for Community. One way we like to demonstrate that concern is by collecting for Community CHIP at our registers. CHIP’s focus on local nonprofits matches well with our focus on locally grown and locally prepared products. It’s great to see the positive effects of money staying within our community and helping to improve it.”
The Co-op provides a critical part of the CHIP equation: the means to raise money for CSW’s member groups. Co-op staff are also another key reason for CHIP’s success: they are committed to asking every Owner if s/he would like to CHIP.
“My colleagues and I shop at the Co-op a lot, and so do our many volunteers at Tenant Resource Center,” said Anders Zanichokowsky, Program Director at TRC, which is located nearby on Willy Street. “It’s great to hear the cashiers always ask about CHIP, since some of that money comes to us. We really appreciate the dedication of the Co-op staff to consistently ask the question about CHIP—to help raise money for all of these community nonprofits.”
CSW also assists the Co-op as needed. Volunteers from the many CSW member groups help out at the Co-op’s Annual Meeting and Party in July. They also help educate the Co-op staff about CHIP, and answer questions, when invited to be part of Co-op trainings. And, as the Co-op does for us, CSW also helps publicize the Co-op’s achievements—like its feature in a recent issue of Nature’s Pathways magazine.
CSW member nonprofits also help give visibility to the Co-op, which is another way that CSW and the Co-op work in tandem. “Because we’re a CSW member group, we help to publicize the Co-op’s commitment to CHIP,” said Miriam Grunes, Executive Director of REAP Food Group. “We periodically include reminders in our e-newsletters and in other outreach, where the message reaches thousands of our supporters. We’re hoping this outreach encourages people to shop at the Co-op—not just because of the CHIP program, but also to support a business that is dedicated to building a just and sustainable community.”
The vetting that CSW does for its member groups is also useful. As Smith noted above, the Co-op’s philanthropy is a major way it fulfills its Concern for Community, one of its guiding Principles. Examining the financial stability of dozens of nonprofits is very time consuming, and CSW does that for its many member nonprofits, relieving the Co-op of that responsibility.
“Every year we verify that our members are eligible to be involved in fundraising—workplace giving—among state employees,” explained Kathleen Messinger, CSW Financial Manager. “Understandably, the state has strict requirements to ensure that any donations from state employees are going to reputable nonprofits. So we solicit and look at lots of materials from our member groups: annual reports, tax returns, and financial documents. We also verify that each group continues to be certified with the State of Wisconsin and with IRS as 501(c)3 nonprofits.
“On a rotating basis, our Finance Committee also routinely does more in-depth financial analysis of our groups. And of course when we recruit new nonprofit groups to be members, applicants undergo even more scrutiny,” Messinger added.
Your Gifts: Going to Nonprofits’ Greatest Needs
There’s another aspect of your CHIP donations that might come as news to you. As explained by Angie Rehling, Program Director at OutReach, Madison’s LGBT community center, “The donations we get from CHIP—and any other funding that comes to us from CSW—are unrestricted funds. Most of our grant money is restricted to a certain program, for instance our programs for the homeless or for senior citizens.
“For us, and I know for many other nonprofits, unrestricted funds are rare,” Rehling added. “So the opportunity to be part of CSW means that we can pay our rent or electric bills, pay our staff, or replace obsolete computers, and in that way keep our doors open. You as Co-op shoppers are part of the reason we’re able to do the work that we do.”
“Those unrestricted funds are really important for us too,” said Kathleen Lemke, Executive Director of Women in Transition, a nonprofit that provides residential and
social services to women with severe mental illness who are transitioning out of life in an institution. “Those dollars from CSW fill in the gaps for line items not covered under our other types of funding.”
Learn More about What Your CHIP Donations Support
The Co-op allows CSW to do occasional tabling at each site (we look forward to tabling again at Willy East store after renovation). Staff or volunteers from among our 61 member nonprofits are there for a two-hour shift once a month, usually on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, to say thank you and to answer any questions you might have. If you have time, talk to them the next time you see them, and find out more about how your donations help that particular nonprofit.
Every month CSW prepares an ad for the Willy Street Co-op Reader, and as of this year each ad contains new success stories about CSW and our member groups. Peruse the ads and you’ll get a better glimpse into the kind of work you support when you say yes to CHIP.
Taking a look at our website’s Recent Results page (www.communityshares.com/member-nonprofits/recent-results) is another option. New success stories are posted three to five times per week, to help inform you about the work of our nonprofits. Liking CSW on Facebook, or following us on Twitter (@CommSharesWI), are other ways to keep up to date on our member groups’ work.
We want to reiterate our thanks to all of you Co-op Owners who help fund the work of CSW and our members through CHIP. You’re helping to change the world in small but significant ways every day!
Community Shares of Wisconsin’s Member Nonprofits
- 1000 Friends of Wisconsin
- ABC for Health
- ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation
- Arts Wisconsin
- Bayview Foundation
- Center for Family Policy & Practice
- Center for Media & Democracy
- Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger
- Citizens Utility Board
- Clean Wisconsin
- Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups
- Common Wealth Development
- Community GroundWorks
- Dane County TimeBank
- Disability Rights Wisconsin
- End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin (formerly Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
- Fair Housing Center—Greater Madison
- Fair Wisconsin Education Fund
- Freedom Inc.
- Friends of Wisconsin State Parks
- Gathering Waters Conservancy
- Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools
- Grassroots Empowerment Project
- Housing Initiatives
- Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice
- League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network
- Legal Action of Wisconsin
- Madison Area Community Land Trust
- Madison Audubon Society
- Midwest Environmental Advocates
- NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin Foundation
- New Harvest Foundation
- Nuestro Mundo Inc.
- Outside the Bean (formerly Community Action on Latin America)
- Physicians for Social Responsibility—Wisconsin
- The Progressive
- Project Home
- Rape Crisis Center
- REAP Food Group
- River Alliance of Wisconsin
- Sierra Club Foundation
- Sustain Dane
- Tenant Resource Center
- UNIDOS Against Domestic Violence
- Wheels for Winners
- Wisconsin Apprentice Organizers Project
- Wisconsin CoalitionAgainst Sexual Assault
- Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired
- Wisconsin Council on Children and Families
- Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
- Wisconsin Early Childhood Association
- Wisconsin Family Ties
- Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Institute
- Wisconsin Literacy
- Wisconsin Network for Peace & Justice
- Wisconsin Wetlands Association
- Wisconsin Women’s Network
- Women in Transition
- Working Capital for Community Needs
- WORT 89.9 FM Community Radio