middlebury-annual-report-415-2Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op, Middlebury, Vt.

Jay Leshinsky, president of the board of Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op, thinks it is critical that the information the board receives from the general manager’s Ends report doesn’t stop there, but gets passed on to the members in a meaningful way. Two years ago, the board decided that they would use the co-op’s Annual Report as a format for reaching members with this information. “We are using the report to show the Ends and the data we have for meeting them, how the general manager has interpreted them and how the board goes about evaluating it. It’s really a focus on what’s going on in the store to reach our Ends, and what we’ve been doing as a board to show we are moving in the right direction,” Leshinsky said.

He mentioned that one of the co-op’s Ends is to have a “vibrant local economy.” Their co-op has been active in supporting the local food movement, and in the past year, the board did some education around the issue to better evaluate reaching that end. It has raised questions that show the issue is multifaceted. In their market, they do not have enough locally based farmers that can serve a larger market. He said their board has discussed—do we want to support farms by investing in their development, or does the co-op want to have its own farm, like a few other food co-ops in the sector? “We’re looking at a discussion with our members about what we’ve done and also what we’ve learned,” Leshinsky said. “So this year when we report to the members we will also be showing how we’ve moved toward this end as well as the challenges we face.”

Leshinsky sees the Annual Report as a tool for not only talking about what the co-op has achieved, but also to expand the conversation. “Boards want to feel like they’re doing something. Although this is less tangible when we’re talking about collaborating with other businesses and nonprofits, or looking at defining local, but it’s important. We need to use any and all tools we have to engage members in the discussion.”

Middlebury Co-op Annual Report 2011

Middlebury Co-op Annual Report 2010

People’s Food Co-op, Portland, Ore.

At People’s Food Co-op in Portland, Ore., connecting the Ends to the Annual Report has served as a means to energize the staff and members around the co-op’s accomplishments. Creating the Ends report for the board is the task of the co-op’s development manager. Monica Cuneo, marketing and member services manager has been instrumental in helping the development manager and board speak to the co-op’s mission and values in the Annual Report. This year they put new focus on the report, in terms of its content, but also its look and feel. “It’s very exciting,” Cuneo said. “In the past it hasn’t really been a living document, and all the information was rather internal. It was always available, but because it comes out once a year, less people were engaged with it.”

This year, the Annual Report is a celebration of everyone’s hard work. “We invested in making it a beautiful piece,” she said, full of color, printed on high quality paper. “We want people to be more connected to it, not as a necessity, but as a way for seeing all the amazing things that are done on the members behalf. People need to be connected to the Ends. That brings the co-op’s activities alive for them. If it feels ‘monitor-y’ people don’t get a sense of engagement.”

Cuneo said that the effect of their efforts to connect the Ends to the Annual Report has been very positive. “People are very proud of it,” she said, and it’s a beautiful example of how linking Ends and paying attention to content and presentation can bring positive synergies to all stakeholders in the co-op.

People’s Food Co-op Annual Report 2010

People’s Food Co-op Annual Report 2009

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