Staying Connected:

National Co+op Grocers Newsletter for Board Members

Since its reorganization in 2004, National Co+op Grocers (NCG) has mostly directed its communications to top managers at its member and associate co-ops. This was initially an intentional strategy: we focused on developing new programs and services that deliver great value to food co-ops and their member-owners as well as establishing a clear track for mutual organizational accountability between our members and their national co-op. Over time, as our programs have grown, we’ve broadened our outreach to other specific staff (e.g., those who are responsible for the co-op’s promotions, or those who report financial data).

Now, after more than a decade of financial and organizational success, we’re expanding our focus to increase those who are “in the loop.” In 2017, NCG began publication of a quarterly newsletter specifically written for and distributed to the board members of NCG member and associate co-ops. We recognize the value of making sure that co-op directors are aware of national trends that can impact their own operations. 

We also acknowledge that participating in NCG requires a significant commitment of resources by co-ops, including both financial investment as well as management attention and engagement. We have leaned on the member co-op's designated representative—the general managers or other top manager who works directly with NCG—to carry the load on communicating these things to their board members. But we kept hearing that they wanted more help from NCG in this area.

The NCG Board Bulletin

The NCG Board Bulletin serves as a communications link between NCG and the board members of its member and associate co-ops. Each quarterly issue is designed to provide information on current, notable trends and developments among U.S. food co-ops. In addition, we provide an overview or a deeper look at various NCG programs and services in order to help board members learn more about NCG, how it operates, and what value it brings to participating co-ops.

For instance, our first issue, published in August, provided a high-level overview of what it means to be part of NCG: what NCG does and how it works. Special features looked at NCG’s regional structure and resources designed to support and help strengthen co-ops, as well as NCG’s partnership with the La Riojana Co-op and the impact of that work on the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of Argentinian farmers. Finally, we provided an overview on the impact of the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods—news that was “fresh” at the time of publication. 

In our second issue, we provided a summary of the 2017 NCG Food Co-op Impact Study results and 2020 national goals and described what happens at NCG’s bi-annual national meetings. Our “fresh news” was a summary of recent sales growth and operational trends among all NCG co-ops. Finally, we described NCG’s recent support of Project Drawdown, a partnership to reverse global warming. 

In future issues, readers will learn more about NCG’s operating standards (what they are and why they’re important), how NCG sets its organizational and operational priorities, about NCG’s national branding and our new “performance reports,” as well as programs such as those that support general manager success. We look forward to bringing board members up to speed on NCG’s revised member agreements and our “Moving to Higher Ground” initiative, as well as our partnerships with the Climate Collaborative, the Fair Food Network, and other similar groups that can help support even greater collective impact by food co-ops in important areas. And, of course, as new trends develop and emerge, we look forward to providing insights that will be helpful to co-op directors.

Distribution of the Board Bulletin

Each issue of the NCG Board Bulletin gets sent directly (via e-mail) to the co-op’s designated representative and to the co-op’s board chair. Other directors and/or the board administrative support person can also be subscribed as requested. (Some co-ops have a “board distribution” email address that delivers messages into the inbox of all current directors, which is a good way to ensure complete distribution.) Otherwise, we expect the board chair or the designated representative to forward each issue to the rest of the board when that will be most productive.

Given the nature of the information covered in the NCG Board Bulletin, we ask that it not be distributed beyond currently elected board members and/or top management. We want to provide frank and honest information about NCG and key trends affecting food co-ops—information that can be proprietary and confidential to co-ops in highly competitive markets. This newsletter is not for public distribution or sharing with anyone not serving in a top staff or elected leadership position at an NCG member or associate co-op. 

We look forward to your feedback and suggestions for topics you’d like to see covered in future issues of the NCG Board Bulletin at any time. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]. •

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