The theme for the 2016 National Cooperative Month in October is “Cooperatives Build,” which cooperatives are urged to reflect in their communications and outreach activities. The theme can be used on its own, or extended with sub-themes, such as: Cooperatives Build Trust; Cooperatives Build Communities; Cooperatives Build Jobs; Cooperatives Build a Better World.
“Cooperatives build in so many ways, so we encourage cooperatives to insert what they feel their co-op helps build as part of the broad theme,” said Jenny Bernhardt, chair of the Co-op Month Planning Committee. “The key thing is that your co-op plan some type of communications effort to help spread the word in October about why cooperatives are so important to your community, region and to the nation,” added Bernhardt, who is director of communications for Cooperative Network, a regional association of cooperatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The planning committee was formed through the Cooperative Communicators Association (CCA) and includes the participation of the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, National Cooperative Bank, USDA Cooperative Programs, Cooperatives for a Better World, the Minnesota Cooperative Education Foundation and communicators from a number of diverse cooperative businesses.
With support from participating cooperatives and funding from the CHS Foundation, the committee has created a Co-op Month Toolkit with a variety promotional and educational materials available here.
The toolkit includes the 2016 Co-op Month logo, posters, print and radio public service announcements, a sample press release, sample Co-op Month proclamation, social media resources, co-op success stories, talking points and activity ideas, among others.
“National, regional and local polls consistently show that Americans really like the idea of doing business with a cooperative, but so many people still don’t understand what co-ops are,” Bernhardt said. “That’s what Cooperative Month is all about: to help attract attention to the many benefits of the producer-, worker- and user-owned business model, and letting people know that cooperatives are all around them.”
The same communication efforts that help educate the public can also serve as reminders for co-op members and employees about “the co-op difference.”
Activities can be as a simple as putting up some posters, making classroom visits or hosting a field trip, holding an open house or tour of your co-op, issuing a press release to your local and/or statewide media, holding a charity fund raising event.
New this year, NCBA CLUSA encourages cooperatives to schedule a Co-op Month screening of the upcoming PBS Visionaries Series documentary highlighting the power of cooperatives both in the U.S. and abroad. Learn more at www.ncbaclusa100.coop/visionaries-documentary.
Here are some key messages to relate in interviews and press releases that have been found to resonate with the media and the public. They help achieve the goals of Co-op Month, which are to raise public awareness of cooperatives and celebrate their accomplishments.
• There are more than 40,000 cooperative businesses in the United States with 350 million members (many people belong to more than one co-op). These cooperatives generate $514 billion in revenue and more than $25 billion in wages, according to a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, with support from USDA Rural Development (http://reic.uwcc.wisc.edu/default.htm).
• Cooperatives represent a strong business model and greatly contribute to both the national and local economies.
• Studies show that consumers want to do business with companies that share their values, making today’s environment ideal for cooperatives and their commitment to the communities in which their members live and work.
• Co-ops don’t have to answer to outside shareholders; they care about meeting their members’ needs.
• Co-ops represent democracy in action, with control exercised by a board of directors elected from the ranks of members; the board hires and directs management and is ultimately responsible to the members;
• Cooperatives generate jobs in their communities, keep profits local and pay local taxes to help support community services. Cooperatives often take part in community improvement programs, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to benefit from the cooperative experience.
To better “bring home” these messages, gather additional data about the role and power of co-ops in your state, region or community.
CO-OP MONTH FUN FACTS
Minnesota was the first state to declare an official Co-op Month proclamation in 1948.
Co-op Month has been a nationally recognized celebration since 1964, when U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, a former Minnesota governor, proclaimed October Co-op Month.
The first national theme in 1964 was “Cooperatives: USDA Helps Build a Better America.”
The U.S. Government sponsored Co-op Month from 1964-70.
Since 1971, cooperatives, statewide associations, and the National Cooperative Business Association have fueled their own events and promotions.