Ideally, a food co-op should have a governing document or constitution, giving details of why the organisation exists, what it is there to do, how it is going to do it and how it is organised.
This prevents misunderstandings among the membership and allows new members to understand what it is they are joining. A governing document can be changed by the membership.
A typical governing document will set out clearly:
- The name of the food co-op
- What the food co-op is going to do (also know as the 'Objects')
- Who can become a member of the food co-op
- How members can join or leave
- How and when general meetings are called
- How many members have to be present in order for decisions to be legitimate (also known as being 'quorate' at general meetings)
- Who is allowed to vote at general meetings
- Election of a committee (if the food co-op has one)
- Who can be a member of the food co-op committee
- What happens to any profit made by the group (also known as 'application of surplus')
- How the governing document can be changed
- How and what happens when the food co-op is dissolved
In addition to the governing document, the food co-op may use other documents, for example:
- A member agreement, setting out the relationship between the member and the food co-op.
- A volunteer agreement, setting out the relationship between the food co-op and anyone undertaking voluntary work.