Many food co-ops require everyone who wants to buy food there to become a member and pay a nominal fee to join before they can start shopping.

Other food co-ops allow non-members to shop as well, but often give a discount to members to encourage people to join.

Food co-ops may also decide that everyone who shops there has to volunteer for a certain number of hours a month. However, many food co-ops do not have a membership system for their customers and are open to anyone to shop there.

Having a formal membership system is a good way to keep a record of all your customers and also to gather information about where they live or other details, in case you need to provide this data to funders. Also if people stop shopping at the food co-op you can contact them to find out why. Customers will also feel more involved in the running of the food co-op if they have signed up as members.

If your food co-op is going to have members then you need to decide who will be eligible to join. Usually this will be anyone living or working in the area served by the food co-op. You also need to decide whether you will charge a fee, what this will be and whether anyone will be entitled to free membership. Usually most food co-ops have a very small fee, for example between 1 and 5. However, if you are planning to use income from members to help cover some of your start up or running costs you need to make sure you charge enough money.

The membership fee can be reviewed annually. Some food co-ops decide to issue life membership but if you have annual memberships these are usually renewable after the AGM. It is also a good idea to issue a membership card so that customers can bring this along when they shop at the food co-op. You could also change the colour of your membership cards every year so that current ones are instantly recognisable.

If there are enough volunteers or staff, you could appoint a membership officer who will be responsible for keeping membership lists up to date, issuing numbers and keeping membership money separate.

To find more useful food co-op related information visit our homepage

Food Co-ops toolkit: The Food Co-ops Toolkit will give you all the information you need to set up your own food co-op.

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