Monitoring and evaluation
It is a good idea to monitor and evaluate your food co-op's activities so you can assess how successful it has been in achieving its objectives.
In particular it is good practice to monitor the numbers of customers and members on an on-going basis so you know whether these have increased or decreased.
Also if possible try to gather contact details for your customers e.g. name, address, e-mail - the easiest way to do this is to have a membership card system. You can then keep customers updated with news from the food co-op, for example via an e-mail newsletter. If customers stop shopping at the food co-op you can also contact them to find out why and get some feedback.
If you have received external funding for your food co-op there may be additional information about your customers and volunteers that you need to gather to put in funding reports such as age, postcode, gender, etc.
You can also survey your customers to find out what they think of the food co-op and what changes or improvements could be made. It is important not to bombard your customers and members with surveys too often - so you may only want to do this once a year. Many food co-ops aim to help people to eat more healthily so you may want to include questions about whether people feel they are eating more fruit and vegetables or wholefoods as a result of shopping at the food co-op.
You can also evaluate the success of your food co-op by analysing your sales figures over time - so it is important to keep records of how much you sell and also if possible which items sell best. If one of your aims is to support local producers you can keep a record of how much local food you sell and contact your suppliers to assess whether their business has increased as a result of your custom.
Another main area that many food co-ops evaluate is how many volunteers they have and how their volunteers have benefited, for example have they made new friends, increased their confidence, attended any training courses or gone on to take part in any other community activities or paid employment.