Thursday, October 27, 2016

New ideas for your ag cooperative’s next annual meeting

Annual Meeting.jpg

About this time every year, “plan annual meeting” pops up on the to-do list. If you’re like most people, you pull out the file and basically rehash your farm cooperative’s annual meeting from last year … and probably the year before. [caption id="attachment_1031" align="alignright" width="178"]Susan Meier annual meeting image Susan Meier, principal of Meier and Associates, and senior governance consultant with BoardSource, suggests easy ways to make your annual meeting more effective.[/caption] We checked with an expert: Susan Meier, principal of Meier and Associates and senior governance consultant with BoardSource , the nation’s premier governance resource for nonprofit organizations. Susan has 28 years of experience working with boards of directors—helping them make their organizations and annual meetings more effective.

“There are usually specific requirements for annual meetings,” says Meier, “but that doesn’t mean the meetings have to be formal and ‘all business.’ The best way to keep members interested is to actively engage them in the meeting itself.”
The bylaws for most agricultural cooperatives require annual meetings to provide a business review, elect officers and report on plans for the upcoming year. But you do have leeway to enhance the overall experience for members. Following are some suggestions you might consider as you plan for your next annual meeting.
  1. Better meeting publicity

Cooperative bylaws typically require meeting notification—which is legally just a statement of date, time and place. But for no additional cost, and very little effort, you can beef up the annual meeting notice to make it more interesting and enticing for members. Following are a few suggestions:
  • Ask a local high school art class to have a poster design contest for the annual meeting. Give the winning design a gift certificate to your c-store. You get a great poster … and you create goodwill with the community when you publicize the winner of the contest.
  • Publicize the meeting on your Facebook page.
  • Instead of just putting a notice in your newsletter, write an article telling members something interesting and different they can expect at the meeting.
  1. Get members interested and involved before the meeting

Every year, members show up and expect the same thing—likely because the annual meeting content is basically the same year after year. Why not engage them before the meeting, so they’re more interested in attending? Meier suggests this simple approach:
  • Include a questionnaire with the RSVP. Ideally, members would fill out the questionnaire when they RSVP online. But you could also collect answers over the phone and on printed RSVPs.
  • Questions should have 2-5 answer options—not open-ended questions. Examples might include:
    • What was your biggest challenge on the farm in the last year? (commodity prices, input expenses, weed control, insect control, etc.)
    • Which of the following has had the biggest positive impact on yields in your operation? (precision ag, better chemicals, better seed, etc.)
    • What is your primary reason for attending this annual meeting? (socializing, patronage report, free meal, etc.)
  • Start the meeting with a PowerPoint review of the answers. Then use these answers as a guideline for the overall message of the meeting—focusing on how your cooperative responds to members.
  1. Simplify committee reports

According to Meier, you can improve these reports by asking officers not to simply report on activities or performance … but rather to frame those reports around several questions such as:
  • What are the two biggest issues your committee is addressing this year?
  • What is your committee’s single most important message to members?
  1. Use an activity to engage the crowd

Meier suggests an “index card exercise.” Place blank index cards and pencils on each table. Toward the beginning of the meeting, pose a question to the audience that will engage members in the future of the organization. An example would be: “What can your cooperative do to help your operation be more efficient this year…in five words or less?” Give guests a minute to write their answers anonymously on the index cards, then collect cards. While the meeting continues, have a few staff members compile a list of answers. Later in the meeting, share an overview of member suggestions—perhaps relating those suggestions to things your cooperative is planning for the coming year.
  1. Follow up with reports about the meeting

Be sure to take photos during the meeting. Think beyond the typical “crowd photos,” and try to capture shots of members interacting with each other. Then post the best photos on your cooperative’s Facebook page or Instagram account as a way to interact online with members. Also include a report about the meeting in the next issue of your farm cooperative newsletter. This would be a great place to include a recap of the survey results and “index card exercise. Want to know even more ways to improve communication with members and customers? Contact one of our agri-marketing specialists to get the conversation started, or take a look at our e-book:

e-book download - Powerful Content: 6 Best Practices in Agri-Marketing and Communication

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fast Fact About Cooperatives #3

Co-op Month Fast Facts

Co-ops Make Great Neighbors

We all want a neighbor that makes the neighborhood better—not the guy who never mows his lawn and keeps a car up on blocks. Cooperatives are great neighbors. Nationwide, cooperatives create 2.1 million jobs and generate more than $650 billion in sales and other revenue annually. 

They provide vital jobs in their communities. Through the real estate, sales and payroll taxes it pays, the co-op is a major contributor to the tax base of local governments, helping to support schools, police and fire protection and other vital community infrastructure. It also donates to a number of local charitable and civic causes every year.


One more reason VistaComm is proud to work with our cooperative clients across the United States.

Contact VistaComm today

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fast Fact About Cooperatives #2

Co-op Month Fast Facts

Co-ops Empower Their Members

There’s strength in numbers—a foundational reason that cooperatives were created. Take the agricultural industry for example. Individual farmers lack power in the marketplace and can be easily manipulated by the ever-more concentrated number of buyers. But united in a co-op, the power of one is multiplied by the many. The co-op enables producers to tap into larger markets than they could on their own, and to bargain for better prices.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fast Fact About Cooperatives #1

Co-op Month Fast Facts

Co-ops Strengthen Communities

You’ve no doubt heard that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. The same is true for co-ops, in a way. Because cooperatives are owned by the customers they serve, any profits from the business are returned to co-op members as year-end patronage or are reinvested in the business, not sent out of town to distant, outside investors. That money stays in the communities where co-ops do business, helping to fuel the local economy. Very neighborly for sure. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

How to Better Manage Your Forecast Planning From a CEO's Perspective

Q4. It’s here!

And for a lot of us, that means the final push toward planning for the coming year. My advice: Break the exercise down into manageable segments. This is my approach and the segments I use:

  • Revenue
  • Cost of goods sold
  • Labor
  • Expenses

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Celebrate the Cooperative Way

October is national Co-op Month, a time to celebrate the cooperative way of life and how these unique businesses impact the communities we live in. Whether you know it or not, cooperatives are all around us. Growing up on the family farm, I never realized the full impact of our local cooperative. In the small town of Archer, Iowa, where I grew up, if there was no cooperative there would be no town. This is not uncommon in many small towns througout America where co-ops support the communities they are in. To this day, the local co-op supports the Archer community and its 131 residents through employment opportunities, local tax revenue and community service.