Co-ops are businesses owned by their members. But what does it mean to be a member of a co-op?
What is co-operative membership?
Co-ops are businesses owned and run by people just like us – customers, employees, suppliers, residents, farmers, graphic designers, taxi drivers….
These people, the members, decide together how the business operates and how any surplus is used.
Who are the members?
First of all, let’s clarify who the members of a co-op are. This really depends on what kind of a co-op it is. And how it is set up.
So what does membership mean?
Membership is open and voluntary - so anyone should be able to join, and they have to want to join (you can't force someone to become a member!)
One member one vote - membership is democratic and everyone has an equal say. There are no majority shareholders here.
Members put something in and get something out - co-ops are not charities, so each member contributes but also receives something in return. The contribution could be working for the co-op, investing in the co-op, shopping or trading with it. Any surplus made after all the costs are covered can be shared between the members (sometimes known as a dividend) or reinvested back into the co-op.
The benefits of being a member
There are many benefits of being a member of a co-op. It might be a financial return on your investment, or a dividend payment or cash bonus at the end of the year.
Maybe it's the feeling of solidarity of being part of a global movement or supporting your local community? Some members join because they want to create a decent job in an ethical business where everyone is valued.
Whatever your reason, why not join a co-op today?