Member register, calculating interest and integration to CRM

TDLR: Got an enquiry sent them to Co-op Web…

Got an enquiry from a large co-op about their register of members (something all co-ops legal need). Usually this is a list of members, date joined, contact details, shares held, yadda yadda.

This co-op wanted to calculate share interest on a per member basis, ensure a good audit trail and possibly integrate with their wider CRM system. I asked our community shares adviser about solutions and it struck me there was no default go-to solution. Usually they advise in an adhoc way broadly into three categories.

1.Just do it in a spreadsheet, here’s what i do…
2. Use a 3rd party service provider such as - www.ethex.org.uk/registry-services-_2189.html
3. Pay a developer to customise a CRM like Civi or Sales force to do the job.

In this instance the member already had a relationship with Co-op Web, so I sent them in that direction, but not everyone has the cash for a bespoke solution.

I am missing something, does a tech co-op offer a relatively plug and play solution to member registers/management systems?

Is this something you get enquiries about from clients, I would love to be able to signpost members to a solution. Yeah you just need this, either install it yourself or here a couple of tech co-ops you can pay to do it for you, quick and easy.

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We have talked to several community-owned pubs about this and they all use spreadsheets.

Indeed this is what I do personally in my position on the board of Jazz.Coop.

I have come to the conclusion that if you have less that 500 members, an Excel spreadsheet really is the most convenient and cost-effective solution. Also many people are familiar with Excel and so this makes it easier to attract new volunteers to the roles of membership secretary or treasurer.

It would be lovely if there was an elegant piece of database software developed specifically for co-op membership (and preferably created by a co-op). I’d use it.

David

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It would be lovely if there was an elegant piece of database software developed specifically for co-op membership (and preferably created by a co-op). I’d use it.

Do you think you or the co-ops you work with would pay for this sort of software? If so, what would it be worth?

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Hi John, thanks for sending them onto us. That’s great!

Nick’s away in Italy this week, so may be worth giving them a heads up in case he doesn’t get to reply. Feel free to give them my email in the meantime.

We do indeed already have a system that already does this for one of the larger Co-ops so it’d be interesting to see if they’d let us leverage that for this new opportunity.

Either way we’ll let you know how we get on!

Thanks again for referral :slight_smile:

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There’s been a need for this type of tooling for the last 20 years or so, so it’s great to see an active discussion on the issue.

I know that Jon at Sharenergy has built a solution based on Drupal/CiviCRM that does at least some of this, and he’s working to extend that so that co-op members can do things like login and see their account. I also spoke to someone else in the renewable energy co-op sector who’s built a solution (I’d need to dig out the detail on that). As I recall that’s developed on top of a proprietary platform that some in the co-op sector might prefer not to use, but I guess it could be refactored/redeveloped as a FLOSS option.

I think what’s needed here is a solution that can work relatively simply, and at low/no cost for start-ups and small co-ops off the shelf. Back in the day I used to talk about the idea of a “co-op in a box” – a bundle of information and tools that a start-up could simply pull off the web that gave them everything they needed to get going, and this was always envisaged as a part of that kit.

I worked with a Civi developer a year or so ago to bid for some funding to build this stuff, but we were unsuccessful as we couldn’t identify a necessary academic partner at that time.

Whether its a self-hosted thing or run as SaaS, the fact that this service doesn’t already exist is a classic case of the co-op movement not seeing the value of co-operation. The big societies could underpin the project financially, and it could be given to small and new co-ops. The market internationally would be significant, and the co-oops that use it could potentially also co-own it.

Ideally this system would also provide support for online democracy and member engagement.

Trebor Scholz may be working on some of this type of functionality as part of the Google Foundation funded platform co-op kit work he’s leading.

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In fact this thread has more on this: Membership shareholder dashboard - know any simple solutions?

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As with many things its a bit chicken and egg, someone needs to take the risk to invest the time in a solution that is just about good enough, get just enough adoption, so others pile in as a default option, and you can be on a path to making it financially viable do develop and offer to a wider client base.

Creating an add-on to Civi (if such a thing is do-able) that everyone agrees to develop/maintain and recommend whenever there is an enquiry from a client may help build up a standardised approach that can start to build enough critical mass in clients that is worth developing offering as a service.

But agree with Chis, how valuable is valuable enough that people will pay what it costs to develop and maintain.

I think very few smaller co-ops and community benefit societies would pay for specialist software.

However if Co-ops UK or Plunkett were to offer the software for a small extra charge when new societies use their model rules that might be an attractive option.

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As noted, it sounds like at least two or three solutions - at least in part - already exist, and with additional support can be further developed, so a lot of that early risk has already been addressed.

Creating an extension to CiviCRM has already happened (see sharenergy). CiviCRM is a highly extensible system.

Organisations like Co-operatives UK can play a very useful role in convening the potentially interested parties to assess the potential to move things forward.

We already have several eggs. And we have a lot of millions being invested annually in community shares? I wonder how much Crowdfunder is pulling in annually just in terms of commission on share purchases? And they aren’t adding value at all in terms of the ongoing share account management facilities. How much money is stashed away in the energy co-ops’ community funds? So there’s got to be a financial resource and incentive there to grow at least one of those eggs into a chicken. As I noted in the linked thread, the key strategic error seems to have been handing the community shares market to the private sector rather than keeping it in co-operative hands. But perhaps it’s not too late to bring that back in-house.

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As James mentions, we do already have an application that does this. I’m on a client site in Italy at the moment, but maybe we could catch-up sometime next week @athertonjohn and talk about if it’s possible to roll this out to other Co-ops. The main barriers I foresee is if there’s any development that’s needed to the application to bespoke for them (which would then be a cost), and also the cost of running it (it currently needs a licenced windows server and SQL licence).

We don’t own the application, it was developed by one of the bigger societies, however I believe the intention was for it to be licence free for smaller Co-ops - but would need to get that checked/signed off first.

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As @Graham has mentioned we have an in-house extension to CiviCRM that we use to run share registers, interest payments, statements etc for 35 renewable energy coops.

I wouldn’t make any huge claims for the code itself. We’ve still got lots to develop, plenty of stuff is hard-coded to our use case, it’s ugly! But I really think the approach we have taken is on the best footing. CiviCRM is stable, it is widely used and understood in the sector, and we can do everything without needing to alter its data model. Vanilla CiviCRM also gives us a lot of stuff that homecooked solutions tend to miss (emailing, bounces, reporting, online application forms, Drupal integration goodness). While respecting the efforts that have been put in by developers of other systems I am not keen on approaches based on proprietary software - I don’t think that is the co-op way in the long term. I think there is a niche for a Saas offering but there is probably no single potential provider who is trusted by the whole movement - that also points to the desirability of an offering back-ended by something open source where migration is easy.

I would be very keen to contribute to the development of a proper CiviShares extension that works for the wider co-op sector. We have a lot to offer - a bit of code but also a pretty full idea of how to model most of the things that need to be done with a share register using CiviCRM. I see a lot of benefits for us in this as well as we could benefit from a better codebase and features added by others.

Sharenergy is not in a position to lead this at the moment. Like a lot of open source projects I think it is most likely to happen if somebody decides they want to offer this as Saas and put in some time marshalling people - I don’t really think it would need a huge amount of money, I bet a few organisations could stick in some dev time. We could definitely contribute some code, some dev time, a bit of hosting and some cash. Any ideas for who might take this up in leadership role?

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Like the idea of an extension to CiviCRM, “CiviShares” has a nice ring to it, and building something with co-op and community benefits societies in mind but applicable to a wider audience, could mean the install base is wide enough to be viable ecosystem to support by developers.

Like i said if their as a sector standard approach, we would have no problem promoting it but I don’t think Co-operatives UK are the right people to lead on this or host as a SaaS approach. Unless it comes out of the new Digital Services stuff we are doing with you lot.

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Webarchitects would love to provide hosting for a CiviCRM based system for co-ops however we don’t have the skills in house to develop it or the resources to pay for anyone else to develop it — it appears to me that some funding from somewhere would be needed.

CiviCRM & Co-ops certainly seem like a good combination!

We also could provide hosting, and could contriibute CiviCRM development skills/experience, but we’d need to be funded too.

Would it be worth getting together to see how this all might happen?

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I would certainly be up for a call to explore this further and see where we could go with it. And I know a few people in the Civi community that may be interested in getting involved.

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