GreenStar’s Capital Campaign continues efforts to raise funds for our expansion via the Owner Investment Program. Read on to learn more about this successful campaign and how you can cultivate your co-op!

Can you give a brief overview of GreenStar’s Capital Campaign thus far?

We launched the Capital Campaign just over a year ago to raise funds to support the Co-op’s expansion and relocation to our new flagship store at 770 Cascadilla St. GreenStar member-owners are invited to purchase Investment Shares as a part of our Owner Investment Program, providing the Co-op with needed capital while earning a fair return on their investment.

Our first phase in the fall of 2018 was quite a learning experience for us, and we remain grateful to the member-owners who were ready and eager to invest — they planted the seeds of success, investing over $500,000. This past spring we launched our second phase, applying all of the lessons we learned — and we surpassed our spring goal of $1.5 million. That success enabled us to secure a $400,000 low-interest loan from the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency, as well as a $2.5 million loan from the Reinvestment Fund.

This month we launch our third phase, with the goal of reaching $2 million by the end of the year. We believe we can surpass our goal and reach $2.5 million! We are currently at $1,695,000 in commitments and investments, combined! The more funds we can raise in investments from our member-owners, the less we’ll need to draw on the loans we’ve received and the earlier we’ll be able to pay them back.

Who is doing the work of the Capital Campaign?

We’ve got a small team of dedicated staff, all of whom wear multiple hats at the Co-op, working hard to make this happen! Heidi Adami and Laura Buttenbaum are the coordinators of the campaign. Heidi is also a Board Administrator, and Laura also works in the Membership Department. RJ Isley, West End Grocery Department employee, helps with communications, and Alex Laney, a Finance Department staff member, processes all of the investments on the back end. Recently, we brought member-owner Jennifer Amburg on board to help with the multitude of administrative tasks, and Wellness Department employee Becca Harber to help with informational tabling.

Capital Campaign Coordinators Laura Buttenbaum (left) and Heidi Adami.

How is this campaign different from a fundraising campaign?

The biggest difference from traditional nonprofit fundraising is that we cannot accept donations. We are limited, legally, to offering only investment shares or member loans. We’ve opted to offer Investment Shares because these allow money put forth to work harder for the Co-op. Investments show up as equity on books, whereas loans are a liability. Investment shares offer more flexibility to the Co-op. Believe us, we wish we could take donations — it’s heartbreaking to have to tell folks that we legally cannot accept their generosity.

Who is permitted to invest in the campaign?

Current GreenStar member-owners who live in the state of New York can purchase Investment Shares. If you’re not already on GreenStar’s membership roster, but you’re interested in this amazing investment opportunity, don’t worry — it’s easy to become a member-owner! Simply stop by any of our store locations and ask staff how you can join the Co-op, or contact our Capital Campaign coordinators.

What are the benefits of investing — for member-owners and for the Co-op?

Council Vice President Eldred Harris said it best: “This is an opportunity to invest in something local, as opposed to opportunities either ‘down on Wall Street’ or even further away from where you call home. An investment in GreenStar allows folks to truly put their money where their mouths are — right here at home. You have the opportunity to see and tangibly ‘touch’ your investment.”

Owners who invest will receive a fair return on the amount they put forth. The minimum investment is $1,000. Investments up to $9,500 will receive a 3-percent annual dividend, while those of $10,000 or greater will receive a 4-percent annual dividend. Investors can select how long their money is invested, from 8 to 11 years.

The Co-op benefits because investing provides capital for our expansion project and builds equity in the Co-op. Less outside financing minimizes expensive bank fees and interest, as well as external demands on the Co-op. The more equity our member-owners control through the Co-op, the more owners maintain control of the Co-op. Since investing builds equity in the Co-op, the community benefits as a whole as community wealth builds, and we keep local money local.

How many member-owners have invested thus far?

We’ve received 161 investments, for a total of $1,415,000. More than 100 of those investments were made by individuals; 48 were joint investments, made by two co-op member-owners together. We’ve received commitments totalling $280,000, but have not yet collected the funds, from an additional 40 owners.