How a small group of enterprising and justice-focused leaders became a successful cooperative saving regional institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars
by Kathleen Hall, Director, Human Resources and Administration
In summer 2013, Paul Barkett, COO of St. Columba’s, invited Paul Cooney and me to join a discussion of Interfaith leaders about creating savings for congregations while contracting with vendors committed to fair wages and environmental stewardship. Felipe Witchger, co-founder and Executive Director of the Community Purchasing Alliance, articulated a well-researched business plan already vetted and tested by a pilot group of very happy partners. By 2014, the Community Purchasing Alliance had a financial model for sustainability and was incorporated as a cooperative association.
Today, the Diocese encourages parishes to participate, noting the alignment of CPA Goals and Aspirations with our desire for collaboration and sustainability:
- Deliver significant savings and value to participating institutions
- Be self-sustaining financially and be able to seed other cooperative ventures
- Be able to share net proceeds to support community organizing
- Grow to 200+ members in the greater Washington/Baltimore region, offer purchasing opportunities in fifteen service areas, secure millions in annual savings for members, and generate hundreds of thousands in annual rebate revenue
- Keep operating costs low to be able to support community organizing and cooperative development and offer dividends back to members
- Leverage 50 million dollars in group purchasing power for serious investments in sustainability, just wages and labor practices for workers, and local community wealth building
Four years later, the CPA pays dividends to its members, employs a staff of six and can save your parish time and money. CPA staff help you assess the opportunities for greatest savings and impact. Offerings include:
- Clean Energy
- Cleaning and Maintenance
- Copier Leasing
- Natural Gas
- Office Supplies
- Trash Hauling
Felipe Witchger continues to provide vision and leadership, cultivating new opportunities for partnership and growth. His leadership and the success of the Alliance caught the attention of The New York Times and the Duke Divinity School’s Faith & Leadership.
Today there are 160 actively participating organizations with total savings of $2,900,000. We’re grateful to Paul Barkett for his work in the early years of the CPA.
Need a quick consult about a service contract? Call Jessica with the Community Purchasing Alliance (www.cpa.coop) who helps dozens of churches and community institutions with everything from pre-negotiated copier pricing to free roof replacements — with a no-cost install of solar panels — to local vendor recommendations for almost anything through their private-label “yelp” — www.MARVL.org. Jessica is at 301-266-1721 or [email protected]