A strong start for co-op fundraising

Linden Hills Co-op is working to raise $1.5 million in member loans by the end of January to help pay for a move to the west end of the neighborhood

After the first three weeks of Linden Hills Co-op’s three-month member loan drive to raise money for a move to a larger space, the organization reported roughly $307,000 in contracted and expected loans.

Nearly $150,000 of that figure was secured on paper; the rest was from verbal commitments.  

The co-op announced in late October plans to move from its 43rd Street and Upton Avenue location to a new, 50-percent larger space at 44th Street and Sunnyside Avenue, near France Avenue. It would revamp the existing building at the site, which was previously Almsted’s Sunnyside Market.

A growing membership base and a lack of space to meet their needs prompted the decision to move. Co-op leadership had been discussing the need for a new location for the past four years.

The co-op hopes to move before its lease is up in September of next year, which means site development would need to start in February. To make that happen, the co-op needs to raise $1.5 million in member loans — nearly half the total cost of the move and build out — by the end of January. The co-op hopes to have $750,000 raised by the end of December.

Leadership has laid out specific goals for bringing in the large sum of money within the tight timeframe. Fundraising lead Tami Bauers, a consultant who has participated in several other co-op loan drives including one for the recently expanded Seward Co-op Grocery & Deli, said the Linden Hills effort has the shortest deadline and the biggest goal of any project she’s worked on.

“It’s still doable,” she said. “The desire for the co-op to be in that spot is certainly strong.”

The loan goals are broken down like this:

— 30 loans at $2,000
— 30 loans at $3,000
— 30 loans at $5,000
— 30 loans at $8,000
— 36 loans at $10,000
— 10 loans at $20,000
— four loans at $50,000
— two loans at $100,000

Interest rates range from 3.5 percent for loans of $2,000 to $9,999 to 5 percent for loans greater than $20,000. Payment terms range from four–10 years.

If the co-op meets its goals, it would cover the $1.5 million with only 172 of its 5,200 members. At the three-week mark, 30 members had signed loan contacts and 32 had made verbal agreements. Their loan range was across the board, Bauers said.

She said interest is always strongest at the start of a dive, so the co-op will have to work hard to keep the loans coming, especially given the rough economy and the fast approaching holidays.

“It’s always difficult to fight for people’s attention between the last Thursday in November and the second day of January,” said co-op spokeswoman Jeanne Lakso. “But it’s also an advantage for us because it’s our busiest time of the year.”

She said the co-op planned to hand out flyers in the store and it recently hung a fundraising thermometer on the front window to show its progress. The co-op’s board of directors is making calls to members in an effort to find lenders.  

The organization’s leadership seems undaunted by the task, but if they do fall short of their January goal, they will renegotiate a lease at the current space and return all member loans with interest.  

This is not the Linden Hills Co-op’s first loan drive. It raised $212,000 in the mid-1990s to move to its current location. The co-op had roughly 1,700 members then.

“As happened the last time we did a member loan drive, there are a number of great folks in the neighborhood who have been involved in the co-op for 30 years or more who are willing to support us and what we do in the community,” Lakso said.

For more information on the co-op’s move, go to www.lindenhills.coop.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected]