Consulting

Technical assistance tailored to your co-op’s needs.

For in-depth support that goes beyond the scope of a single workshop or training session, NASCO can contract with your co-op to provide consulting on a range of topics.  NASCO Active Member co-ops receive 5 hours of free consulting each year. As a nonprofit dedicated to supporting co-ops, NASCO is here to help. Don’t hesitate to ask about our services - often getting help early helps prevent issues from compounding.

 

Policy and Operations Design

If you have Bylaws, Policies or Operations that you want a third party to look at, if you want to know how better to incorporate certain actions into policy, or if you are a new organization that needs a place to start, NASCO can assist. NASCO Staff will Review or draft policies or bylaws based on best-practices among group equity co-ops.

For minor edits or outside feedback on policies, this may be only a few hours, but for a complete policy overhaul, this could be a significant investment of up to a few hundred hours. Staff will provide an estimate based on the scope of your project. Edits or newly drafted policies will include explanations for why each edit or additional policy was drafted.

Each co-op exists in a different regulatory environment. NASCO can only offer co-op best practices and is not a substitute for local legal assistance.

 

Financial Planning

Co-ops should have a financial plan for long-term stability. If your co-op does not have a financial plan, is not adhering to a financial plan, or is in financial distress, this consulting may be appropriate.

We will interview your co-op to help set financial goals that will support your overall mission, then translate those goals into a multi-year plan. This may take as few as 10 hours or over 50 hours, depending on your co-op’s needs. Staff will provide an estimate based on the scope of your project.

NASCO will analyze your current and past financial performance and make recommendations for financial processes, cost savings, mission-aligned member rates, debt refinancing, and asset restructuring. NASCO will ensure that your co-op has in place at least a 5-year financial plan and tools to help your members understand the co-op’s progress.

 

Team and Community Building

If your co-op is looking to strengthen engagement and participation among members, you may find it helpful to bring in an outside perspective.

NASCO will provide training on building community agreements, and walk through your existing policies to reaffirm the co-op’s process with your team.  We will provide suggested practices to engage those members, examples of other co-ops’ successes and failures in member engagement, participatory budgeting design, and metrics to assess whether engagement is improving.

The amount of time needed for this will vary depending on your co-op and the current level of member engagement. After an initial consultation, we will provide a timeline and pricing estimate if appropriate.  After meeting with members and staff at your co-op, NASCO will provide a written assessment of community strengths and weaknesses, a list of working community agreements made through this process, and a suggested plan for engagement.

 

Co-op Governance Assessment

Many co-op challenges stem from governance structures that are either not well defined or are not aligned with the current structure and function of the organization. If you feel that this is the case for your co-op, or if you are looking to take an overall look at how you can improve your governance structures, this consultation may be appropriate for you.

We will review your governance and operational processes, observe board and membership meetings, and conduct interviews with members throughout the organization to evaluate the effectiveness of co-op governance processes. This will likely require NASCO staff to be on-site, and will require access to most corporate documents.

A Governance Assessment is an in-depth analysis and requires staff to be on-site, observe meetings, interview stakeholders, collect documentation and write a report. This will therefore take a minimum of 20 hours. For more complex organizations, this may require as many as 50 hours. Our staff will present an organized analysis of the strengths and weaknesses observed in your co-op’s governance structure. A list of suggestions for changes will be provided based on observations during visits and through policy reviews.

 

Staff Relations

If your co-op has staff, then this consulting service may be for you. Whether co-ops have a large team or a single part-time staff member, they have to navigate the relationship between their members and employees.  

Co-op members may want support as they take on the duty of giving their staff oversight.  NASCO can work with your co-op to make sure you have policies and a management structure that give your staff direction - and procedures to help your members give feedback in a way your staff can use. Co-op staff can ask for NASCO’s help as a knowledgeable third party and draw on a network of best practices and lessons learned from similar co-op organizations to conduct evaluations of staff or to measure progress toward staff goals.

We will review your current policies to help your members set out reasonable expectations of staff, to set appropriate limits on staff authority, and to help co-op boards carry out their oversight duties through normal turnover.  Reviewing existing policies for staff oversight and materials for evaluation with recommendations or working with your co-op to create these materials should be expected to take 10-40 hours of consulting time, and a final set of recommendations would be available within 4-8 weeks of meeting with your co-op.

 

Expansion, Development, and Real Estate Projects

More co-ops! If your co-op is exploring feasibility, designing a new building, or wrangling financing, you could benefit from NASCO’s decades of experience in co-op development. NASCO Development Services will guide your cooperative through the process of purchasing, renovating/redeveloping, or selling real estate in a way that centers your co-op’s mission and values. For more information, please visit our Start a Co-op page.

Development projects are major investments of time and resources. These consulting projects are not billed hourly, but are handled on a success-fee basis through NASCO Development Services.  Your co-op will not pay unless you are able to get the financing you need for your project. Development Projects are considered complete when the co-op has completed its real estate transaction. Continued support will be provided after the purchase or refinancing is complete.

 

Co-op Health Assessment

Does your co-op find it difficult to step back and see the big picture as members and staff work through the details?  Do you feel like there is something that needs attention in your co-op but you can't quite put your finger on it?

Our staff can work with your co-op staff and members to hold guided discussions analyzing the co-op’s systems and policies with an experienced outside perspective.

NASCO has an extensive list of key indicators to help your co-op collect and organize your responses and put them into context.  Members, officers, and staff of co-ops can all participate in the process, and sharing their perspectives in a structured way will help your co-op develop insights into your strengths and issues.   Our assessments will cover policies, planning, governance, operations, and the experiences of your co-op’s members in an organized methodical way.

An extensive assessment can be conducted onsite within a day of conversations and interviews. The results of the assessment will be made available within days of the process.  If your co-op is interested in recommendations based on the best practices of other co-ops, those can be made available to you within a few weeks in consultation with your officers and staff. For both reports, we generally recommend making a concerted effort to ensure that the results and recommendations of these assessments are made available to your membership soon after receipt.

 

Hourly Rates

NASCO members $50/hr

Non-members $75/hr

We recognize that not all co-ops will be able to afford the listed rates. If your co-op needs support and finds these rates to be an obstacle to getting help, please reach out and we can discuss alternative options.  If you aren’t sure which of the above areas you need help with,  we can help point you in the right direction.

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