Success Story: Peninsula Co-op

About Peninsula Co-op

Based in Vancouver Island, Canada, Peninsula Co-op employs more than 350 full and part-time employees in its grocery, petroleum and convenience stores. They run gas centers, a full-service grocery store, home heating oil sales and distribution, and more.

The co-op was founded in 1977 by a small group of local residents with a strong belief in cooperative principles. The founding members went door-to-door recruiting members and promoting the co-op. The group began a food cooperative and expanded into the petroleum business in the 1980s. Today, Peninsula Co-op has more than 100,000 member-owners, community and staff members.

Client Challenge

Peninsula Co-op’s election has transitioned several times over the past few years. Voting transitioned from solely in-person to adding mail-in balloting to help reach members unable to attend a live event. The organization, however, wanted a better, more accurate representation of members voting in their elections. The board of directors chose to add an online ballot component providing multiple options for members to participate in a hybrid election. They knew they needed a third-party elections partner to help manage the transition and oversee hybrid elections, but the organization and its members were also very concerned about data privacy.

The Solution & Future Planning

When Peninsula Co-op made the switch to a hybrid election, they chose to partner with SBS for multiple reasons.

“SBS is a mature organization, you have an audit on your internal controls. The selection process [for an election vendor] was based on what we felt like was a good relationship, which is critical for us and working with business partners,” said Susan Herman, director of finance for Peninsula Co-op. “But those warm and fuzzies don’t translate when we’re talking about someone’s personal information. We did our homework and these guys (SBS) are good at what they do.”

The SOC 2 security and privacy controls SBS has made the Peninsula Co-op team comfortable that their data would be protected. And they felt SBS was very supportive in helping them through the transition to a hybrid election.

The hybrid election increased member participation after adding an online voting component, but they realized even bigger benefits in other areas. “If we had 1,000 voters in the mail-in election and those same 1,000 voters just shifted to electronic voting, that’s 1,000 ballots we didn’t have to mail out and track,” said Dave Hoy, CEO.

Additionally, the organization received valuable member feedback. All online voters take a short survey about their voting experience and they have the opportunity to easily share more detailed feedback.

Peninsula Co-op is taking a long view when it comes to measuring the success of implementing an online voting option.

“The success for us will be what our election looks like in two or three years compared to where it was,” said Susan.

Advice for Other Member Organizations Considering Adding Electronic Voting

“Think about and prepare for your transition well in advance, if possible, and know about and prepare for the cost,” said Dave. “For co-ops with larger member numbers, the transition is probably going to take longer than you expect. It’s a growing process and you may not see huge leaps in member participation right away.”

Susan agreed, but encouraged others to take the leap into online voting.

“If you’re concerned that your members might not be ready to make the switch to electronic voting, I’d say you might be surprised by how ready they are to make that transition.”

To learn more about Peninsula Co-op, visit their website.