A few keys we’ve found that have helped us along the way is
- staying organized,
- really running a group process (think coops), and
- having the right people.
We use a free software developed by a local software engineer called foodclub. You can find it at foodclub.org. This software organizes splits and orders, in a simple, easy to read manner. You will need another method for tracking payments. This can be as simple as a spreadsheet or even purchasing software like Quicken or Quickbooks.
There are a lot of different models of buying clubs. Some run with a few very dedicated volunteers that shoulder the brunt of responsibility and manage orders. This works for some clubs, but we decided early on that would lead to burnout in our group and as such have shied away from that model. We try to make sure that each vendor has a different coordinator, for example, and we talk at minimum in our steering committee meetings taking a pulse of how the group is running in order to trouble shoot any problems or potential problems. We also have a vendor mailing list and a steering committee list which we utilize between meetings to discuss things that come up. We are still quite new, so this is a learning curve!
Lastly, the most important aspect to the success of a buying club is having the right people. That simply means having the right people to ensure you meet your minimums. It also means having the right people in which to share responsibilities. If you don’t have either, it will be very difficult to get your group running.
We have a Portland Area Buy Club Google Group where we try to share information. Sometime we will be hosting another Buy Club Congress where we can exchange information and help teach each other how to run a successful buy club.