December is a special time of the year — the giving season. It’s a time when organizations, businesses, corporations, and even families and individuals give back to the charities or causes that make a difference in their communities. 

Typically, the seasonal festivities begin on Giving Tuesday, after the hullabaloo of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has settled. But for a year that was anything but typical, it’s fitting that our good friends at Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) got in the giving spirit — and encouraged others to do so too — long before winter came ‘round. 

Always one to give a helping hand 

One of the many reasons that we love FCL and the local co-ops in the Co-operative Retail System (CRS) is because they’re always on the “good list” before the giving season starts.

For the past four years, FCL has proudly been named a “Caring Company” — Imagine Canada’s title for the companies that donate more than 1% of their pre-tax profit. And as a leader in Corporate Social Responsibility, FCL makes clear that the giving season shouldn’t be limited to just one month — it’s a year-long commitment.

Annually, FCL shows their giving stripes through campaigns like Fuel Good Day, which in one day raised $566,000 this year for charities and nonprofits, and their foodbank donations, which clocked in at 1.2 million pounds of food this year!

And the giving doesn’t stop there.

If you’re as lucky as our 2019 Backroad Diaries team, you may have enjoyed spending time in one of the 132 projects funded by the Co-op Community Spaces Program. Starting in 2015, Co-op has donated $9.5 million to projects across western Canada, allowing communities to build recreational spaces, to conserve environmental areas, and to promote urban agricultural initiatives.  

In any old year, most would look at these contributions as going above and beyond the giving call — but this wasn’t any old year.

Charity begins at the home office

When Canadian communities were struggling in the early months of the pandemic, the leadership team at FCL looked for additional ways to give to the individuals and the organizations that needed help the most.

“With the unprecedented challenges 2020 has brought to our communities, Corporate Social Responsibility is more important than ever,” said Pam Skotinsky, VP Strategy at FCL. “These challenging times shine a light on the importance of community support and the role our contributions make to maintaining the important service provided by the charitable sector. FCL responded to immediate needs through initiatives such as Co-op Helps, and supports strong and connected communities long-term through programs including Co-op Community Spaces.” 

Inspired by #givingtuesdaynow, an international emergency response charity helping those impacted by the pandemic, FCL and the CRS created the Co-op Helps campaign. 

The campaign encouraged people to get in the giving spirit through an online contest. To thank those who went above and beyond to help someone during the pandemic, nominators recommended a helper to receive a $100 Co-op Gift card. 

For Lindsay Arnott, FCL’s Social Responsibility Supervisor, the contest helped spread a hopeful message in trying times. 

 “We heard countless stories of people going above and beyond during this challenging time, from frontline workers working tirelessly to deliver essential services, to friendly neighbours delivering bread to the families on their street,” Arnott said. “We wanted to spread positivity and a message of thanks for those keeping our communities strong.”

In just two weeks almost 4,500 people participated in the contest, and 1,250 gift cards were sent to helpers across Western Canada. And as a thank-you to those who said thank you, each of the nominators received a $25 gift card themselves! 

FCL also recognized the increased demand on local food banks throughout the pandemic. So, in addition to the nomination contest, FCL donated a whopping $250,000 to food banks across Western Canada as a form of immediate relief. 

Don’t forget about grassroots giving

In a snowball effect of giving, many of the more than 160 local Co-ops also led their own giving initiatives on top of joining in on Co-op Helps.

For instance, Weyburn Saskatchewan’s Prairie Sky Co-op donated nearly $30,000 to local charities and nonprofits in the early months of the pandemic. Kevin Arthur, the general manager of Prairie Sky Co-op, said people in Weyburn and area gave back with more than just time or money.

“These communities have always supported their neighbours and local businesses, but this year we saw more connection,” Arthur said. “We saw neighbours picking up groceries for each other from out of town, residents making home-made meals for truck drivers and for daycares, businesses creating light-hearted contests to add some fun to a dark year, and so much more”.

Give a gift of giving — literally

Though FCL is great at encouraging customers and local Co-ops to get in the giving spirit, they also give the gift of giving — literally.

From now until Dec. 31st, Co-op members can take part in the Co-op Give Card Campaign, an initiative where Co-op donates $1 to the Canadian Red Cross pandemic relief efforts for every holiday-themed card purchased. 


DISCLAIMER: Co-operatives First is proudly funded by the Co-operative Retailing System and Federated Co-operatives Limited. We think they’re awesome, and hope this post provides a bit of clarity and perhaps an even better appreciation of their business.