Co-op Shoppers Donate More than $100K to Charity in 2016

A little change goes a long way.

Thanks, Co-op shoppers! In 2016, you donated $137,591.54 to Upper Valley nonprofits through Pennies for Change. Woo-hoo!

What is Pennies for Change?

Pennies for Change is a charitable-giving program founded on an innovative approach to collecting money at the registers. Shoppers go to the registers, check out, and have the option to round up their grocery bill to the next dollar. Then the Co-op donates the difference to community nonprofits.

Pennies for Change rolled out in June, 2016, after months of planning. It replaced a solid, albeit low-tech system the Co-op used for nearly two decades: small plastic bins at the registers for collecting loose change. That worked for a long time, but then the donations dwindled. Not many people carry change anymore, as it turns out.

My colleague Emily Rogers is a Co-op educator with limitless energy and long-range vision. She does the heavy lifting on coordinating the program. She told me in June she hoped the Co-op would collect $10,000 per month, or $60,000 by the end of the year. As you can imagine, Emily is a happy camper! Many folks at charities throughout the Upper Valley are happy, too.

Where Does the Money Go?

Donations work like this:

At the register, Co-op shoppers can round up their bill to the next dollar by telling a cashier or by answering a prompt on the keypad of a credit-card scanner. The Co-op then divides the donations among two groups: Community Partners and Food Access Partners.

Two Community Partners receive 40 percent of the donations, split 30 and 10 percent, respectively. Community Partners change each month.

The 2016 Community Partners were:

Child and Family Services
Craftstudies at League of NH Craftsmen
Vital Communities
Twin Pines Housing Trust
Mascoma Valley Health Initiative
Good Neighbor Health Clinics
Opera North
Ottauquchee Health Foundation
DHMC Women’s Health Resource Center
Watson Upper Valley Dog Park Supporters
Vermont Center for Ecostudies
Upper Valley Humane Society

Three Food Access Partners receive 60 percent of the donations, split evenly, 20 percent each. Food Access Partners are chosen yearly and must align with the Co-op’s Principles and Ends Statements.

The 2016 Food Access Partners were:

Listen Community Services
The Upper Valley Haven
Willing Hands

What is the Money Used For?

Last fall, I talked with several of our partners, who told me about what they can do with the funds raised through Pennies for Change.

For example:

  • Listen Community Services, an Upper Valley agency that provides a wide variety of services to families in need, can fill 21 fuel tanks this winter, support 1,600 community dinners, or send 30 kids to summer camp for free.
  • Willing Hands, an organization that collects and distributes nutritious food throughout the Upper Valley, can greatly expand its programs to get more food out to needy people in the community.
  • The Upper Valley Haven, a busy shelter and food bank, can get help with the electric bill for the Haven’s adult and family shelters, help pay for breakfast and lunch meals for needy children, and more.

And the list goes on.

“When I shop at the Co-op and round up my bill, I get a great feeling about how just a little action on my part is reaching out into the community, not just for the Haven but for all of the other organizations that work so hard to help make the Upper Valley a great place to live,” Sara Kobylenski, the Haven’s executive director, wrote to me in an email. “I am so grateful to the Co-op for giving me this extra, easy way to be part of the community, and to help our service at the Haven.”

To learn more about Pennies for Change, visit the Co-op website. Thanks again to all our shoppers for making it such a success. Can’t wait to see what you do in 2017!

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Ken Davis

Ken Davis is the Co-op's senior copywriter. Email him at