Our members and supporters
The Society membership is diverse and includes faith groups, fair trade partnerships, small businesses, schools and community organisations. However, 81% of Share Accounts are held by individuals. We closed the year with 10,456 members and investment increased by £4.6m, the highest amount recorded in our history.
We use a range of communication channels to engage with volunteers, current and potential members, and other key stakeholders.
In terms of members, our communications activity is focused on recruitment and retention, through informing and engaging our target audience. We do this in a range of different ways, evolving our strategy over the last year in particular due to the impact of Covid-19.
As a membership organisation, the value of community has always been at Shared Interest’s heart. However, we have built on this messaging throughout the pandemic, emphasising to members how we stand together to achieve a shared goal. This can be clearly seen through messaging in our member newsletter, Quarterly Return (QR).
QR forms our main communication with members and has developed in line with our brand over the past 31 years. However, its main objective has remained the same: to inform and engage individuals on the impact of their investment.
During the pandemic, we encouraged more members to manage their Share Accounts online to reduce the need for print and postage. We now have 44% of our members using the member portal for communications (2020: 40%).
Each year, we also continue to produce an Annual Review for both the Society and Foundation, and include a summary booklet within Winter QR. Our younger investors receive a ‘Little Book of Fairness’, which is a children’s version of the Annual Review.
Due to restrictions on travel, we were unable to commission any overseas photography during the year. However, by using our past photography, we were still able to communicate the human impact of our finance by telling stories of producers in our various print and online publications.
Vivienne has been a member for over ten years, and joined after hearing about Shared Interest during a fair trade talk.
She said: “I first became interested in fair trade when I joined the campaign for Bradford-on-Avon to become one of the very first Fairtrade Towns back in 2003. “When I heard about Shared Interest a few years later, it just made sense. I had seen first-hand the challenges faced by developing world communities and I was keen to become more involved.
“To me, Shared Interest is taking my passion one step further. It is about more than just promoting fair trade; I now feel part of a community. I am pleased to see my investment helping businesses across the globe, and have enjoyed making some new friends along the way.”
Our supporter events planned for May and June took place online with over 100 members attending each session. Four sessions took place with a focus on the different regions where we work (East Africa, West Africa, Central and North America, and South America). The success of these virtual events lay in the ability to bring together our members in the UK and our business customers in Europe, Africa and Latin America. Members had the opportunity to hear from our producer and buyer customers at each event.
Feedback from the events was very positive, some comments from attendees can be seen below:
“So interesting to hear stories from people on the ground, and such a variety.”
“An excellent way for Shared Interest supporters to actively engage with the projects.”
“Really wonderful opportunity to hear directly from those working with and benefitting from Shared Interest support. Very well-organised and I really appreciated everyone's contributions, thank you!”
We also held a virtual General Meeting on 29 September to approve the appointment of Armstrong Watson LLP Audit Limited as the new Shared Interest auditor.
We use an integrated campaign approach to generate enquiries for the Society, dovetailing online activity with editorials, inserts and advertising. This year we maintained our relationship with titles such as Amnesty magazine, The Big Issue and Guardian Weekend magazine, running 13 campaigns in total. We continued to focus our approach on subscription-based publications combined with digital activity, which proved very effective.
During the height of the pandemic, we encouraged people to apply for a Share Account online due to disruption in the postal system. As a result, we attracted 496 new members to the Society with an average opening investment of £1,494 (2020: £519) and 71% of these (352) were opened online (2020: 287). Overall, we saw a net increase of 221 Share Accounts compared to 184 last year.
This year was another year of award success. In November 2020, our Managing Director, Patricia Alexander was named in the NatWest WISE (Women in Social Enterprise) 100 Awards.
The Society was also shortlisted within the Enterprise Category of the Third Sector Excellence Awards, and Shared Interest Foundation was shortlisted in the Small Charity, Big Achiever category. Receiving these endorsements presents us with an increased opportunity to raise our profile through the media both in publications and online.
You can read the full Social Accounts document here.Back to Part 1