Community CHIPs in record-high donations for local nonprofits

The Willy Street Co-op generated more than $220,000 in 2012 for the local community through a fundraising program called Community CHIP, which benefited more than 60 nonprofit, grassroots organizations and initiatives that promote social change throughout Madison and Dane County.

Community CHIP has allowed citizens to provide donations through various local businesses since the program’s creation in 1971, and raised approximately $40,000 more in 2012 than in 2011.

CHIP, short for “chipping in,” currently operates exclusively through the Willy Street Co-op’s two locations, where shoppers have the option at check out to donate 1 percent of their grocery bill to the program.

“All those pennies here and nickels and dimes there, they all add up and make a huge difference,” said Brandon Smith, Director of Communications for Willy Street Co-op.

Contributions are then distributed to more than 60 non-profit organizations affiliated with Community Shares Wisconsin (CSW), an organization that enables businesses to make donations to nonprofits by contributing directly from their payroll.

Community CHIP and CSW, previously two separate nonprofits working in conjunction with one another since the 1970's, officially merged January 1, 2013, according to CSW Communications Director Moira Urich. CHIP now acts as a program of CSW.

Those 60 CSW nonprofits consist of groups working at the grassroots level that aim to promote social change and environmental justice, such as the Rape Crisis Center and Clean Wisconsin, said Urich, all of which depend on a number of volunteers to complete their respective missions. 

“When people say yes to CHIP, they know they are helping create social change through all of those non-profits,” Urich said.

Previously, all Community Shares’ nonprofits received an equal share of CHIP donations. Now, Urich said organizations receiving higher donation amounts through other workplace giving initiatives receive lower donations through CHIP in an effort to provide support where it is most needed.

Madisonians who shop at the Willy Street Co-op are engaged in social programs as well as with what is happening throughout the city and in their neighborhoods, according to Smith, who said CHIP is one way active citizens “can help make a positive change.”

“Our owners definitely appreciate that we have this relationship with CHIP,” Smith said. “It makes it easy for them to give back to the community.”

Community Shares works exclusively with the Willy Street Co-op because of the business’s “strong dedication” to giving back to the Madison community, Urich said.

The Co-op’s bylaws, which state the business must “support and participate in the movement for progressive, fundamental social change,” closely parallel Community Shares’ mission, which is to support local nonprofits in promoting social change, according to Urich.

“Direct service is always going to be needed, but social change is the fabric of our society,” Urich said. “When you are working for social change, you are working for change that lasts for a lifetime.”