Shareholder Retention

Deborah J. Kane (DKANE@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU)
Fri, 19 Jul 96 10:28:07 EDT

I wanted to respond to Sarah's message with regard to shareholder
retention.... It just so happens I am doing a master's thesis on that
very topic. I'm a graduate student at the University of Georgia, working
with five different CSA farmers here in the SE on the issue of
shareholder retention. While Southern CSAs are not nearly as large as
some (the five farms I am working with range from 15 - 75 members),they
are still experiencing the same high turnover rates as most.

We have hypothesized that high turnover rates may have something to do
with unrealistic expectations held by new members. To test this
hypothesis I called all the new members from each of the five farms
participating in the study in the Spring, well before they had received
any vegetables. I asked them all (approximately 85 people) the same five
questions. Basically I wanted to know what their expectations were with
regard to the agriculture component of CSA, and also what their
expectations were with regard to the 'community' component of CSA. The
last question had to do with share price. The question went something
like "Given the expectations you have just expressed, would you have
been willing to pay "share price + 10%?, +20%?, +30%?, etc." until I
reached the upper limit of what they would have been willing to pay. I
will call all of these 85 people back at the end of the season and
remind them what they said in the Spring. Then we'll be able to judge
whether or not their expectations were realized... and whether they were
realistic to begin with. The share price question will also be reasked
and I imagine the results will be quite interesting.

Anyway, that was a wordy way of saying I do think, Sarah, phone surveys
will work. All of the new members I spoke with were more than happy to
spend at least five minutes on the phone with a total stranger. Surely
you'll be known to some of your members. I have preliminary results from
the Spring phone calls if anyone is interested. Of course the final
results won't be available until after I've made the 'end of season'
follow-up calls. Hopefully we'll shed some light on the issue of
shareholder retention.

Deborah Kane