Sort it all out!

Hooray! You ran a buy! You managed to get over the hump of your first order! Members are excited to get their goods, you have collected all the money, and you even placed the order with the vendor.

Now what do you do when it all arrives?

“Well I’ll just sort it” you think.

Just. Um. Sure.

You may be absolutely right. If it is a small order with not a lot of participants and not very many items, sorting can be relatively straightforward.

But what if you have 20 participants and 20 different items? Things can go downhill faster than you think.

We have seen it all when it comes to sorting and most groups move through several different ways of sorting throughout their existence. One constant, however, are packing lists or invoices. You have to know who has what. On Manage My Co-op this is available with the click of a button and easily printed. Whatever method you use just make sure you have a list of what each member ordered before you start sorting.

Once the order arrives your crucial first step is to note what has arrived and what is missing. Compare what you receive to the order you placed with the vendor and to the packing list. If anything is missing decide what you will do- substitute for another item, wait for the backorder to arrive, or credit the member for that item. When you decide communicate it quickly and clearly. Emails sent out about the buy is a great place to do this.

Ok. Now you have your items and your invoices or packing lists and are ready to sort. Here are a few ways we have seen things sorted along with the pros and cons:

  • Sort as people pick up.
    • When members show up use their packing list to find what items they ordered. Pack it up and off they go.
    • Pros- Member is there to help with the packing and they can often pack it themselves. Low volunteer needs.
    • Cons- If a mistake occurs the member has usually already left with their items so correcting a mistake is hard. Having a careful check out process that double checks orders is crucial. You might get shorted if people misweigh as they go.
  • Sort ahead of time by person
    • Have all the invoices printed. Pack all items for a member into a box as listed on the invoice. Nothing leaves the premise until all boxes have been packed.
    • Pros- Mistakes are easy to correct as all the items are still in the building. Easy for members to pick up as things are ready to go.
    • Cons- If you have a lot of members it can take up a lot of space. Volunteer intensive.
  • Sort ahead of time by item then by person
    • Take each item in an order and sort it out (Manage My Co-op has an easy Order Items report for you!). So if you have a 50 lb bag of rice divide it up into the ordered quantities. Once all items have been sorted use the invoices to pack up each member’s box.
    • Pros- You will immediately know if you are short something of if there are extras of a certain item. Orders are ready to go when members show up. Mistakes are easy to correct at either stage because all the items are still in the building.
    • Cons- Volunteer intensive.  

Bottom line? We recommend you sort everything before anything leaves the building.

In our experience we have found that smaller groups with smaller orders can sort by person without much trouble. Larger orders (with lots of items) or orders with lots of members benefit the most from sorting by item then by member. Sure it is an extra step but it will save you so much time rectifying errors at the end. Trust us.
So how does your group manage sorting?

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