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October is Cooperative Month
Every October since 1930, not-for-profit cooperatives of all stripes have celebrated Cooperative Month. During this time, we highlight the qualities that make electric cooperatives different from other types of utilities and businesses.
For starters, electric co-ops are owned by those they serve. That’s why those who receive electric service fromus are called members, not customers. Without members, there would be no Tipmont REMC.
Members maintain democratic control of our co-op, which means they elect fellow members to represent them on the board of directors each year at our annual meeting. As a bonus, co-op members receive special benefits through programs like our rebates, appliance recycling, energy audits, and the Co-op Connections Card. We also return margins (“profits”) to our members in the form of capital credits.
One principle that sets us apart from other businesses is our concern for community. As a cooperative, we have a special responsibility to support the areas in which our members live and work. By developing our EnviroWatts and Operation Round Up programs, Tipmont and our members have been able to grant nearly a million dollars to charitable and environmental organizations. From our support of local non-profits to our involvement in economic development efforts, we stand as a driving force in our community.
Of course, co-ops span all industries, including credit unions, dairy operations, health care, housing, and much more. There are more than 29,000 co-ops across the nation. And not all are small or rural. Just look at nationally known co-ops like Sunkist, Ace Hardware, and Land O’ Lakes.
Overall, co-ops are more accessible than other types of businesses. We give our members a voice, and we are local—living and working alongside those we serve. That’s the cooperative difference.
What Makes Cooperatives Different
- Touchstone Energy co-ops are owned by the members they serve and are committed to providing reliable electricity at the lowest price possible. In short, co-ops “look out” for the members they serve.
- Touchstone Energy co-ops provide high standards of service according to their four core values: integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community.
- Touchstone Energy co-ops rank well ahead of their industry counterparts when it comes to customer satisfaction. Recent data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), one the nation’s most recognized measures of customer satisfaction, gives Touchstone Energy cooperatives an average score of “81” out of a possible 100, outclassing utility industry satisfaction score of “74.”
All cooperative businesses adhere to seven guiding principles
- Voluntary and Open Membership -- Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
- Democratic Member Control -- Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. The elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
- Members’ Economic Participation -- Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
- Autonomy and Independence -- Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
- Education, Training, and Information -- Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public, particularly young people and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives -- Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
- Concern for Community -- While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.