What’s a Cooperative, Really?

Maybe you’ve been a Member-Owner of a Cooperative for a long time, or maybe you’re brand new to your local Cooperative. No matter how long you’ve gotten your power from your Missouri Electric Cooperative, we’re willing to bet there are a few things you still don’t know about how your Cooperative is different from power companies in bigger cities. If you’ve ever wondered what a rural Electric Cooperative is, really, then this post is for you.

The Big Difference: Nonprofit Service
What’s a Cooperative, really? A Cooperative is a 501(c)(12) nonprofit organization. That means that 85% or more of your Cooperative’s annual income must be used for the sole purpose of meeting losses and expenses. At the end of the year, for-profit power utilities keep their extra earnings, but you nonprofit Cooperative gives profit margins back through capital credits.

Money isn’t the only difference between power companies and your Cooperative, though. Your Cooperative operates based on Cooperative Principles that connect your rural community to other rural Cooperative communities the world over.

7 Principles
Electric Cooperatives around the globe, including your Missouri Electric Cooperative, operate according to these Seven Principles:

These Principles — and your Cooperative’s purpose of improving quality of life for its Member-Owners — guide your Cooperative every day. That’s why your Cooperative brings civic, educational, and economic services — as well as safe, reliable electricity — to your town or county.

Civic Services
Cooperatives offer a variety of civic and community services. From free dusk-to-dawn light installation to speakers’ bureaus; public meeting rooms to Green Tree Grants, your Cooperative’s civic involvement helps your entire community to be stronger, safer, and more efficient with its resources.

Barry Hart, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives explains why Cooperatives are involved in efforts like these:

“We know that when we brought electricity to rural Missouri quality of life improved, but there’s a lot of other issues that need to be addressed. Your Electric Cooperative is at the forefront of all those issues that are being addressed in the community.”

The issues Hart mentioned aren’t just civic. Employee and student education are each a critical component of individual advancement — and of Cooperative success —in rural communities.

Educational Services
Unlike for-profit electric companies, your local Cooperative is directly involved in bringing educational and training opportunities to employees, Member-Owners, and area high school students. This isn’t a new trend; Electric Cooperatives have always valued education and training.

“The early pioneers that established Cooperatives,” says Hart, “felt it was important to educate and train not only the employees of the particular Cooperative, but also the membership.”

Today, Missouri’s rural Electric Cooperatives offer employee education and training, high school scholarships, and two powerful, Cooperative-exclusive programs for youth: CYCLE and The Youth Tour.

CYCLE is a youth conference and leadership program that brings 80 Missouri high school seniors together in Jefferson City each July for three days of learning about Electric Cooperatives, Missouri government, and leadership.

The Youth Tour is a national Cooperative program in Washington, D.C. that teaches delegates about Cooperative operations and the importance of federal public policy to Cooperative communities. More than 3,400 Missouri high school students have participated in the Youth Tour since 1964.

Economic Services
Did you know that your Cooperative is just as dedicated to economic service as it is to civic service and education? It’s true! Cooperatives are Member-owned, and your Cooperative goes above and beyond to help you be more efficient, pay your bills on time, and budget for your electricity use.

According to the third Principle of Electric Cooperatives, you contribute to, and democratically control, the capital of your Cooperative. Hart explains that, “when you pay your monthly electric bill, you’re actually economically participating in the services the Cooperative is giving you.”

“And at the end of the year,” he says, “because the Cooperative is a non-for-profit organization, any margins, anything above break-even, that economic value is credited back to you, the Member.”

Your Cooperative’s economic services extend to other cost-saving and efficiency programs, as well as to programs and partnerships that help ensure that the most vulnerable members of your Cooperative community can keep their lights (and heat or air conditioning) on all year long.

Operation Round Up enables you to donate your capital credits back to your Cooperative, who then uses that money to provide financial assistance to community organizations or individuals in crisis, and to fund Cooperative educational scholarships.

Another kind of economic service your Cooperative offers is its efficiency programs. Your Cooperative offers energy saving initiatives like Take Control and Save, and most Cooperatives share energy saving tips on their websites. Take Control and Save has helpful energy efficiency tools and tips for home owners, renters, and businesses.

Cooperatives like Platte-Clay Electric offer practical tips and information on energy efficiency, and they even offer free access to tools like Platte-Clay’s Energy Demand Calculator. Cooperatives across the state even help Member-Owners save money on appliance upgrades through energy savings rebates.

It’s common for Cooperatives to build partnerships in the community that allow them to offer Member-Owner discounts on everyday expenses, and every Cooperative in Missouri works with assistance organizations — like these agencies that Boone Electric Cooperative partners with — to ensure that power stays on when Member-Owners need it most.

Finally, your Cooperative offers budget billing programs and prepaid billing programs to help you budget your money and your electricity usage in a way that make sense for your family. These are just a few of the economic ways that your Cooperative serves you and your community.

Your Cooperative: Making a Difference
If you’ve ever wondered, “What’s a Cooperative, really?” then now, hopefully, you know: A Cooperative is a nonprofit organization that’s owned by its Members and that’s dedicated to making a difference in its local community through service to Member-Owners like you — and to families like yours.

Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives, along with Cooperatives all over the world, serve local communities through civic, educational and economic initiatives that align with our seven Cooperative Principles. Every day, your Cooperative works to make a difference for your rural Missouri community.

Learn More
Learn more about Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives, and how we work to provide safe, efficient energy to rural Missouri by following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.


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