Every October for most of the past century, nonprofit cooperatives of all types have recognized National Cooperative Month—and we continue that tradition this year at Big Country Electric Cooperative.
Although Co-op Month was celebrated for years before a national proclamation, the U.S. officially lauded co-ops in 1964, when U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman proclaimed October as National Cooperative Month.
This year, members from more than 29,000 cooperatives nationwide proclaim the advantages of cooperative membership and the benefits and value that co-ops deliver.
Co-ops—including Big Country EC—are nonprofit, democratically controlled, member-owned businesses. Cooperatives provide value to their members through highly personal customer service; economic development, conservation and service programs; the retirement of capital credits; and democratic representation in business decisions.
Electric co-ops are owned by those they serve. That’s why those who receive electric service from America’s electric cooperatives are called members, not customers. Co-ops exist to serve their members, and we strive to keep our level of service high even during the toughest times.
From attending an annual meeting to serving on the board, members are encouraged to be actively involved in the business of their cooperative. Members maintain democratic control of their co-op, which means they elect fellow members to represent them on the board of directors.
The cooperative business model also gives members economic control. Because cooperatives are owned and controlled by the people who use their services, decisions are made with the best interests of co-op members in mind—not to financially benefit corporate stockholders. Instead of issuing stock or paying dividends to outside shareholders, co-ops return margins (“profits”) to their members in the form of capital credits at the end of the year when they’re able.
Another principle that sets co-ops apart from other businesses is their concern for community. Cooperatives have a special responsibility and desire to participate in and support the areas in which their members live and work.
Co-ops are more personal and accessible than other types of businesses because their employees work and live alongside those they serve. Co-ops are dedicated to powering communities and empowering members.
Here at Big Country EC, we think the cooperative difference is worth celebrating this year and every year.