I have to admit, I didn't know much about cooperatives before I applied to work at The Energy Co-op. I understood the basic idea of a member-owned organization, but I wasn't completely sure of all of the benefits. Over the years, I've learned to truly value the power and uniqueness of a member-owned organization. In no particular order, here are some of the reasons that I love working for a cooperative.
On my first day at The Energy Co-op (February 11th 2011, if you were wondering), I met with Shoshanna, our resident co-op expert so she could explain to me the basics of a co-op and how we functioned as a member-owned organization. I was definitely skeptical at first. With over 6,600 members, how could we make sure that each member really has their voice heard? I soon found out. My first year at The Co-op, over 1,500 of our members voted on the proposed changes to our by-laws and elections of our board members.
Although we're a small staff, we try to answer the phone every time it rings. We also strive to answer emails and voicemails as soon as possible. We take your feedback on surveys very seriously. We ask your opinion because it matters. And we care.
Cooperation Among Cooperatives
Principle 6 (cooperation among cooperatives) brings together our local cooperatives. Uniting our members together makes the cooperative movement stronger and strengthens each individual co-op, as well.
Most recently, Swarthmore Food Co-op organized Co-op row at WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival. Local area co-ops shared space and spoke about the cooperative movement. Through PACA (the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance), we have more opportunities than ever to work together, and we love it!
Care for the Community
My favorite way that our members care for their community is through our dues waiver program. Many of our members give contributions to The Co-op to off-set the cost of the dues waivers. Although these contributions are not tax deductible* many of our members generously give the gift of membership to families in our area.
Dues Waivers allow any household or business experiencing financial constraints to waive their dues for the year. We do not require any proof of income or have any income standards for dues waivers. We want to ensure that anyone who wants to join The Energy Co-op can receive the benefits. I am continually blown away by the generosity of our members and how they demonstrate care for our community.
Doing Business Better
Working for a values driven organization is a very unique experience. When I attend community events, I often hear other companies talk about their sustainability initiatives. Around here, we don’t need a sustainability initiative, we are a sustainability initiative!
Of course we buy 100% recycled paper, although we limit paper usage as much as possible. We jump for joy when we find office products made from recycled materials. We chose to purchase our spring water from a local company because the water comes from a local source. Each staff member walks (or runs), bikes, or uses public transit to get to work. We don’t call these “sustainability initiatives;” this is how we live our lives, personally and professionally. The Energy Co-op brings together a values-oriented staff, board and membership. No wonder the result is a values oriented business.
Working for a cooperative is something to be proud of! Each time someone asks me what I do for a living, I have the opportunity to educate others on the cooperative movement and how it benefits our community. I hope that you also take pride in your membership with The Co-op. Maybe you’ll start to share with your friends and family how you’re benefitting our local community with your membership at The Energy Co-op!
Remember that we’re offering extra referral rewards this month! For each new member that signs up and mentions you, we’ll send you a check for $30. That’s like getting 2 years of membership for free!