Why Membership Matters
National Co-op Month celebrates electric co-ops and their membersBy Greg Puckett
October is Co-op Month, giving you, as a member of an electric cooperative, a reason to celebrate. But what does it mean to be a co-op member? How is it different than being a customer?
Membership is a key component of the cooperative business model and how we operate. As a member, you and your voice are important to your electric cooperative, and your participation as a member is vital.
Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Co-ops around the world operate according to the same set of core principles and values, dating back to the first modern cooperative founded in England in 1844.
These principles are:
- Open and Voluntary Membership
- Democratic Member Control
- Members’ Economic Participation
- Autonomy and Independence
- Education, Training and Information
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives
- Concern for Community
In each of these, our members and our communities play an important role in the decision-making process at the cooperative. As a member of the cooperative, you are an owner in the company and can actively participate by electing directors who represent you — or even serving on that board if you choose. That’s one reason we see it as so important to keep you informed of happenings at the co-op, in many instances in the pages of this very magazine.
Co-op membership has several other benefits, including getting a return on your investment through capital credits. Cooperatives, unlike investor-owned utilities, are not-for-profits and are operated in a fashion that any margins or revenue remaining after all expenses have been paid are returned to members in the form of capital credits.
As a member of the cooperative, you are an owner in the company...
Also, because we are owned by the members we serve, electric co-ops are committed to our communities. North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are investing in worthy programs focused on strengthening rural communities and advancing education through opportunities like the NC Youth Tour and the Bright Ideas educational grant program. And by partnering with economic development agencies across the state, we are doing our part to support job creation and businesses seeking to start, expand or relocate, building a brighter future for us all.
Because we answer to our local members, electric co-ops are able to quickly respond to your changing needs, and we’re deploying innovative technologies to do so in new ways. Working with other electric co-ops across the state, we are creating a future that allows us to continue our mission of providing safe, affordable, reliable and sustainable electricity — powering and empowering the people and communities we serve.
About the AuthorGreg Puckett is executive vice president and general manager for Dobson-based Surry-Yadkin EMC. He also serves as president of the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation.