Every October since 1930, not-for-profit cooperatives of all kinds have recognized National Cooperative Month as a way to educate the public about how co-ops work and to appreciate their many members. 

 This year, Altamaha EMC highlights the notions that guide all co-ops: the seven cooperative principles. These notions lead electric cooperatives like Altamaha EMC to do business in a better way every single day. Here are real-life examples of how the principles affect your cooperative. 

 No. 1: Voluntary and Open Membership 

Co-ops are open to anyone who is able to use its services, which means any person who moves onto Altamaha EMC lines is allowed membership. Annual meetings serve as a way for members to get to know the people who run their co-op, and it’s where members are updated on business matters. Every year in November, Altamaha EMC convenes for its annual membership meeting.  

No. 2: Democratic Member Control 

“Democratic member control” means members vote for a director who repre- sents them on a board, which governs the cooperative.  

No. 3: Members’ Economic Participation 

Because electric cooperatives are owned by its members, they do not create profits for distant shareholders. Any excess revenue—called “margins”—is allocated back to the membership in the form of capital credits. Margins are used by the co-op as working capital for a period of time.                  

“Allocating and retiring excess revenue to members helps distinguish co- operatives,” points out Romanous Dotson, Altamaha EMC CEO. “We’re proud to support our communities by putting money back into the local economy—and into the pockets of those we serve. It makes our business model special.” Nationally, electric cooperatives have retired $11 billion in capital credits since 1988--$768 million in 2012 alone. 

No. 4: Autonomy and Independence 

Electric cooperatives form a vast network across Ame rica. They’re found in 47 states, and cooperative-owned electric lines cover 42 percent of the nation’s land mass. But what’s unique is that each cooperative is an autonomous, independent business. “We work with our co-op neighbors, but Altamaha EMC members are the sole governors of Altamaha EMC,” Dotson explains. “Our member- elected board of directors approves policies and resolutions that guide the way we do business.” 

No. 5: Education, Training, and Information 

Cooperatives have a charge to keep their members inf ormed—not just about cooperative business, but also about topics like energy efficiency, safety, and community contribution. This monthly newsletter is one way Altamaha EMC keeps our keeps members up on relevant news. You can also stay informed via our website at www.altamahaemc.com or on our Facebook page. 

No. 6: Cooperation Among Cooperatives 

Even though co-ops are independent entities, they st ill rely on one an- other to share resources, information, and, in some cases, manpower. Electric co-ops have long relied on one another to get power restored more quickly after severe weather emergencies. Called “mutual-aid agreements,” it works just as it sounds: When Altamaha EMC needs extra hands after a severe storm, co-ops from neighboring towns and states help out. And when neighboring co-ops need help, we send crews to them. “Mutual-aid assistance gets power back on so much faster than we could with just our crews,” Dotson says. 

No. 7: Concern for Community 

Possibly the most visible of all the cooperative pri nciples, the last is what drives electric co-ops to be good stewards of the communities they serve. Altamaha EMC undertakes a variety of projects, from food drives to benefit local food banks to school safety presentations. Our list of com- munity commitment is a very long one! We work hand-in-hand with the local chambers of commerce and devel- opment authorities to recruit new businesses and industries to our service area. 

 “While our first priority is delivering safe, affordable, reliable electricity to those we serve, we also feel strongly about supporting and contributing to the development of our communities,” Dotson stresses. “Even if there were no ‘concern for community’ principle, every person who works at Altamaha EMC lives here, too. We’re friends and neighbors first.”

Related Articles:

The Power of the Membership

7 Cooperative Principles

Membership Has Its Privileges

We Are Different -- We Are Looking Out For You!