Iowa’s farmers began forming electric co-ops in the 1930s when large, investor-owned electric companies bypassed rural Iowa due to its sparse population. These pioneering men and women borrowed start-up money from the federal Rural Electrification Administration, which was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 11, 1935.
Electric cooperatives are different from most electric utilities. They are locally owned, not-for-profit businesses, and they’re controlled by the consumers they serve.
Co-ops are unique! As a member of an electric cooperative:
You have a say in the way your co-op runs. You can pick up the phone at any time and offer your input on the co-op’s management and direction. At the annual membership meeting, you can vote for the members of the co-op’s board of directors. These elected directors, in turn, determine the co-op’s policies, including setting the electric rates.
You share in the success of your co-op. Your co-op is a not-for-profit utility; any allocated margins are returned to you in the form of a check for capital credits or patronage dividends.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2. Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. The elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
3. Members’ Economic Participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
5. Education, Training, and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public, particularly young people and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. Concern for Community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.