What is a Cooperative?

Cooperatives differ from other businesses in that they are owned by their user-members and profits are returned to members according to usage. There are two types of cooperatives; “producer cooperatives,”​ where employees are the member-owners and “consumer cooperatives,”​ like Missoula Electric Cooperative, where those who use our services are member-owners. Providing electric service as a cooperative differs from investor-owned and municipal electric utilities, because cooperatives operate for the benefit of owner-members, rather than investors.

Historically, cooperatives were established and entrusted to find solutions for electrical and telephone service, farming, banking, housing, childcare, healthcare, and food, as well as additional goods and services.

According to a 2020 NRECA study, there are more than 900 member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives, public power districts and public utility districts in America. Together, we serve 42 million people, in 48 states, and power 56% of the nation’s landmass.

Who regulates MEC?

MEC is divided into seven districts and each district is represented by a democratically-elected official. These representatives serve on the Board of Trustees, which is the governing body and regulatory authority of the Cooperative. Board members are required to run for re-election every three years.

The Seven Cooperative Principles

Electric cooperatives are guided by seven principles:

  1. Voluntary and open membership
  2. Democratic member control
  3. Members’ economic participation
  4. Autonomy and independence
  5. Education training and information
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives
  7. Concern for community

Voluntary & Open Membership

Cooperatives are not-for-profit, voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to utilize their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.

Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.

Members’ Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. One of the many benefits of being a member-owner at MEC is that profits or margins, above and beyond operating expenses, are allocated back to members in the form of Capital Credits. When the financial condition of the Cooperative permits, these Capital Credits are retired and paid out to the members.

Autonomy & 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 as well as their unique identity.

Education, Training & Information

MEC provides ongoing education and training opportunities to our employees, Board of Trustees and members. Our primary goal is to positively impact the development of our cooperative and equip all parties with the resources to work, operate and live safely.

Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Cooperatives are more effective for their members and strengthen the cooperative voice by working with affiliated organizations and fellow cooperatives. MEC partners with the Montana Electric Cooperative Association (MECA) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), among others.

Concern for Community

Missoula Electric Cooperative is whole-heartedly committed to community engagement and academic enrichment. An advocate for education, the Cooperative provides annual scholarships to local students, annual IEP funding for our K-12 schools and, every fall, we donate funds to improve the electronic equipment in local classrooms. MEC also offers high schoolers the opportunity to engage with the Cooperative. Each year, students can apply for a chance to represent MEC at the national Youth Tour, in Washington DC, or apply to join our Youth Ambassador Program.

Outside the classroom, MEC donates to dozens of local organizations, and community events, each year. Whether we donate monetarily, or through volunteer efforts, we take great pride in serving the communities in which we live and work.

Are you interested in learning more about our charitable giving efforts, or applying for funding? Please visit our Operation Round Up® page.