October is co-op awareness month, so we’d love to take this opportunity to tell you all about the great values co-ops bring to your community.
What are Co-ops?
A co-op (short for cooperative) buys or sells products or services, but unlike other businesses, they are owned by their members and don’t have to answer to stockholders. And they’re pretty popular—there are more than one billion members of co-ops worldwide.
Co-ops often invest a portion of their profits back into the communities they serve with community service events and charitable donations.
Not all co-ops work the same way. There are worker co-ops that are owned by their employees, and there are consumer co-ops—credit unions are financial cooperatives for people who have a “common bond,” such as living in the same county or working for the same employer. And there’s a credit union for everyone.
The Seven Cooperative Principles
Because all credit unions are co-ops, they must follow the Seven Cooperative Principles. These principles set all co-ops apart from traditional businesses, and keep them grounded in strong community values.
The principles are:
Democratic Member Control
Members’ Economic Participation
Autonomy and Independence
Education, Training, and Information
Cooperation Among Cooperatives
Concern for Community
You can learn more about these principles by watching a short video.
Why are Credit Unions Co-ops?
Being a co-op allows credit unions to offer more benefits than other financial institutions. In addition to higher interest rates on savings accounts and lower rates on loans, many credit unions also offer matched savings accounts as an incentive to save for higher education.
Credit unions also serve their communities by being excellent sources of financial education. They offer seminars, training, and other informative resources to help members make sound financial decisions.
Co-ops are Everywhere!
In addition to credit unions, other common co-ops include housing co-ops, food co-ops, ag-coops, electric co-ops, many not-for-profit community organizations, and more. Even the popular outdoor retailer REI is a co-op. Montana has a bookstore coop, daycare co-ops, artist co-ops, and the first cooperative brewery just opened in Ronan.
We hope you’ve learned something during co-op awareness month, and that you’re able to take advantage of some of the great co-ops in Montana and in your community.