When you find yourself in charge of making a big purchase for your schools, look to cooperative purchasing as a trusted resource.
Today, public agencies are using cooperative purchasing twice as much as they did in 2010, and that number continues to grow. Why? Because purchasing is challenging, especially for those who do not have dedicated procurement staff. A competitive solicitation can take a lot of time and energy—which is why many public employees who find themselves in charge of making a big purchase for their entity look to cooperative purchasing for help.
What is Cooperative Purchasing?
It is a competitive and compliant solicitation process conducted by, or on behalf of, one or more government units for use by other government units. In other words, you can buy what you want and when you want it with an efficient and compliant process.
Four Reasons to Use Cooperative Purchasing for Your School
1. You’ll save time. Cooperative purchasing satisfies your procurement process. The competitive solicitation is done for you by the cooperative, and the contracts are ready for use. This saves you and your school the time of performing your own request for proposal (RFP) or bid process.
Cooperative contracts speed up contract creation and product delivery. Here are some more time-related reasons buyers turn to cooperative purchasing:
- Priorities and deadlines
- Limited staff and budget resources
- Gap fillers; expiring contracts
- Emergency response (natural or human-made disasters)
- Quick access to construction contractors for repairs and building projects
2. You’ll save money. When buying through a cooperative, you’ll join thousands of school districts in leveraging economies of scale and negotiating tiers of savings. Many times, you’ll finalize purchases through local dealers or representatives and support the local economy.
3. You’ll access high-quality contracts. It’s not just the bottom dollar you need to consider when making a purchase. Your school likely has many objectives for such an investment, such as ensuring contract flexibility, having authority to use local purchasing preferences, and meeting sustainability and social responsibility goals, among others.
Cooperatives take this into consideration when awarding supplier contracts. Look for the following in awarded contracts:
- Contract flexibility
- Terms and conditions
- Local preference
- Support of social goals
4. You’ll find it easy to use and flexible to fit your needs. Cooperative purchasing programs are free to use, have no obligations or minimums, and offer flexibility. Think of awarded contracts as a master agreement that you can customize to meet your school’s specific needs. You can add your own terms and conditions and subsequent agreements.
In 2021, former Sartell-St. Stephen School District Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert (K–12, Minnesota) replaced lockers and a gymnasium floor—saving taxpayer dollars and staff time during the procurement process—by utilizing cooperative contracts. “Taxpayers would like to pay as little as possible and, at the same time, get as good of a quality as they can,” said Schwiebert.
With access to contracts for buildings, furnishings, and financing, your school can plan for today and for the future by taking advantage of cooperative purchasing and its many benefits.
Jenny Holmes is public relations and communications specialist at Sourcewell in Staples, MN. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is her first article for Facilities Manager.