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Choosing the Perfect Cooperative Purchasing Organization

A helpful checklist for selecting the best coop for you and your agency's needs.

Cooperative purchasing is a public agency’s best friend when it comes to maximizing value, saving time, and developing beneficial supplier relationships. That’s why the use of cooperative contracts continues to rise year after year—the benefits are clear and the state of the procurement industry lends itself to more efficient best practices. Still, public agencies don’t always know if they’re joining the right cooperative purchasing organizations. In this blog, we break down the benefits of joining cooperatives and apply them to a checklist that public agencies can use to make informed decisions that set them up for success.

What are cooperative purchasing organizations?

Cooperative purchasing organizations, or coops, are either public agencies that lead procurements on behalf of a larger group of agencies, locally, regionally, and nationally, or private organizations that work with public agencies to complete procurements. When public agencies combine their needs on a contract, they unlock a whole host of benefits normally reserved for larger entities with more purchasing power. Essentially, they provide a marketing function to help connect buyers with suppliers that hold their contracts. Cooperatives are an attractive option for agencies of all sizes with a wide array of different needs.

The advantages of cooperative purchasing organizations

Cooperative purchasing is rising in popularity at an impressive rate. A lot of this has to do with efficiency—agencies are staffing fewer people to carry out the procurement function, leading to procurement professionals favoring methods that reduce the time spent looking for contracts. Cooperative contracts can help agencies save time by leveraging existing contracts, eliminating the need for negotiation, and working with suppliers that are already involved. Joining a cooperative purchasing organization allows public agencies to work together to increase purchasing power through higher order volumes, gain supply chain priority, reduce administrative burden, and more.

Common mistakes when selecting a cooperative purchasing organization

Despite the numerous benefits associated with cooperative purchasing, there are still pitfalls to avoid throughout the process. Some coops can be great for one agency but a poor fit for another. The real trick is matching your agency’s needs to the overall goals of the coop or contract you’re considering. When agencies fail to communicate their needs to a cooperative, they might not get what they need. One of the biggest mistakes a public agency can make is not doing their due diligence when considering cooperative purchasing organizations to join.

In order to help with that due diligence and ensure you’re joining cooperatives that work for you, we’ve put together a helpful checklist:

How to Choose a Cooperative Purchasing Organization Checklist

  1. Are you familiar with the cooperative? If not, ask for peer references.
  2. Are any fees associated with using the cooperative and are you willing to pay them?
  3. Are all the solicitation documents required by your agency readily and easily available for review on the coop’s website? (RFP, all responses, evaluation process, etc.)
  4. Do the suppliers you want to access from the coop provide exactly what you’re looking for? Are these specific products or services listed on the cooperative contract documents?
  5. Was the procurement you want to piggyback on advertised in a nationally recognized “publication of record” that meets your requirements?
  6. Will this contract's Ts & Cs meet your state/agency requirements?
  7. If the Ts & Cs don’t meet your needs, can they be modified?
  8. In what state are the legal aspects (indemnification language) based?" If not your own, you may want to consider having that amended for your use before proceeding
  9. Did you check to make sure the contracts provided by the coop are up-to-date and not near expiration?
  10. Have you considered the term of the contracts offered through the coop and if they fit into your future plans?
  11. Is negotiation allowed? Reach out directly to your coop representative to find out.
  12. In order to make a purchase, do you have to go through the cooperative or directly through the contract holder/supplier?
  13. Are there any rebates from the cooperative or the supplier?
  14. What happens if there are issues with contract performance? Will the cooperative provide assistance?

Think you could be doing cooperative purchasing better?

There’s always room for improvement, right? Agencies who rest on their laurels tend to miss out on some of the best aspects of cooperative purchasing. It’s a good idea to periodically reevaluate your procurement strategy, follow industry trends, and see if there are any changes you can make to become more efficient. We’ve covered some helpful suggestions in the past, but it’s important to remember that no public agency has to do it alone, especially in the world of cooperative purchasing.

The modern world provides modern solutions. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and procurement professionals now have more tools at their disposal to level up their procurement strategy. It’s always a good idea to leverage the help of modern technology platforms.

Improve your cooperative purchasing with CompareCoOps

At CompareCoOps, we’ve built our platform around assisting public agencies with smarter procurement from cooperative contracts. We’re not a cooperative—we actually work with cooperatives to help connect agencies and suppliers to the best contracts for their mutual needs. We help agencies get competitive quotes from suppliers on a range of cooperative contracts using secure, intelligent sourcing tools.

Our platform is built on over a decade of public procurement experience. When agencies leverage CompareCoOps, they get better value, savings, transparency, and insights through cooperative purchasing. The best part? It’s completely free for public agencies. Sign up today and start getting the most out of your cooperative purchasing.

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Jennifer Sulentic 1sq

Jennifer Sulentic

Jennifer leads CompareCoOps in the US. With over ten years of experience at U.S. Communities and ProcureSource, she is well known and widely respected in the world of public procurement cooperative contracting.

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