Cooperatives: Future-proof your organization with digital election tools

What you need to know:

  • Evaluating your organization’s election process is a proactive way to remain connected and engaged with your member-base.
  • Traditional election methods are becoming increasingly expensive due to various economic factors.
  • Utilizing digital election tools not only future-proofs your organization, it can also increase voter participation within your membership.

Traditions. They’re important to honor and, in some cases, to preserve- especially when your cooperative has been around a long time. However, it’s vital to strike a balance between carrying on traditions and evolving to meet the needs of your ever-changing member base.

Take postal mail as a good example. Cooperatives routinely use the U.S. Postal Service to send meeting notices, election materials, marketing pieces, important member information and more. However, the continuous rise in postage rates can put a real squeeze on co-op budgets.

While it may be tradition to rely on mail carriers to deliver information about your co-op, it’s good governance to ask your members if they would like to receive the information electronically first. From there, you can rely on the postal service to deliver physical mail to those who either do not want electronic communications or don’t have easy access to them. Utilizing digital tools not only reflects positively on your bottom line, but can help future-proof your cooperative and set you up for success for many years to come.

Candidate Nominations

If your co-op is interested in increasing the number of candidates running for open positions, you’ll want to make the nominations process as easy as possible for members. Many cooperatives still have an exclusively paper-based nominations system requiring interested candidates to collect signatures in person. The time and effort required to complete those steps is overwhelming, or even impossible for some, and it’s a shame to lose interested candidates due to outdated processes. Potential candidates are more likely to follow through with their entire registration process and see their campaign through to the end if your co-op can offer online self-registration and flexibility in how candidates are allowed to distribute petitions and collect signatures. DirectNominations simplifies the process and makes it quick and easy for both candidates and administrators to complete.

Meetings

At the beginning of the pandemic, most cooperatives were forced to make their meetings digital. While this change may have been new and even disruptive at the start, an immense amount of people now reportedly prefer having the option to meet virtually. Not only is it more convenient, it is more accessible for members living in rural areas and members unable to make a trip due to disability, expense or lack of reliable transportation. Younger members, as well, tend to prefer having an option to meet online.

The future of meetings live in the digital space, so the time to find a reliable, secure, and official online meeting tool is now. We suggest taking advantage of a free trial of DirectVoteLive to see how it can transform your digital committee, board, and even annual meetings.

Online elections and single sign-on technology

Offering members an online voting option while still maintaining in-person and mail-in voting (hybrid election) remains the top way to increase voter participation in elections. Whether you choose to administer your own online election using a tool like DirectVote or engage a third-party elections partner to fully administer your online or hybrid election, the key is to remove as many barriers to participation as possible.

Number one on the list is to simplify the login process for both members and administrators. Have you ever forgotten your username or password to a site? Us too. It’s a huge pain, and also a big reason users give up and click away from your website to login, vote, or register for an event. Sign sign-on (SSO) technology allows members to use your co-op’s website as an online voting portal – no need to save, create or forget additional usernames and passwords. It’s safe, secure, quick, and easy.

SmartHub®

Cooperatives across the country are utilizing NISC’s SmartHub® to provide customers a way to control all aspects of their utility accounts – from managing use, to paying bills, reporting service disruptions, and even voting.

Members of NISC  cooperatives are able to easily sign-on to their SmartHub account using their unique credentials, and from the dashboard they’re able to access their ballot, and cast their vote! With SBS’ direct integration into SmartHub®, voters don’t have to jump through hoops to submit their ballots, all while knowing their information and submission is secure.

This same concept applies to utilizing digital tools to engage with your coop members. Meeting members where they are (online) and making their interactions as easy and convenient as possible increases member engagement and satisfaction. And, when applied to your elections, can increase voter participation as well.

While making the transition to digital tools and governance can feel daunting, it’s always worth it. Future-proofing your cooperative is simply ensuring it will continue to be relevant and useful down the road. Everything evolves, those changes will be much easier to manage if you plan for them in the present.

Have questions about how digital tools can benefit your cooperative? Contact us any time, we’re here to help.

SmartHub® is a registered trademark of National Information Solutions Cooperative in the United States and/or other countries.