With the growth of many consumers preferring to shop locally for daily necessities, the recent rise in community-owned grocery stores, retail shops, credit unions and other key local business is an added benefit to the influx of revitalization in most urban and rural pockets of the country.
These types of member-owned and operated local establishments are most commonly known as “cooperatives” or co-op for short.
Responsibilities and profits for most co-ops are shared by members themselves, with most cooperatives either using direct votes or a governing board to make operational decisions.
Community-based cooperatives usually allow local residents to purchase shares in order to become profit-sharing members, although there are co-ops who will allow residents to join in exchange for a role working in or for the co-op.
What's involved with running a co-op?
Despite the autonomy of most co-ops, there are a few standard principles for running and managing one. For example, co-ops are required to offer open membership, meaning they cannot discriminate against members or local residents on the basis of sex, religion, race or gender expression.
Additionally, co-ops are expected are to invest in community development and enrichment, often done via community education classes, relationship building with local merchants and vendors, or sponsoring other non-profit organizations in the area.
Finally, one of the most important tenets of managing a co-op is membership control. Your co-op needs a solution that allows individual members to come together (be it in person, or online) to vote on group concerns, introduce new ideas, or appoint new leaders, and eBallot’s online voting platform can do all of this, and more.
How online voting helps cooperative democracy
Several studies show that the benefits of using online voting to increase engagement and voter turnout for your members cannot be denied.
In addition to helping ensure fairness when your co-op needs to make deliberations on a particular issue or task, subscribing to an online voting plan like ours saves cost and time spent having to manually tabulate ballots, hold recounts or run-off votes.
For busy coop members who may not always have spare time to attend meetings or specific elections, eBallot offers outreach support to help keep your members in the loop of upcoming ballots or votes via email or telephone.
When you consider how much time your co-op members already spend online or on their mobile devices, allowing them to make decisions for the good of your organization on these same devices is just an extension of the convenience you’re already adding to their lives.
The most important outcomes of co-op management decisions
If you are thinking about adding an online voting platform to your co-op’s suite of management solutions, but you’re still having trouble seeing it’s value, consider the following benefits:
No matter how democratically ran your co-op is, there will always be a need for most food co-ops to establish a hierarchy of leadership in order to keep things going smoothly.
Nominating new board members can be a hassle when trying to run votes using paper ballots, and depending on the parameters of your nomination process, it can be hard for members to feel their voices are heard without an option to write-in their preferred choice.
To make this process more efficient, eBallot offers Nomination Ballots, complete with candidate profiles and write-in options for your voters. Also, thanks to our Weighted and Ranked Choice voting features, you can tailor your nomination process to ensure fairness based on your co-op’s governing structure or bylaws!
Being a community-based organization helps to bring all of your members together, however, there will be times when members will disagree on a particular issue or task.
When there are moments when your members will have to deliberate on hot-button or sensitive issues, like letting go of a preferred vendor or voting a long-standing, but difficult, co-op member out of the organization, give your voters the freedom of privacy thanks to our Anonymous Voting features.
With this setting, election managers will be able to see the full breakdown of results in real-time, without having access to how each member voted on their ballots.
We offer 100% encrypted web voting portals for customers who want to give their voters a seamless, yet secure, voting experience. Your members can sign in directly to your co-op’s website and use their same login credentials to access their ballots, meaning they get the security of only managing one password for all of the ballots they vote on.
Need to audit your vote? No problem, eBallot has several reporting options for customers who a full, analytical view into their latest elections. Whether you need to request an location breakdown report to see how your members voted across various regions, or you’re interested in a voter behavior report to get an idea of what it it took to get your voters to cast their ballots - we’re more than capable of getting the right information to you.
Our web and mobile based online voting solutions are hosted by Amazon Web Services, protected by multiple layers of firewall encryption, and most importantly, do not store or collect any of our customers or their voters personal data.
If you're ready to get started, head over to the Tour or Pricing pages to get a better sense of our platform, or just sign up directly with this link.
Need some time to think it over? Feel free to request a platform demo from eBallot to receive a quick video of our software solutions and online ballots.