What is the "secret" to using cooperative purchasing agreements successfully? We asked survey respondents and got a wide range of responses. Here is a sampling.

Communication."information, communication and active contract management; "working together;" "get buy-in from department heads;" "communicate with all potential parties;" "encompass end-user's needs by communicating before the solicitation is posted."

Pricing: "competitive pricing;" "use comparative analysis to select from multiple cooperatives to obtain the best value;" "check as much as possible to make sure it is the best price available;" "use due diligence to ensure you get the terms, pricing and service you would require if you were doing the solicitation yourself;" "use it as another bid … another price quote …. compete, compete, compete if you have choices."

Understand the contract: "monitoring and updating contracts;" "reading the contract and following instructions;" "incorporate your special terms and conditions;" "to be sure of all terms and conditions that apply to the contract, especially shipping costs to remote areas;" "study the details to ensure it truly is the best value for your agency;" "verify Terms, Conditions, Specifications and confirm with the Awarding Agency - not just the vendor;" "navigate the contract complexities to find if what you want is covered, and [if] the terms are good for you."

Research: "do your homework;" "research and comparison-shop among coops," "tak[e] time to research and review the contracts available." "mak[e] sure it is a competitive option;" "network with professionals in procurement;" "know what is available;" "research things on your own and never assume it's a better deal because it's through a cooperative;" "know the marketplace and conduct research to determine best value;" "be aware at all times of what is current."

Service: "offering products at a volume discount rate while still receiving customer service at a local level."

General: "inclusiveness;" "knowledge;" "strategic planning;" "money saved and earned;" "piggyback if it is in the best interest of your municipality;" "being flexible;" "identify common items many agencies need and cooperatively bid the opportunity first;" "understand most of the leg work is done already;" "evaluat[e] the business case and best value when comparing cooperative contracts and single agency-only solicitation methods."

Warnings: "stop thinking you are unique;" "know when to use them and when to go it alone;" "remember it's just a tool in the toolbox;" "adhere to statutes and share information;" "full disclosure and strong specifications;" "know [y]our procurement laws in the state."

None: "No secret, just a huge time saving tool due to cuts in staff."

  • Read the main story, "Cooperative purchasing today," to see exclusive research on the popularity of cooperative purchasing among government agencies.