Back to the May-Jun 2022 issue

4 Reasons to Use Cooperative Purchasing

When you find yourself in charge of making a big purchase for your city, look to cooperative purchasing as a trusted resource.

By Jon Andres

Local government staff are using cooperative purchasing twice as much today as they did in 2010 and that number continues to grow.

Why? Because purchasing is challenging, especially for public entities that do not have dedicated procurement staff. A competitive solicitation can take a lot of time and energy. That’s why many city employees who find themselves in charge of making a big purchase for their city look to cooperative purchasing for help.

What is cooperative purchasing?

Nisswa City Administrator Jenny Max works at her desk.
Nisswa City Administrator Jenny Max says her city keeps taxpayer dollars in the community while saving time and money during the procurement process by using cooperative contracts. (Photo courtesy Sourcewell)

Cooperative purchasing 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 when you want it with an efficient and compliant process.

Why use cooperative purchasing?

Here are four reasons to use cooperative purchasing when making purchases for your city:

1. You’ll save time. Cooperative purchasing satisfies your procurement process. The competitive solicitation is done, and the contracts are ready for use. This saves you and your city the time of performing your own requestfor- proposal or bid process. Cooperative contracts speed up the contract creation and product delivery. Here are some more time-related reasons city staff turn to cooperative contracts:

  • 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 public entities in leveraging economies of scale and negotiating tiers of savings.

3. You’ll access high-quality contracts. It’s not just the bottom dollar you need to consider when making a purchase. Your city likely needs contract flexibility, has local purchasing preferences, has sustainability and social responsibility goals, and more.

A reputable cooperative purchasing organization takes this into consideration when awarding supplier contracts. Look for the following in awarded contracts:

  • Contract flexibility.
  • Terms and conditions.
  • Compliance.
  • Local preference.
  • Support of social goals.

4. You’ll find them easy to use and flexible to fit your needs. Cooperative purchasing programs are often 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 city’s specific needs. You can add your own terms and conditions and subsequent agreements.

There are several cooperative purchasing programs to choose from. Be sure to choose one that values service, puts your needs first, and strives to assist you and your city to purchase smarter.

Jon Andres is Minnesota solutions specialist at Sourcewell ( Contact: Sourcewell is a member of the League’s Business Leadership Council (

Small Town, Big Choice

Even in a city of little more than 2,000 residents, it’s nice to know you still have the same purchasing options as a city with 2 million.

The City of Nisswa — population 2,180 — experienced firsthand the leveraging power of cooperative contracts to procure equipment, office supplies, technology, and other goods. Nisswa City Administrator Jenny Max says her city was able to not only save time and money using cooperative purchasing, but they were also able to buy local and keep taxpayer dollars in their community — something that is ever important in a rural community such as Nisswa.

“When we need to buy equipment, new technology, office products — things like that — we don’t have a lot of staff to spend a lot of time to do those things,” Max says, adding that cooperative purchasing “really saves us time and money.”

In fact, the City of Nisswa recently flexed its purchasing power to buy new mowers, a side-by-side utility task vehicle, and a payloader — all purchased using local dealers with the advantage of national pricing.

“A city of any size should look into using (cooperative purchasing),” Max says. “There are hundreds of contracts for all kinds of services, so it’s just a tremendous resource.”