Cooperative Purchasing Contracts Can Help Schools Stay Within Budgets

Over the last several years there has been a proliferation of purchasing cooperatives in the education space and it’s easy to see why. Today’s procurement professionals continue to face the daunting challenge of spending less and getting more. Be it through increased efficiencies, aggregated knowledge or leveraging resources, cooperative purchasing contracts can help.

Strength in Numbers

The sheer volume of purchasing power aggregated by the size of the cooperative provides individual members with economies of scale — and pricing advantages — they would likely not be able to achieve on their own. Add to that the considerable time savings associated with researching new product categories, sourcing competitive quotes, and negotiating pricing. By eliminating time spent on these tasks, resources can be reallocated to focus on more strategic projects.

Cooperative contracts can also represent a revenue generating tool. On top of exclusive savings and rebates, a true member-owned cooperative typically shares its profits with members in the form of “patronage” refunds, which are based on a member’s annual purchases.

Time Efficiencies

“We average approximately 100 days from beginning to end, in terms of conducting an RFP,” said Rick Gay, Procurement Officer at Houston Independent School District. “Utilizing a contract that has already gone through a bid process means we have immediate access to an agreement that adheres to our board policies or state statutes. It also means we can quickly conduct a market trend analysis to ensure we’re in compliance with federal spend regulations.”

The procurement team at Houston ISD comprises 12 sourcing specialists that typically conduct 350-400 solicitations per year. That requires a significant amount of time and resources, and every measure of savings helps. “It’s all about ensuring that our end users get what they need, at the best price available, as quickly as possible,” Rick said. “If that means using a cooperative contract, I’m in!”

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of School Planning & Management.

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