Why Cooperative Buying Is Important for Higher Education Procurement

Higher education can be both big and surprisingly small. It is a supportive culture where teams learn from each other and build upon their successes. This is true across multiple departments and disciplines, including higher education procurement.

That spirit is embodied in cooperative buying. With declining budgets and increasing pressure to find efficiencies, higher education procurement teams are increasingly turning to cooperatives like E&I Cooperative Services® for procurement to find cost savings and efficiencies.

The Benefits of Cooperative Buying in Higher Education Procurement

Colleges and universities see significant benefits by working collectively. Here are some of the key benefits.

Cost Savings

Cooperative buying allows educational institutions to stretch their dollars further. When you join a cooperative, you can leverage the bulk-buying power of multiple colleges and universities increasing the scope of spending and creating price efficiencies.

Aggregated spending across member institutions typically allows cooperatives to negotiate better pricing than you would be able to achieve on your own. Members can also reduce administrative overhead by opting into existing contracts.

Time Savings

Procurement vs. purchasing is often misunderstood. While purchasing is the act of buying goods and services, much of the work to source, vet and negotiate terms is the domain of procurement teams. While buying can happen in a few clicks, procurement can take weeks or months.

Cooperative contracts accelerate the procurement process. There are ready-to-use, competitively-sourced contracts with negotiated terms. If pricing is better than what a college or university can get on its own, it can opt-in and speed up the procurement process. This saves considerable time in drafting, sending and reviewing RFP solicitations.

Cooperative contracts can be especially beneficial for:

  • Emergency purchases
  • Tight deadlines
  • Dealing with limited staff or budget resources
  • Filling gaps between contracts

Procurement Best Practices

Beyond cost and time savings, cooperative buying solutions can also help colleges and universities with best practices and expertise. For example, E&I Cooperative Services has team members with deep experience leading procurement organizations. This expert knowledge can provide strategic guidance to improve operations. Members also share their experiences to help benefit the group.

One particular area where this expertise comes into play is with Strategic Spend Assessments (SSA). An SSA is a structured process to review and analyze spend data, looking for opportunities to reduce costs,  and maximize cost controls. The SSA review and reporting process can help inform procurement strategies to optimize sourcing and purchasing.

Rebates and Incentives

Some member-owned cooperatives share proceeds with their members. This typically comes in the form of patronage refunds or shares in the cooperative, pro-rated based on a member’s annual purchases. Many suppliers that are available through the cooperative also offer exclusive rebates or other incentives.

Sourcing Diversity

Sourcing diversity works in two ways. First, cooperatives that negotiate contracts on behalf of members typically have broad suppliers to choose from. This helps colleges and universities to broaden their supply chain and find alternate sources.

While competitive sourcing provides the best value to members, the best cooperatives will also seek out certified diverse businesses and sustainable businesses to help educational institutions meet their diversity and sustainability goals.

Today’s cooperative buying services have come a long way. While they initially offered a small variety of products such as office supplies or furniture, today you can manage purchasing nearly any type of goods or services you need. New category ideas typically come from members. E&I, for example, has a strategic sourcing committee made up of volunteer procurement experts from member institutions throughout the country.

Trust E&I Cooperative Services for Higher Education Procurement

E&I Cooperative Services is a member-owned organization or nearly 6,000-member institution and the only true nonprofit cooperative focusing exclusively on education. Your college or university can become a member at no cost with no minimum purchasing requirements. You can pick and choose which contracts you want to use or compare them to your current agreements to see if you are getting fair pricing.

Awarded contracts are competitively sourced and procurement practices are validated by the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP). By working as an extension of your procurement department, you can spend more time on strategic initiatives.

98.7% of E&I members say they are very satisfied with the services they get. Find out for yourself. Contact E&I Cooperative Services today to discuss your higher education procurement needs.


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