Community Giving For Roundup For Safety Surpasses $4.5 Million
Submitted by Courtney Stone
Twenty-five years ago, two Flathead Electric Cooperative employees attended a meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association and learned that co-ops across the nation were offering their members an option to round up their electric bills to fund community projects. Cooperatives are governed by seven principles, one of which is “concern for community,” as co-ops are not-for-profits owned by their community members.
From this 1997 meeting, Co-op staff returned home to Montana, reflected on the greater Flathead Valley’s needs, and decided that Flathead Electric should help to improve safety within the service area. A board was formed, and in 1998, many members began voluntarily rounding up their electric bills. For example, a bill of $55.01 or $55.99 is rounded up to $56.00. Over each year, most members end up contributing about $6 to Roundup for Safety.
All those pennies have added up in a huge way for safety. On July 1, 2022, member contributions exceeded $4.5 million dollars — $4,510,621 to be exact! Currently, 40,719 of 62,194 accounts round up to make our community a safer place – that’s 65.5%!
Roundup for Safety is funded by Co-op members and governed by a Board of Directors that is independent of the Co-op and its Board of Trustees. The Board considers community safety project grants at the request of local nonprofit organizations. Since 1998, those nonprofits have completed over 1,200 projects. The Co-op simply administers the program.
Former Co-op employee and current Roundup Director Terri Smiley notes, “Roundup reflects perhaps the very best part of our Co-op, and cooperatives everywhere – the spirit of community and cooperation amongst members.”
Co-op Community Relations Manager Katie Pfennigs shared that member participation in Roundup has steadily increased over 25 years. She reflected, “During 2020, when so much of our community was shut down, and times were scary, it was especially heartwarming to see members continue to support their community through Roundup. I thought perhaps members would choose to pause their giving, but instead, Roundup reached the $4 million mark in spring 2020, while many people were at home.”
Over the years, Roundup for Safety projects have impacted millions of people in the Co-op’s service area. AEDs, a frequent request, are now found all over the Flathead Valley. Volunteer fire departments have replaced their turnout gear within a safe time frame. Schools have safer lighting, fire suppression systems, and sports equipment. Camps now offer modern lifejackets to their campers. Police departments purchased critical equipment they lacked funding for, like trauma bags, ballistic shields, and drones. Bike helmets have been distributed at no cost for area youth each spring. Food banks have secured backup generators to ensure the safety of their food supply for the community’s most vulnerable members.
To determine whether you contribute to Roundup for Safety funding, look at your electric bill. If it consistently ends in $0.00, chances are good that you’re rounding up for safety! If you’re not, and would like to round up, please call the Co-op at 406-751-4483.
If your nonprofit is interested in applying for community safety funds, visit www.flatheadelectric.com/roundup or call Courtney Stone at 406-751-1820. Grant applications are accepted on Flathead Electric Co-op’s website and are due by the end of each month for consideration at the following month’s meeting.