Meeting formats change during pandemic to keep employees, members safe
EnergyLines August 2020
The response to the pandemic has led to new ways of doing things. For co-ops, they have changed how they meet – especially for annual meetings that often draw hundreds of members.
For many, the use of technology is helping in this time of transition as co-ops focus on safety for their membership.
Orange County REMC used an app that allowed members to register for their 83rd annual meeting using a phone or tablet. In all, more than 600 members registered – a record for the co-op.
On the day of the meeting, the co-op set up a tent on its parking lot for member-consumers to drive through to receive information and a gift.
Later in the evening, Rodney Hager, Orange County REMC Board President, welcomed members to the meeting virtually on Facebook Live. Board members and key staff sat in the board room at the co-ops headquarters.
“This is not the annual meeting we thought we’d be having this year, but considering the circumstances, the co-op is happy that we are able to conduct official business while also doing all we can to keep the meeting the same,” said Hager.
Hager noted this was probably the most unique meeting that the co-op has conducted. He said that live streaming the annual meeting from the board room, instead of shaking hands with members at the gym in Paoli, will forever be remembered. “In this trying time, we need to move forward together for tomorrow.”
Orange County REMC General Manager and CEO Matt Deaton took a moment to recognize the work completed by the board throughout the pandemic.
“Members should be proud of their board of directors, for their leadership. Leading through transformational change is difficult and these seven cooperative members have done an outstanding job of guiding us all through the changes,” said Deaton.
Deaton noted that the cooperative has been there for its members throughout the pandemic and that co-op employees have met each challenge that has come their way.
Resembling in-person meetings, member-consumers who registered electronically or by returning their registration card to the REMC were entered in a prize drawing that took place at the end of the virtual meeting. Winners were contacted to make arrangements to receive prizes.
In his closing comments Deaton said, “It’s an honor to serve this cooperative and report to this board of directors, creating and executing a vision is very rewarding. New challenges will come along the way, and although I can’t guarantee the exact outcomes, I can guarantee it will be an outcome that is best for members.”
Members were directed to the co-op’s website to review a copy of the annual report.
Taking a similar approach, RushShelby Energy members drove to the co-op’s office to cast their vote and receive an energy efficiency kit at their drive-through annual meeting. About 17 percent of their membership chose to vote electronically or by mail. All voting members received a $10 bill credit.
Terry Jobe, President and Chief Executive Officer, started RushShelby Energy’s 84th annual meeting via a Facebook Live session from his office at the co-op. He said he missed seeing everybody in person this year, but “The health and safety of our employees, our members and our community is most important as we continue to navigate the ongoing pandemic.” He gave special recognition to frontline workers.
“Our communities and country are experiencing unprecedented challenges, and I am humbled by the dedication and perseverance of those who serve on the frontlines.” RushShelby uses Survey & Ballots, an election survey company that provides an opportunity for members to cast their votes off-site. The co-op implemented this service several years ago to allow all members to vote, even those who were unable to attend in-person meetings.
Votes were received electronically and through the mail. The election results were announced followed by a “Chat with the CEO” session. Members were able to send questions through the RushShelby website or during the Facebook Live session.
The use of Facebook is not new to some cooperatives, but before the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook was a bonus source of information that quickly became a necessity as it became one of the easiest ways to reach consumers.
Members were able to watch the event live or return to the co-ops’ Facebook page and watch at their convenience. Allowing online and drive-through voting increased the number of members that were able to participate.