Capital credits are one of the unique aspects of cooperative membership.


Explaining them can be as big of a mystery as the Bermuda Triangle with members either getting lost in the fog or just emerging with a treasured check in hand.


The Utilities District of Western Indiana (UDWI) recently opted to clear the muddy waters with a video explanation to member consumers.


It all started in 2012 when the UDWI board of directors decided to “retire the margins” and begin dispersing capital credits after decades of investing the margins back into the cooperative to pay for infrastructure such as line repairs, system upgrades and equipment.


“Since then, we’ve made such big strides,” UDWI senior accountant Miranda Hostetter said. “We want to highlight that this is part of our cooperative principles and it’s important to us. It is a hard piece to educate people on, so we want to bring more awareness.”


With that in mind, Hostetter and UDWI contacted Hoosier Energy video producers Ben Turner and Chris Johnson about customizing something to explain capital credits.


Having seen other capital credits videos, most recently for Whitewater Valley REMC last December, as well as a previous video with capital credits explained by Hoosier Energy President Donna Walker, UDWI worked to create its own unique script and then visited Hoosier headquarters to shoot the video in a greenscreen studio. There’s also an adjacent sound studio available for voiceovers or podcasts.


“Everybody that customizes a script is completely different,” Turner said. “Some co-ops put capital credits on the monthly bill, some don’t, and so on. They said they wanted to tailor it more toward UDWI, so we said let’s work up a script and we’ll get you in to shoot it.”


Hoosier Energy video producers Chris Johnson and Ben Turner instruct UDWI's Miranda Hostetter while shooting a capital credits video in the studio at Hoosier headquarters.

Hoosier Energy video producers Chris Johnson, left, and Ben Turner, right, help UDWI’s Miranda Hostetter shoot a capital credits video in the studio at Hoosier headquarters.

The actual shoot took less than an hour with multiple takes to provide editing options. However, Turner said the second take was the only one he used.


“I tell everybody that being on camera is like going to the dentist – you don’t want to do it but when you’re done you feel better,” he said.


That was certainly the case for Hostetter, even if seeing and hearing herself on the finished product was surreal.


“Not that I had any doubts, but I was pleasantly surprised at what Ben did with it,” Hostetter said. “It had graphics of our guys working on stuff and a generic bill in the background, so that will be familiar to our members.


“And I’m glad I wore blue that day. We’re trying to transition from the green and yellow of the Willie Wiredhand days to our new blue and white logo, so I just think that it all looked sharp and goes with the direction we’re heading as a cooperative.”


That’s one reason Turner and Johnson are passionate about doing audio, photo and video for cooperatives – the importance of establishing a brand that members can be proud of and a familiar touchstone in the towns and counties they’re associated with.


“Rebranding with more modern colors, even graphic pieces that can be incorporated into video is good and definitely different for cooperatives,” Johnson said. “Some people say you can’t choose your co-op, so why bother? But branding really is important. That’s what we’re here for. We want to help create things that are memorable and recognizable and comfortable for all of the member consumers and everyone in the community.”


This was the initial foray into that frontier for UDWI, but one that already has them thinking ahead.


“It was really easy working with Ben and Chris,” Hostetter said. “It’s an unbelievable asset we have working with Hoosier that maybe isn’t as well-known or talked about or taken advantage of enough. We’re going to get started on an industry update video with Ben next month getting footage of lines and other stuff in our area.”


In the meantime, they’ll hope that this video makes capital credits a little less mysterious.


“It’s a hard piece of the puzzle to educate members on, so we’re just trying to bring awareness,” Hostetter said.


UDWI Capital Credits 2024 on Vimeo.