Set Up Your Own Co-op Charity

Tyler Carlson and Tamra Reynolds discuss “Partnerships Based on More than kWhs” at NET 2017. (Photo By: Michael W. Kahn)

Tyler Carlson and Tamra Reynolds discuss “Partnerships Based on More than kWhs” at NET 2017. (Photo By: Michael W. Kahn)

SAN DIEGO—When the need is so great in your community, it's hard to watch donations leave town. That led an Arizona co-op to take matters into its own hands. 

"We worked hard to create a 501(c)(3) that was local, so when people donate money it stays local," Tyler Carlson, CEO of Mohave Electric Cooperative, said of the River Fund.

Members of Bullhead City-based Mohave can donate through two co-op programs. Those raise a combined $22,000 annually. Mohave also directs abandoned deposits to the River Fund, which adds another $30,000 to $35,000. 

At the Jan. 31 Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives NET 2017 session "Partnerships Based on More than kWhs," Carlson said setting up the nonprofit was "not hard at all." A local charitable organization had already gone through the process and had someone who was able to help.

"What it really takes is people. People that have an interest in seeing the organization succeed, serving on the board of the new non-profit, or being the treasurer," said Carlson.

Mohave is also helping the areas it serves with a unique twist on community solar. Instead of selling panels to members—many of whom couldn't afford it—Mohave is installing panels on government buildings, including 19 schools and six fire stations.

"Thirty-four total projects with more in the future because we're not done," said Carlson, who noted that government buildings operate on tax money.

"If we can lower the operating costs of those entities, we can reduce the pressure on taxation," which helps Mohave's many low- and fixed-income members.

In 2013, CoBank introduced its "Sharing Success" program which allows its co-op customers to select up to three charities to receive matching donations, up to a total of $5,000. Each year, Mohave has applied for funding on behalf of the River Fund.

"We feel it's incumbent for us to share our success in ways that really impact our customer base, and those rural communities where there's a lot of need," said Tamra Reynolds, CoBank regional vice president. She encouraged co-ops to apply, noting, "We still haven't exhausted our full $3 million."

River Fund executive director Michael Conner is grateful.

"CoBank has invested $20,000 to help our community," said Conner. "I don't know what we would do without partners like Mohave Electric Cooperative and CoBank."