Personal connections with busy consumers are brewing in Colorado, thanks to coffee klatches organized by electric cooperatives at spots where members grab their caffeine fixes.

Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) hosted the first of two Morning Buzz sessions in February at popular coffee shops in Montrose. And in Brighton, United Power’s “Coffee with Your Co-op” sessions took place at popular gathering spots in each of its four districts during National Co-op Month last October.

In the cozy confines of coffee shops and diners, co-op representatives mingle with members to hear what’s on their minds. Inspired by United Power, DMEA wants to reach busy working parents who don’t have time for co-op meetings but who might be able to spare a few minutes while grabbing coffee and a bagel during their morning commutes.

“It’s all about going where our members go and listening, rather than always presenting,” says Jasen Bronec, CEO DMEA. “We know life is busy, and it’s hard to block out time in the evening to attend events when you have to chauffer kids to activities, get dinner on the table, and make sure that homework is done.”

DMEA organized Morning Buzz after results from a member satisfaction survey recommended the co-op look at “non-traditional” ways to engage members, says Becky Mashburn, marketing and public relations administrator.

“Our member satisfaction rate was good, but we know there’s always room for improvement. We’re focusing on making personal connections with our members and building on the cooperative difference.”

DMEA employees who are “regulars” at the establishments will be there to show that co-ops live in the communities they serve. And there will be no set agenda, although a recently announced fiber-to-the-home broadband initiative might generate discussion, Mashburn says.

“The floor will be open, so if members just have time to say hi, that’s OK too.”

At United Power, directors and employees met members in a coffee house, library, firehouse, and community center.

Hot-button issues drove attendance, says Laurel Eller, senior communications specialist at United Power. In one instance, a municipal utility was looking to buy out part of the coop’s service territory. About 50 people crammed into the meeting space in a coffee house in Firestone.

“Our lobby would work fine, but we think it’s better to be out where our members are,” Eller says. “We want to make sure any members in the community who have questions can raise those with the board.”

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