This blog is written by Alex Smith with CPA – Community Purchasing Alliance and CONECT – Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut.
These are trying times for Episcopal churches throughout Connecticut. With the outbreak of COVID-19, churches are increasingly shutting doors and moving services online. As churches struggle to move to a virtual offering plate, every penny counts. In these trying times, we need the strength of numbers. The only way forward is to band together, to be one as Christ prayed for us to be (John 17:20-21).
One consistently large strain in the church budget is the electricity bill. While the electricity bill may be slighter lower in this season of closed church buildings, it will return to its pre-outbreak levels in due time. 36 congregations, schools, and community institutions have managed to save over $50,000 on their electricity bills and ensure a consistently reliable rate by banding together and purchasing their energy cooperatively.
Together, we leveraged our combined purchasing power to secure a better electricity rate than any individual organization could achieve on its own. Over the 18-month duration of the contract, this better rate led small congregations to save a few hundred dollars and larger congregations to save a few thousand dollars. With the money saved, we were able to dedicate more resources to our core missions instead of merely keeping the lights on.
Different suppliers have widely different interpretations of what “fixed” means in a fixed rate contract. After looking at the results of hundreds bills, we were able to choose a supplier with a reputation for consistently maintaining a reliable price. This reliable pricing gave us a consistent price and budget certainty despite market fluctuations.
In coming together, we have managed to find both savings and reliability in our electricity bills. We have also managed to find something even more significant: unity across difference. We are made up of all stripes of Christians—from Episcopalians to Baptists. We are also made up of congregations outside of Christianity, serving Islamic mosques and Jewish synagogues. Group purchasing is truly ecumenical and inter-faith. While we come together for a simple purpose (achieving a better and more reliable electricity rate), we end up walking away with relationships that span our many differences. In a time of religious and political fracture, this unity is a sign of hope, a sign of God’s grace working among us.
We are about to begin a new round of negotiations in April and invite more of our Episcopal parishes to see if this group buying will work for them. By joining the group for an initial bid, no parish is under any obligation to sign a contract until they have seen and made a decision based on indicative pricing from the initial bid.
At the core of our mission is finding ways where we can be smarter together, emerging from the challenges that are most pressing for us right now. Will you join us?
Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA) is a social-purpose cooperative that leverages the buying power of community institutions to help lower operating costs, while also making investments in sustainability, worker equity, and community organizing.
CONECT is a non-partisan, multi-faith, multiracial organization of congregations in South Central and Southwestern CT, that come together as one community to affect change on social and economic issues of common concern and for the common good.