Who creates cooperative contracts?

Professionals collaboration on a new contract. Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash.

Cooperative purchasing is when governments collaborate on purchasing by sharing contracts. Collaboration can happen up-front, when governments decide to run a competitive bidding process and generate a new contract together ("joint solicitation"), or governments can share contracts after they’ve been created through piggybacking. In the United States, nearly any government agency can create a cooperative contract that can be shared with other public agencies.

Sharing contracts can help governments save time and money; but finding cooperative contracts isn’t easy. We’re building CoProcure to aggregate cooperative contracts from across the country, and across different levels of government, to help buyers in local government quickly find and compare cooperative contracts — for free!

Local public agencies, including cities, counties, states, school districts, and other special districts have many options when it comes to utilizing cooperative contracts. Here are some of the entities that create cooperative contracts available for local government use:

The Federal Government: General Services Administration (GSA)


The General Services Administration (GSA) manages the GSA Schedule Program. The GSA Schedule is also known as the Federal Supply Schedule and Multiple Award Schedule (MAS). Schedule contracts are long-term, governmentwide contracts with companies intended to make buying easy and efficient. Contracts are competitively negotiated.

Many contracts are available for state and local agency use through the GSA's Cooperative Purchasing Program. (See state and local eligibility guidelines.) Previously, cooperative contracts open to local agencies were organized by Schedule; local governments knew they could purchase IT, security, and law enforcement products and services through the Information Technology (IT) Schedule 70 and Total Security Solutions Schedule 84. More recently, GSA has been working to modernize federal acquisition by consolidating its 24 Schedules into one single Schedule for products, services, and other solutions. The goal of consolidation is to provide increased consistency in the program, including simplifying terms and conditions and eliminating duplicate contracts.

Still, the consolidation has introduced some confusion for local agencies about which contracts they may utilize now that coop purchasing is no longer organized strictly under Schedules 70 and 84. Now, the single consolidated Schedule is organized into Large Categories, Subcategories, and Special Item Numbers (SINs). In general, the range of products and services available for cooperative purchasing by local agencies remains the same. You can review the full list of cooperative purchasing eligible special item numbers (SINs) on the GSA's Available Offerings page by clicking on the latest "Available Offerings Attachment [XLSX - 250 KB].” Cooperative Purchasing Eligibility is note Yes or No (Y/N) by SIN in column N on the “NEW Consolidated Available Offer” tab. You can also search for GSA contracts that are open to cooperative purchasing on CoProcure, since we've already done the work for you!

A final note about GSA contracts: Schedule contracts comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA). However, since local agencies may have special requirements around competition in contracting, you will want to confirm that your agency can utilize GSA Schedule contracts before purchasing from a Schedule contract.

National purchasing cooperatives


National purchasing cooperatives (or "purchasing consortiums") are organizations that help create and distribute cooperative contracts for use by local and sometimes state agencies across the country. These organizations can be:

Governmental organizations that serve as lead public agency and cooperative: Some national cooperatives, like Sourcewell in Minnesota and HGACBuy in Texas are public entities and therefore have the authority to create their own contracts.

Nonprofit or for-profit organizations that partner with government(s) as lead public agencies to create cooperative contracts: Other national cooperatives, like NASPO ValuePoint or OMNIA Partners are nonprofit or for-profit organizations that partner with public agencies to generate contracts. In this case, the national cooperative works with a specific “lead agency” to generate a contract; the cooperative then markets this contract to thousands of public agencies across the country. For NASPO ValuePoint, the lead agency is always another state agencies. To utilize a NASPO ValuePoint contract as a local entity, your state must generally have signed a Participating Addendum.

Typically, national cooperatives operate by charging an administrative fee on all transactions made on their contracts. This fee can range from 0.25% up to 3% and is generally paid by vendors each time vendors generate a new sale on a contract. If the national cooperative worked with a lead agency to create the contract, rather than creating it themselves, they’ll typically also share part of this fee back with the public agency that served as the lead public agency on the contract.

As cooperative purchasing has become more popular, national cooperatives have achieved remarkable size and scale. For example, U.S. Communities, now part of OMNIA Partners, connected members to more than $2.7 billion in goods and services in 2018. In some cases, local governments entities have been able generate hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars each year in revenue share from administrative fees on contracts that are well-marketed across the country.

In recent years, as cooperative purchasing has become a more popular procurement method for local agencies, the number of available national purchasing cooperatives has also increased. CoProcure makes it easy to search across many of these national purchasing cooperatives, all in one place, including:1GPA, Allied States Cooperative, BuyBoard, Choice Partners, Equalis Group, HGACBuy, NASPO ValuePoint, NCPA, Savvik Buying Group, Sourcewell, and more.

Regional Purchasing Cooperatives



Sometimes, multiple local government agencies will come together to form regional purchasing groups or cooperatives. These can take on a number of different forms, but the main goals are to aggregate the collective purchasing demand of members and share the administrative burden of buying shared needs. In the Kansas City Metro Area, the Kansas City Regional Purchasing Cooperative creates contracts on behalf of members and maintains a database of cooperative contracts created by member agencies. Arizona’s Strategic Alliance for Volume Expenditures (S.A.V.E.) connects more than 300 public agencies to shareable contracts, allowing members to upload their own contract documents and share best practices and advice in their online forum.

Read more about how public agencies collaborate through regional cooperative purchasing on CoProcure.

States

States frequently create contracts that cities, counties, and special districts in that state (and beyond) may use. For example, the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) originates a number of different contracts that government entities in Texas and other states can use to make IT-related purchases. In FY18 alone, the DIR contracts saved local Texas governments more than $50 million due to the volume discounts achieved by the State of Texas. Others, like Utah, Kansas, and Missouri make contracts covering a range of goods and services available to public entities.

CoProcure aggregates cooperative contract information from State entities so you can search for cooperative contracts from your State when you run a cooperative contract search on CoProcure.

Local governments

Any local agency can create a cooperative contract by including cooperative language in the solicitations and contracts it creates through a competitive bidding process. Generally speaking, if this language is included, and if the contracts are created through a formal competitive solicitation process, other public agencies can shortcut their own procurement process and take advantage of the due diligence and research conducted by the original government entity by buying directly off the existing contract.

Some local governments, including California’s Sacramento County and Missouri's City of Lee's Summit, include this language by default. Learn about why you should include this language in your contracts and solicitations and see examples of this language from other agencies.

Each week, CoProcure adds more local agency data, so you can see local agency contracts in cooperative contract search results, too.

CoProcure helps you search cooperative contracts from many sources, all in one place, for free


Since contracts from national cooperatives and states are the easiest to find today, they tend to be the most commonly utilized cooperative contracts. CoProcure is aggregating contracts from all sources: national and regional cooperatives, states, and local agencies across the country. By providing a free, one-stop-shop for cooperative contracts, we aim to be able to help local governments find the most relevant cooperative contracts, compare contracts across sources, and make the purchase that best serves their agency’s needs.