Access to capital is critical for all businesses. Because of our values and principles and the different ways that co-ops define success, the cooperative movement has often had to create financial institutions to provide cooperative-friendly finance. Examples include the National Cooperative Bank (NCB), CoBank and the Farm Credit System, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI’s) such as Shared Capital Cooperative.
CDS helps both startups, conversions and existing co-ops access capital in a number of ways:
Business assessment and planning: At some point, almost all businesses need to access capital for their enterprise. Whether they obtain that capital from owner-members or from lenders, everyone wants to see the business plan, and understand how the co-op will use and repay capital. CDS creates third-party feasibility studies and business plans for clients, typically on a fee-for-service basis. (We’re also pretty good at helping clients find cost-share funding to buy down the cost of this work). We also will coach groups doing their own business planning when appropriate.
Capital campaigns: Almost all co-ops need to conduct a campaign to obtain member loans or to secure investment through sale of preferred shares. We coach teams in conducting such a campaign on a fee-for-service basis.
Accessing federal and state grant programs: Through our grant writing efforts we have helped clients access over $8 million in grant funding in the past 20 years. We welcome the opportunity to discuss this work with potential clients.
Securing tax-deductible charitable contributions and foundation gifts: Through our 501(c)3 nonprofit, the Cooperative Development Fund of CDS, we assist clients access foundation grants and charitable contributions from within their own communities. This work is regulated under state laws, and we are currently registered to solicit charitable contributions in a half dozen states. In this work, the Fund registers in the state(s) where the project is located and then serves as a fiscal agent or fiscal sponsor to process tax deductible charitable contributions or foundation grants in support of our clients’ projects. Check out our FAQ on philanthropic contributions here, and then contact us to discuss how we might support your project.
Government agencies, private foundations, and nonprofit organizations offer a host of grant programs designed to support businesses. As a small business it is difficult to keep abreast of funding opportunities. Further, it is even more difficult to prepare the rigorous documentation required for these highly competitive programs. CDS has an excellent track record facilitating grant processes for clients that have delivered many successful awards. In the past 20 years we have delivered successful grants ranging from $5,000 to $1,000,000. In total, we have helped clients access over $8 million in federal, state and foundation grants.
CDS is especially adept at understanding federal USDA grants, although we have successfully delivered other funding sources as well. One of our core service grants is the USDA’s Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. The VAPG program is designed to provide grant funds to agricultural producers for Business Planning activities and Working Capital expenses. We have delivered grants ranging from $20,000 to $300,000.