Grant Funding Options for Cooperatives

NASCO member cooperatives are looking for innovative ways to fund their new and existing projects - many are turning to grant funding as a potentially viable option. In support of this shifting interest, NASCO staff invited Lincoln Miller (Boulder Housing Coalition) and Matt Lechel (Kalamazoo Collective Housing) to present at Institute 2013 on “Securing Grant Funding for Your Co-op.” Since the workshop was a major success, we intend on offering a similar course at next year’s Institute and will be continuing to share relevant information on grant funding opportunities with our members.

In this article, we’ve included a list of foundations and organizations that support cooperatives, affordable housing, social justice education, and other youth/student projects. This list is by no means exhaustive, however we hope that you’ll find it to be a useful springboard as you investigate whether there are grants that fit your needs.

Co-op Specific

  • The CHS Foundation
    The CHS Foundation “support[s] cooperative education through a variety of programs. Annual support typically involves more than 60 programs from 20-plus organizations. Each year, [they] offer more than $1 million in competitive Cooperative Education Grants through the CHS Foundation.” For more information, click here. To apply, click here.
  • The Cooperative Development Foundation
    “The Cooperative Development Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 charitable family of funds that advances economic development through cooperative enterprise.”
    CDF manages a number of cooperative funds, notably:
    The Kagawa Fund for Student Cooperative Development was created in 1989 to meet the need for democratically-controlled and affordable housing for students across North America.”
    The Jim Jones Fund: “The Fund’s purpose is to promote leadership in housing, worker, and all types of student cooperatives throughout North America by providing grants to individuals.”
  • The Cooperative Foundation
    "The Cooperative Foundation is a steadfast supporter of cooperative development, research, and education.”
  • Ralph K. Morris Foundation
    "The Ralph K. Morris Foundation is a nonprofit corporation which provides development opportunities for emerging leaders expressing interest in applying and advancing the principles of cooperation, and in promoting farmland preservation, land stewardship and sustainability.”
    “The Ralph K. Morris Foundation Cooperative Leadership Fund provides financial support to help cover costs associated with training, professional development and educational programs for rural young leaders interested in the future of cooperatives and rural communities.”
  • USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grants (RCDG)
    “The primary objective of the RCDG program is to improve the economic condition of rural areas by assisting individuals or entities in the startup, expansion or operational improvement of rural cooperatives and other business entities. Grants are awarded competitively on an annual basis to Rural Cooperative Development Centers who in turn provide technical assistance to individuals and entities.”
    “You must be a nonprofit corporation or an institution of higher education to apply for this program. Public bodies and individuals are not eligible to apply for the RCDG program.”
    Estimated Program Funding: $5.8 million; Maximum Grant Amount: $200,000
  • The WedgeShare Program
    “In 1997, the Wedge Board of Directors created WedgeShare, a charitable giving program based on Cooperative principle #7, Concern for Community ... Presently the Wedge makes WedgeShare grants in amounts up to but not exceeding $10,000 to select organizations that are working to create a sustainable future.”

Affordable Housing

  • Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
    “The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is a flexible program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs. Beginning in 1974, the CDBG program is one of the longest continuously run programs at [the US Department of Housing and Urban Development].”
    “The CDBG program provides annual grants on a formula basis to 1209 general units of local government and States,” which in turn re-distribute the funding to individuals and organizations.
    “HUD does not provide CDBG assistance directly to individuals, businesses, nonprofit organizations, or other non-governmental entities. If you are interested in participating in this program, contact a grantee to find out how the program operates in your area.”
  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)
    LISC is America's largest community development support organization. [They] provide financial and organizational and management support to local organizations dedicated to revitalizing its community and improving the quality of life for its residents.”
    “Through LISC local program offices, [they] provide grant funding to assist organizations develop affordable housing, commercial and retail space, and community facilities, as well as other community development activities.”

Social Justice Education

  • A.J. Muste Memorial Institute
    This “Social Justice Fund currently makes 10 to 15 grants annually of up to $2,000 each for grassroots activist projects in the US and around the world, giving priority to those with small budgets and little access to more mainstream funding sources.”
  • The Arcus Foundation
    “The Arcus Foundation is a leading global foundation dedicated to the idea that people can live in harmony with one another and the natural world.”
    RESIST funds activist organizing and education work within movements for social change. … As a foundation, RESIST is unique because [they] are part of the movements [they] fund. … [Their] frequent funding cycle means [they] can respond to time-sensitive organizing campaigns.”
  • Social Justice Fund Northwest
    “Social Justice Fund Northwest is a foundation working at the frontlines of social change. We leverage the resources of our members to foster significant, long-term social justice solutions throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.”

Other Youth/Student Projects

  • The New Economy Coalition
    “The New Economy Coalition is issuing a Request for Proposals for young people working to build the New Economy. On a rolling basis, we will be offering small grants (up to $5000) for convenings, projects and campaigns. The grants will be accompanied by support for planning and executing your project and access to NEC’s large and growing network. This program aims to support young people who are working for a more just, democratic, and ecologically sound economic system.”