While completing its 35th year of advancing cooperative enterprise, the Cooperative Fund of New England (CFNE) is extending loans at a record pace. By mid-year 2010, around $2.5 million in funding had either been extended or approved, with many more requests anticipated.
A certified Community Development Financial Institution founded in 1975, CFNE has made loans totaling over $21 million, while experiencing no losses of investor resources. Over 500 CFNE loans have created or preserved more than 6,500 jobs, 3,600 units of housing, and thousands of cooperative ownership opportunities.
The Cooperative Fund of New England was launched to provide financial and technical assistance to food cooperatives, but it has expanded considerably to serve a wide range of worker co-ops, consumer and housing co-ops, and nonprofits. This year, reports Executive Director Rebecca Dunn, there are more large loans and an increased loan volume over last year. Food co-ops continue to be a major segment of activity and, on any date, CFNE is likely to have 10 or more active loans to food co-ops in Greater New England. Dunn adds, "The Cooperative Fund was started by people from the food co-op community, our roots are there, and we still want to be a meaningful resource for that community by making loans and accepting investors."
Food cooperatives Rising Tide (Damariscotta, Maine) and Brattleboro Co-op (Vermont) also are among the first recipients of an investment from CFNE’s Cooperative Capital Fund, which was launched in 2009 to provide additional equity and "patient capital" for co-op expansions.
From an administrative office in North Carolina, Dunn, who has been executive director for 25 years, currently oversees a virtual organization with seven staff and consultants networked through four outreach offices in New England. CFNE is incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and this has limited its ability to attract co-op investors and a true membership base. According to Dunn, the organization is always considering how to build more ownership and have more stakeholder representation on its board.
The current CFNE Board of Trustees includes L.J. Taylor, Donald Kreis, Erbin Crowell, Susy Ellis (officers), Margaret Atkinson, Andy Danforth, Rebecca Dunn, Cory Greenberg, Mary Hoyer, Claire Morduch, Phebe Quattrucci, and Jon Reske.
Investors in CFNE include faith-based organizations, co-ops, nonprofits, banks, trusts, and individuals. Total investments at the end of 2009 were nearly $6 million from 55 institutional investors and 86 individual investors. Cooperative investors include: FEDCO, City Market, Hunger Mountain Food Co-op, Twin Pines Foundation, Community Builders, Dance New England, Handworks, Green Mountain Spinnery, Neighboring Food Co-op Association, and Pedal People. CFNE loans disbursed in 2009 to 42 borrowers totaled nearly $2 million. CFNE is currently looking for additional investments from the cooperative community.