2024 Cooperative Business Development Mini-Grant Program Request for Applications

by Russell Shaffer | Rural Prosperity Nebraska

Valley Foods Cooperative grocery store
Sign of the Valley Foods Cooperative grocery store in Lynch, Neb.
February 9, 2024

Lincoln, Neb. —The Nebraska Cooperative Development Center (NCDC), a program of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s department of agricultural economics, is seeking applications for its 2024 Cooperative Business Development Mini-grant Program.

Available to all rural Nebraskans, the mini grants will aid groups that are exploring the creation of a cooperative business model, or expanding an already-incorporated cooperative, in their communities. 

“The cooperative business model has the power to increase the quality of life and economic vitality of rural Nebraska,” said Cindy Houlden, a cooperative development specialist at NCDC. “Cooperative businesses are unique because they are autonomous associations of people united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs, and goals and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. Cooperatives are distinguished by principles and practices.” 

Groups of individuals (including communities) that are exploring community-supported cooperative ventures are eligible to apply for either the Initial Development or Advanced Assistance grant, as outlined below:

Initial Development Assistance grants are designed for groups who are in the exploratory stages of development of cooperative or multi-owner businesses.

Advanced Development Assistance grants are designed to provide already-incorporated cooperatives, or multi-owner businesses operating as a cooperative, the ability to hire professional services or develop materials for the on-going development of their cooperative or business.

“In addition to the mini grant, NCDC will provide assistance at every level of cooperative business development, from visioning to implementation,” said Houlden.

Additionally, NCDC staff work with the group connecting to cooperative development resources.

Past grant recipients have used grant monies for accounting assistance, business plan development, capitalization plan creation, feasibility and market studies, legal fees for incorporation, member recruitment activities and/or materials, and travel related to cooperative development.

“As a rural community in northwest Nebraska, we are aware of the challenges facing small businesses, especially grocery stores,” said Lisa Derby of Chadron Natural Food Cooperative, which won a grant in 2023. “This award enabled Natural Food Cooperative to achieve goals only talked about but appeared to be beyond the reach of our operating budget.”

Applications will be accepted at the NCDC Mini Grant website through Feb. 15. Awards will be announced March 1. More information about cooperatives can be found on the NCDC website.

Note that partnerships, sole proprietorship businesses, and businesses located in Omaha, Bellevue, or Lincoln, are not eligible for funding.

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