2024 Cooperative Business Development Mini-Grant Program Request for Applications

Cindy Houlden
Cooperative Development Specialist
February 6, 2024
Exterior of Emerson Grocery Cooperative with people gathered.

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The Nebraska Cooperative Development Center (NCDC), a program of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Agricultural Economics, is seeking applications for its 2024 Cooperative Business Development Mini-grant Program.

Cooperative Business Development Mini-Grants are available to groups who are pursuing/exploring a cooperative business model or are incorporated cooperatives (or other business entity operating as a cooperative) in rural Nebraska.

Characteristics of Cooperative include:

  • User-owner - the users of the business own and finance the business.
  • User-control - Users vote, democratically, to set major policies and to elect a board of directors composed of the cooperative’s users.
  • User-benefit – User benefit distribution is based on members’ use of the cooperative, not on the amount of capital they have invested.

Groups (including communities) that are exploring community-supported cooperative ventures are also eligible to apply for either Initial Development or Advanced Assistance.

  • 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 incorporated cooperatives or multi-owner businesses functioning or operating as a cooperative the ability to hire professional services or develop materials for the on-going development of their cooperative or multi-owner business functioning as a cooperative.

*Partnerships, or Sole Proprietorship businesses as well as businesses located in Omaha, Bellevue, or Lincoln are not eligible for funding.

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.

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

Application will be accepted by accessing the online application at https://go.unl.edu/2024ncdcminigrant through February 15, 2024. Awards will be announced March 1, 2024.

exterior of Chardron Natural Food Cooperative.

"… this award enabled Natural Food Cooperative to achieve goals only talked about but appeared to be beyond the reach of our operating budget. ….As a rural community in northwest Nebraska, we are aware of the challenges facing small businesses especially grocery stores. The challenge of trying to compete with major supermarket chains regularly bought and sold eliminating some stores in the process, and the presence of major retailers like Walmart is daunting. The Natural Food Co-Op is open to meeting the challenge and believes it will continue to thrive in serving Chadron and the surrounding communities in providing natural and locally sourced foods."
-Lisa Derby, Chadron Natural Food Cooperative