The Cooperative Fund of New England (CFNE) is a community development loan fund that acts as a bridge between socially responsible investors and cooperatives, community oriented nonprofits, and worker-owned businesses in New England (and parts of New York). CFNE's mission is to advance such organizations with preference to those that serve low-income communities. Since inception, CFNE has loaned over $17 million to about 450 groups. The year 2005 marked the Cooperative Fund's 30th year of operation.
The mission of the Cooperative Fund of New England is to advance community-based, cooperative, and democratically owned or managed enterprises. Preference is given to those that serve low-income communities through the provision of prompt financial assistance at reasonable rates, the provision of an investment opportunity that promotes socially responsible enterprise, or the development of a regional reservoir of business skills with which to assist and advise the aforementioned groups.
CFNE provides loans up to $500,000 at fair rates for 3-5 years. Funds for program lending are "social investment loans" provided by individuals, religious groups, cooperatives, and other organizations, such as the Calvert Foundation. There are currently 48 active borrowers. The CFNE loan repayment rate exceeds 98%. Generous loan loss provision and the fund's large equity balance further protect investors. In the 34 years of operation it should be noted that no investor has ever lost his/her investment money.
CFNE also provides technical assistance in cooperative development, financial management, and organizational development to current and prospective borrowers.
CFNE's lending activities include co-ops (retail, producer and consumer), plus organizations for cooperative education and small scale manufacturing including printing, publishing, local and regional book distribution, wool spinning, fishing, and community pre-school, elementary and adult education. The Fund has also provided loans for housing co-ops, manufactured housing co-ops, co-housing, land trusts and nonprofit housing developers. Healthcare and other community needs are also addressed through loans to relevant nonprofit groups.
The breakdown of borrower communities is as follows: 17% major urban, 69% minor urban and 14% rural.
Since its inception, CFNE has made over 450 loans totaling over $17 million. These loans have benefited thousands of low-income families and have provided hundreds of workers and co-op members an alternative livelihood, greater control of the workplace, and community and self-empowerment. In 2008, CFNE made 32 loans totaling $2,039,300.
Since its founding, CFNE loan funds helped to develop over 3100 housing units. Additionally, through financing cooperatives, worker-owned businesses and community based nonprofits, CFNE retained and created over 6000 jobs. Also, CFNE used grant money to provide technical assistance to cooperatives and small businesses.
Sagla, a catering and restaurant cooperative owned by a group of women started 6 years ago, serves meals that have been described as "unusual, healthful, and delicious." After operating from borrowed kitchens and using word of mouth marketing efforts, a restaurant space was made available in the otherwise highly inflated, expensive Boston real estate market. With the help of a recent loan of $25,000 from Cooperative Fund of New England for operating capital, they are expecting a long and successful business life. Full Story