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Eligibility Guidelines

General eligibility

CFNE welcomes applications from organizations operated on a cooperative or nonprofit basis.  Applicants must be located within the New England states of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut and Rhode Island or within the adjacent parts of New York state. If you are not sure whether your co-op or non-profit is eligible for CFNE financing, don't hesitate to be in touch so a a loan officer can discuss with you further.

Cooperative basis

CFNE considers an organization to operate on a "cooperative" basis if it exhibits most of the following characteristics:

  • its purpose is supportive of the common good;
  • its membership is open to persons who will use its services and accept its responsibilities;
  • its membership policies are not applied to discriminate in any arbitrary or prohibited manner;
  • its activities are broadly participatory by its members;
  • its governance is democratic or based on consensus;
  • its monetary return on invested capital is strictly limited;
  • its earnings are either equitably used with within the organization or distributed on the basis of patronage.
Non-profit basis

To be considered as operating on a "nonprofit" basis an applicant organization must:

  • not be controlled by or for persons who merely provide equity capital,
  • nor may investors be permitted to realize more than a limited monetary return for the use of their money.
Types of organizations

Eligible recipients of the assistance provided by CFNE encompass the entire spectrum of cooperatives and nonprofits serving basic human needs. These include: 

  • consumer-owned coops (most food coops, housing coops, energy coops, etc)
  • producer-owned coops (artist galleries, most farm and fishery coops)
  • worker-owned businesses
  • community service organizations
  • day care centers
  • cooperative charter schools
  • community land trusts
  • 501(c)(3) public charities

Communities can organize cooperatives to meet any of their goods and services needs. The function of CFNE is to encourage and assist this type of community economic development, particularly for organizations that are resource poor but otherwise sound and promising.


The financial assistance provided by CFNE is intended primarily to benefit borrowers of greatest need. Priority among eligible organizations is therefore accorded to low-income coops and others with special problems of access to needed financial resources. Low-income status is defined by CFNE to include organizations meeting any of the following standards:

  • the applicant serves an economically disadvantaged community and this community is reflected in its membership and patronage;
  • more than half of applicant's members are low income persons; or
  • the applicant has, through unusual and unavoidable circumstances, suffered a significant economic adversity that exceeds the ability of the organization and its members to rectify.