The purpose of the Bowers Fund is to strengthen the food co-op community and it does this by giving grants for the training and education of food co-op staff, managers, and board members.

The Bowers Fund was established in 1993 with an endowment from the Hyde Park Cooperative Society to recognize the commitment and achievements of its general manager, Howard Bowers. He dedicated his life to the consumer cooperative movement and, in his five-decade career, worked for cooperatives throughout the Midwest, mentored hundreds of food co-opers, and was in large part responsible for reviving the Consumer Management Association, which he helped build into the organization for all consumer-owned food co-ops. He also served on the boards of the Cooperative Development Foundation and the National Cooperative Business Association.

The purpose of the Bowers Fund is to strengthen the food co-op community and it does this by giving grants for the training and education of food co-op staff, managers, and board members. While contributions are raised through events at CCMA and Howard Bowers Day, anyone can contribute at any time! At the end of every year, half of the contributions raised and interest earned that year is put into the endowment and the other half is used for grants, half of which is a grant to the University of Wisconsin for scholarships to CCMA. All grants recommended by the advisors must be reviewed by the CDF board, which also meets quarterly.

Grant applications are accepted in two cycles:

  • Throughout the year for contributions raised at CCMA and random donations
    Applications for these contributions are considered during the advisors’ quarterly meetings, which are held in February, May, August, and November. Applications should be received at least a week in advance.  All grant recommendations must be approved by the CDF board.
  • In December or January for contributions raised by Howard Bowers Day
    In 2007 the advisors decided to dedicate contributions raised by Howard Bowers Day to new and about-to-open co-ops.

Applications for these funds are considered once a year and are due January 15, 2013 for the funds raised by Howard Bowers Day 2012.Learn more about Howard Bowers Day.

Download the Application (Word)
First Howard Bowers Quilt

The Bowers Fund is managed by the Cooperative Development Foundation and governed by a board of advisors made up of seven to nine representatives of the cooperative community. The current board of advisors is composed of Alex Gyori of Brattleboro Food Co-op, Jacqueline Hannah of Common Ground Food Co-op, Annie Hoy of Ashland Food Co-op, Ellen Michel of Bloomingfoods, Mari Niescior of Outpost Natural Foods, Bob Noble of the Keystone Development Center, Mid-Atlantic Food Co-op Alliance, and the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance, Michael Novak of NCB, Brenda Pfahnl of Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund, and Karen Zimbelman of NCGA. If you are interested in serving on the board of advisors, please contact

Since its establishment in 1993, the Bowers Fund has made over $300,000 in grants to support the food co-op sector.

"With an $800 Howard Bowers Day grant, Stone’s Throw Market Co-op in Troy, OH gave scholarships to help send nine members of its organizing team to the February 2011 “Up and Coming, Up and Running” regional start-up food co-op conference in Bloomington, IN. They participated in two days of learning and networking with fellow cooperative organizers; connected with food co-op experts from Cooperative Development Services, Food Co-op Initiative, and the Indiana Cooperative Development Center; explored Bloomingfoods’ three store locations; and established mentor relationships with Bloomingfoods staff. “It was one of most effective conferences I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to quite a few in a variety of fields. It was just loaded with information.”"

"Every year the Bowers Fund gives a grant to the University of Wisconsin that helps about 20 food co-opers attend CCMA. Some would not be able to attend without this support. “I really enjoyed all of the workshops that I attended…Receiving the Howard Bowers Fund scholarship to offset the conference cost allowed me to attend this year’s conference, when I would not have been able to attend otherwise. The issue my Board had to struggle with in making this decision for me to go was the financial commitment. Receiving this scholarship made it easier for them to send me and they thank you for your generosity.”"

"The Bowers Fund made a $5,000 grant to the Indiana Cooperative Development Center in 2009 to help fund its 2010 Food Cooperative Development Conference, which was jointly hosted by the Center, Bloomingfoods, Lost River Market and Deli, and Food Co-op 500. “Honestly, the most useful part was just being there, able to ask questions to other human beings and have a discussion about these matters with others who are knowledgeable. I remarked to my compatriots that things like the Manual or the Co-op 500 website are wonderful resources, but you can’t ask them questions. And e-mailing is helpful, but just not the same as being face-to-face, able to ask, and then continue the exchange. That by itself was worth the time for the seminar.”"

"The Bowers Fund made grants of $3000 and $5000 to produce and update the on-line manual “How to Start a Food Co-op.” Since it became available in 2002, it has been one of the most used references for groups starting a food co-op."

Howard Bowers Day
Help new food co-ops get started!

Pick a day in October (Co-op Month) to designate as Howard Bowers Day and donate 3% of that day’s sales to the Howard Bowers Fund.  Or, make a donation of any size in October to the Bowers Fund.  All contributions to Howard Bowers Day go to new food co-ops and groups starting food co-ops.  Thank You!

Since the first Howard Bowers Day in 1998, the number of co-ops participating in Howard Bowers Day has ranged from 10 to 49 co-ops and the total raised has ranged from $2,370 to $14,457.  The total raised from the first through the sixteenth Howard Bowers Day, held in October 2013, is $102,837. CDF thanks all participants and congratulates Outpost Natural Foods, which has participated in all 16 Howard Bowers Days, and Ocean Beach People’s Food Co-op, which has participated in twelve.

In 2007, the Bowers Fund advisors decided to support the effort to rapidly increase the number of food co-ops across the country by dedicating the funds raised through Howard Bowers Day to grants for new and about-to-open co-ops.  Applications for these grants are considered once a year and the next applications are due on January 24, 2014 for the funds raised through Howard Bowers Day 2013.


Cooperative Excellence Awards

Do you know someone in the food co-op community or a food co-op that deserves an award?

Here is your opportunity to recognize them!

CDF and the Bowers Fund manage the awards for cooperative excellence that are presented at CCMA. These awards, which recognize excellence and outstanding achievement, are Cooperative Service, Cooperative Innovation and Achievement, Cooperative Excellence (also known as Retailer of the Year), and Cooperative Board Service. This is the food co-op’s opportunity to honor colleagues and cooperatives for their achievements and accomplishments. Nominations are made by the food co-op community. If you know of a food co-op or someone in the food co-op community who deserves an award, please nominate them! Nominations for the 2014 awards will be due in April 18th, 2014.

The Cooperative Milestone Awards are also presented at CCMA to cooperatives that have reached significant anniversaries. If you are reaching such a milestone this year, contact Ann Hoyt at

Bower’s Fund Event

This year’s CCMA will feature a Welcome to CCMA-Bowers Fund Social and Fundraising event on Thursday after the tours and into the evening, a silent auction, food co-op quilts, and drawings for tablets.  The Thursday event will feature the band Harmonious Wail, an internationally known gypsy swing band.  See for a sample and a collection of reviews; see a recent short article about it that appeared in Madison Magazine at      Check back later here or at for more details and to buy your ticket in advance!