Adequate financial resources are fundamental to start, operate and grow any business. There are also finance issues that are unique to cooperatives, since cooperatives are structured to provide benefits to patron members, rather than capital investors. Members, as owners, provide equity capital in proportion to their use of the cooperative. It is part of members’ obligation as owners to share in business risk as well as business profitability.

Please see our  Basics of Cooperative Finance page for an overview of how cooperatives use debt and equity to meet their capital needs, distribute profit, and manage tax requirements.


Cooperative Preferred Stock: Basic Concepts. UW Center for Cooperatives, 2020.

Worker Cooperative Finance Toolkit

Stock v. Nonstock Cooperatives in Wisconsin. UW Center for Cooperatives, 2015.

Revolving Patron-Member Equity in Cooperatives: Obligations and Expectations. UW Center for Cooperatives, 2015.

Cooperative Equity and Ownership: An Introduction. UW Center for Cooperatives, 2013.

Balance Sheet Ratios and Analysis for Cooperatives. UW Center for Cooperatives, 2011.

Current Trends in Cooperative Finance. Iowa State University, 2016.

Cooperation Among Cooperatives: The Business Case for Credit Unions and Other Cooperatives. Filene Research Institute, 2015.

Balance Sheets: Getting the picture of your co-op’s financial positionCooperative Grocer, 2007.

Base Capital Financing of Cooperatives. USDA Cooperative Information Report 51, 1995.

Working with Financial Statements: Guide for Cooperatives. USDA Cooperative Information Report Number 43, 1991.

What are Patronage Refunds? USDA Cooperative Information Report Number 9, 1985.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development has an extensive library of useful publications, especially those related to agricultural producer cooperatives.