You are here

Cooperative Federal Launches Step Up Loan Fund

Gifford Foundation provides Loan Capital to establish the "Nano Loan" Program

Cooperative Federal is kicking off a new microfinance initiative this week. Through the Step Up Loan Fund, with capital provided by the Gifford Foundation, our credit union will make "nano loans" to foster job readiness and entrepreneurship among low-income and under-employed Syracuse residents.

The Step Up Loan Fund provides low-cost, short-term loans of $2,500 or less in order to help self-employed persons, emerging entrepreneurs, and under-resourced job seekers "step up" their income potential. Job Readiness Step Up Loans can be used to gain access to new employment opportunities or advance the borrower's career, while Entrepreneurship Step Up Loans can help self-employed individuals launch a small business or prepare to take on larger projects. Loan proceeds can be used for equipment, tools, and supplies; tuition for training programs; licenses, certifications, and insurances; uniforms or required work clothes; working capital; and even promotional expenses.

In addition to receiving affordable financing, all borrowers in the Step Up Loan Fund will participate in one-on-one financial advising. Through education and counseling, borrowers will receive help creating a budget, building or repairing their credit, developing an emergency savings fund, or working toward other key financial goals. Ultimately, this combination of services will cultivate long-term financial stability for individuals and families with the greatest need for a boost.

The Gifford Foundation has committed $25,000 in loan capital to help Cooperative Federal establish the Step Up Loan Fund.

"We're pleased to partner with Cooperative Federal to reach entrepreneurs and others trying to help themselves climb the ladder of financial independence," says Dirk Sonneborn, Executive Director of the Gifford Foundation. "The support should help Cooperative Federal provide access to funds for this underserved population."

The nano loan concept is designed to bring appropriately-scaled services to a market is not well-served by mainstream lenders. Whereas conventional business micro lending provides loans in the range of $5,000 to $35,000 to formally-established small businesses with thorough business plans, Step Up Loans are targeted to workers and emerging entrepreneurs seeking to overcome employment barriers and achieve stable self-employment.

"In Syracuse and across the nation, people are facing rising poverty and a dismal job market. With the Step Up Loan Fund, we can enhance access to available jobs and create opportunities for self-employment," explains Ron Ehrenreich, Treasurer/CEO of Cooperative Federal. Indeed, a recent study by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) cited that self-employment is likely to be the best option for over 40 million Americans living in poverty today[1]. "Cooperative Federal is pleased to continue our legacy of fostering grassroots economic empowerment in Syracuse communities," he adds.

About The Gifford Foundation: The Gifford Foundation is a private foundation supporting community needs in Central New York since 1954. Through its grantmaking, Gifford funds organizations in an intentionally transformative and flexible manner. This is based on a fundamental belief that change at the individual and/or organizational level holds the potential to institute change at broader community levels. For information visit

About Cooperative Federal:: Cooperative Federal (Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union) serves individuals, small businesses, and nonprofits across Syracuse through three, community-based offices on Westcott Street, North Salina Street and South Avenue. Founded in 1982, they are a unique combination of a traditional credit union and a non-profit community development organization. Cooperative Federal offers fair, affordable accounts and loans paired with individualized education and counseling in order to foster financial strength, community revitalization and economic justice for all. Visit or call Thom Dellwo at 315-473-0217 or Kira Crawford at 315-473-0211 to learn more.

[1] "The Power of One in Three: Creating Opportunities for All Americans to Bounce Back." Association for Enterprise Opportunity, 2011.