In the cooperative world, the sense of belonging to a tight-knit community is a core value. For those who work in cooperatives, the concept of being part of an extended family is not just a saying but a lived reality. NRECA President Tony Anderson, a veteran in the cooperative field and retired CEO of Cherryland Electric, exemplifies this sentiment when he states:

“Cooperatives operate as a family,” said Anderson. “So, it only makes sense that we show up fully when someone in our family is suffering.”

With this spirit of unity and support in mind, the Cooperative Family Fund (CFF) was born. The purpose of CFF is to provide crucial financial support for the children of electric cooperative employees who face the loss of a parent while actively employed at a cooperative. With an initial 2023 goal of raising $500,000, the fund has exceeded it with just over $670,000 and an eye on reaching $1M by the end of the year.

A Marathon of Compassion

The idea of the Cooperative Family Fund didn’t originate in a boardroom but rather during a casual run with co-workers. Anderson took his idea to his fellow runners, brainstorming and bouncing ideas off one another, a place where inspiration often strikes.

“I had finished a charitable project by running a marathon in every state,” said Anderson. “So, it was partly a ‘what’s next’ kind of moment.”

Anderson gradually began building the foundation of what would become the CFF. The idea grew organically, taking shape wherever Anderson went, and this grassroots approach is what makes the CFF truly special.

Where to Begin

The goals of the Cooperative Family Fund were set with the intention of making a significant impact and supporting families in a substantial way. The fund looks to provide a one-time monetary payment once the child reaches the age of 18, that can be used for college or any other expenses related to launching themselves into adulthood.

“The goal is one thousand dollars donated from each cooperative in the U.S.,” said Anderson. “We’ve got just over 900 cooperatives in the country.”

The initial goal signifies the ambition to support cooperative families in a meaningful way. Until the full goal is reached, the CCF’s focus is on helping those who are currently experiencing a loss. Since the fund started in December of 2022, we have lost 19 employees in 14 different states, leaving behind 40 kids. The organization has been able to fund all of the children at $10,000 each and paid out two of the kids who turned 18 this year – one in Texas and one in Missouri.

The Road Ahead

Anderson’s commitment to the cause is evident in his tireless efforts to raise awareness and support. He has spoken at all five regional cooperative meetings, expanding the reach of CFF and generating interest in the initiative.

When asked about his dream for the organization, Tony Anderson reveals, “I want it to be big. I want it to make a significant impact on kids. Eventually we’d like to be self-funded and include spouses in our aid.”

The additional outcomes for the fund are two-fold. One is to make memory books for the children who have lost a parent – a book with pictures and stories of the parent lost. Currently, these books are assembled and created by co-op volunteers. Next, Anderson wants to create a network of cooperative members who will sign up to catch a child’s upcoming soccer game or attend a band concert. Putting feet on the ground to help bring some normalcy back to the kids’ lives.

United We Stand

The Cooperative Family Fund perfectly embodies the cooperative model and its core values. Anderson sees the CFF as an extension of the cooperative mission and values.

“The co-op model has always exemplified commitment to community.,” said Anderson. “The Cooperative Family Fund is a testament to cooperatives walking the talk – that we are more than just businesses, we are communities that support and uplift one another.”

It’s in this way that the Cooperative Family Fund is not just an idea, it’s a testament to the power of community, compassion, and cooperation. It is a beautiful reminder that the heart and soul of our cooperatives are the members we serve and how we service one another.

“This is just giving back to the industry that has literally given me everything I have,” said Anderson. “These families are an extension of my own family and I want to make sure they never feel alone.”

For more information about CFF or how you can help them reach their $1M goal , visit