New non-profit foundation will enhance Co-op giving

Sep 06, 2022

Co-op’s commitment to the communities in which they operate is more than a slogan. It’s one of the characteristics of a true, member-owned cooperative and a belief that guides Co-op’s desire to be ‘Driven to Serve.’

In recognition of this commitment, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative (TFC) has established a non-profit foundation to facilitate and grow the cooperative’s philanthropic activities and those of the member Co-ops. It will be called the Tennessee Farmers Cooperative Foundation, Inc.

“This foundation will help us to be more effective as we strategically support the causes that we see as important to the future of both agriculture and our communities,” says TFC Chief Executive Officer, Shannon Huff. “It will help us to grow the impact of the generosity of our system as we know it today.”

Although the foundation’s formation was already in the works, the need for this non-profit entity became obvious as the Co-op community came together and rushed to the aid of fellow employees and farmers in the aftermath of the flood that devastated Waverly and surrounding areas in August 2021.

“Our business had access to matching dollars for such a need through our affiliations with Land O’ Lakes and CoBank, but those funds couldn’t be transmitted to TFC directly for dispersal,” explains Huff. “They were legally required to be funneled through a non-profit entity.”

A solution was found as the money was eventually donated to those in need through a qualifying local church, but the delay and inconvenience somewhat slowed the Co-op system’s response.

“We see the foundation as a great solution for speeding up the process of dispersing funds when time is of the essence,” Huff says. “If and when the need arises again, we will be in a much better position to act quickly.”
The flood response is just one example of how the Co-op community mobilizes when there is an extraordinary need in the areas they serve. TFC also generously supports youth development through the 4-H and FFA programs and its long-standing scholarship program for agricultural students. Activities like Shooting Hunger benefit residents throughout the Co-op trade area.

Through the foundation’s work, Huff hopes to expand the system’s influence and philanthropic efforts. The foundation will be taking over many of the fundraisers previously hosted by TFC. Donations to fundraisers run by the foundation will now be eligible for tax deductions, with only a few exceptions. There are also plans for donor development and new programs and activities.

Dawn Eaton of Nashville has been hired as the foundation’s executive director. A Jackson native, Eaton has more than 20 years of service to non-profits, including most recently serving as the chief executive officer of Susan G. Komen® Central Tennessee, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of breast cancer and support for those affected by the disease.

“I’m looking forward to working with TFC and the member Co-ops to develop new ways to support those causes that are important to the Co-op system and to make existing programs more effective,” says Eaton. The foundation will be governed by a board of directors made up of members of the TFC Executive Team, member Co-op managers, and a member of the TFC board of directors.

Serving on the board are Huff, TFC Chief Operating Officer Phil Farmer, TFC Chief Financial Officer Kirk Fischer, TFC General Counsel Elizabeth Foss, Gibson Farmers Cooperative Manager Tommy Townsend, Sequatchie Farmers Cooperative Manager Jay Simmons, Union Farmers Cooperative Manager David Bunch, Bedford Moore Farmers Cooperative Manager Paul Arnette, and TFC Board Vice Chairman Keith Fowler.

Find more content like this in this month’s issue of The Cooperator.

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