Financing any business, whether it is a start-up enterprise or an existing one that needs to grow and develop, is always difficult. Co-operatives have faced problems in raising finance like any other business, largely because of the lack of information, practice and professional advice in this field. For smaller community enterprises, the problem is magnified because accessing professional assistance is often beyond their resources, particularly those communities that face the closure of local services and have high unemployment.

This Handbook is a ‘first base’ resource for communities to be able to understand different forms of finance available for co-operatives and how to use them to raise funds for community-based enterprises using a co-operative legal model.

This Handbook builds on the resource provided for co-operatives in the United Kingdom by interpreting the model in an Australian context for Australian co-operatives. Co-operatives in the United Kingdom operate under different legislation, however, it is based on the same co-operative principles that underpin Australian laws.

In recent years, Australian states and territories have strived to update the law for co-operatives through a uniform scheme of legislation called the Co-operatives National Law – CNL. References in this Handbook are to this law.

Recent experience in community shares in the UK provides concrete examples of the power of communities in raising capital to service local needs.

The Community Shares Unit1 has kindly given permission to use information and material published in the Community Shares Handbook and the Practitioner’s Guide to Community Shares.