Cooperative Hall of Fame inductee spotlight – Leslie Mead


Leslie Mead

  • Ambitious Philanthropic Planner As Executive Director of CDF, Leslie focused on measurably expanding the impact of cooperative philanthropy. To increase the potency of CDF’s investments, Leslie consolidated multiple funds under the foundation’s management. To attract the support of major new philanthropic resources, she demonstrated careful stewardship of CDF’s resources, and introduced innovative new programs to support cooperative development. Her efforts produced impressive results. In under 10 years, grants given by CDF increased from $100,000 to $1.4 million annually.
  • Proponent of Cooperative Education Leslie recognized early in her career that there is no co-op without co-op education. Beginning at the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, she sought to expand cooperative education and support cooperative education professionals. She designed the Ralph K. Morris Foundation’s Leadership Scholarship program, and reestablished the Association of Cooperative Educators as a premier education resource. At CDF, she influenced major developments in cooperative education in the U.S.
  • Impactful Advocate Called the most effective executive director of CDF by former NCBA CLUSA President Judy Ziewacz, Leslie saw operating revenue grow by 64 percent and operating surplus by five-fold during her tenure. But perhaps her greatest strength was in identifying the cooperative communities and people who would most benefit from CDF’s philanthropy. In 2016, Leslie structured a new program to support some of America’s most vulnerable and poorly paid workers—home caregivers. The National Home Care Cooperative Initiative provides grants, technical assistance and professional development to home caregivers in their own cooperative businesses.

Add your name to the Hall of Fame’s “Friends of Leslie Mead”

Attend the induction dinner and ceremony   Become a sponsor

Show your appreciation for Mead’s work by adding your name as a “Friend of Leslie Mead.” Your name will appear on the Leslie Mead page of and in the Hall of Fame Commemorative Program. The Hall of Fame will be held on October 5, 2023 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.


Leslie Mead

Retired Executive Director, Cooperative Development Foundation

Through policy, education and philanthropy, Leslie Mead has worked to promote cooperatives by quietly and resolutely motivating organizations and individuals to think more broadly and deliver more deeply, not only for their most vocal members and constituents, but equally for those without such voice.

After growing up in Indiana and attending college in Iowa, Mead moved to Washington, DC and took a job with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) as assistant general counsel. After a decade with NCFC, she moved into her role as an independent consultant, where she developed education projects for NCFC, set up the Leadership Scholarship Program for the newly formed Ralph K. Morris Foundation, and served as the executive administrator for the Association of Cooperative Educators (ACE).

Building upon its historic strengths, while redirecting resources to meet a more diverse contemporary and future audience, Mead helped ACE reestablish itself as a premier educational organization, with uniquely cross-cultural offerings. Mead then moved on to expand the impact of cooperative philanthropy, first as executive director of The Cooperative Foundation and then at the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF).

During her tenure at CDF, Mead took on the herculean task of consolidating multiple funds under the foundation’s management, which lowered the costs of fund administration, and enabled CDF to invest more strategically and impactfully in cooperative development. She increased operating revenue by 64 percent, operating surplus by five-fold, and grant giving by ten. Though CDF supports every cooperative sector, among Mead’s most notable accomplishments is her work structuring and funding the Cooperative Home Care Initiative, a network to support a particularly vulnerable group of American workers. One of her parting contributions was the Unsung Cooperative Hero category launched in 2021 to recognize the contributions to cooperatives by members of historically overlooked and marginalized communities.

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