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Community Finance Ireland is recruiting interested parties to join its Board of Trustees. New trustees have an exciting opportunity to shape a new social enterprise that has an all-island footprint and the mission to ensure that Social Impact is felt, not just dreamt.

Let’s Make Lasting Change for Good

Our current Board works as an all-island team. Each member has different experiences and skills (their bios are here).

We are looking for the following to add to the existing Board’s strengths:

  1. Finance Trustee
  2. HR Resource Trustee
  3. Legal and Governance Trustee
  4. Public Relations Marketing and Communications Trustee

We Speak Finance, But We Hear People

As the most progressive social finance provider on the island, we welcome changemakers who:

  • Have a genuine commitment to advancing the sustainability of the Social Enterprise and Not for Profit sector and;
  • Demonstrate our values of Integrity, Quality and Empathy.

Application details are here.

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Community Finance Ireland in association with Rural Community Network and supported by the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) have delivered a series of workshops to aid the coming together of communities who straddle the border regions, seeking to develop social enterprise.

23 participants from NI and ROI communities attended a series of residentials, workshops and mentoring sessions that culminated in a final event at Lusty Beg Fermanagh. Also in attendance were the Chair of International Fund for Ireland Paddy Harte, Frances Spence of Rural Community Network & CEO of Community Finance Ireland Donal Traynor.

Participants in the NetWorks23 Communities in Partnership Programme supported by the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) and managed by Community Finance Ireland in association with Rural Community Network in attendance at the residential workshop at Lusty Beg, Co. Fermanagh. Photo Credit: Paul Moore

The participants opened their minds to working collaboratively on a cross-border, cross-community basis to aid the development of social enterprises or community projects, working in varying areas of deprivation and legacy issues arising from the Troubles.

This unique pilot’s primary role was to support the ongoing peace and reconciliation on the island through the medium of social enterprise development. Delivered through collaboration between CFI and Rural Community Network, the IFI supported programme has certainly played a positive part in continuing that ambition.

With Orange Halls and GAA clubs working side by side the programme demonstrated that whilst culturally there may be differences, there was far more in common than realised. You can hear firsthand from Donal Traynor, Paddy Harte and some of the participants on how this project came about and their experiences and the benefits of being involved.

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With an impressive agenda and a packed hotel room social enterprises were out in force in Galway this week with an impressive line up of guests.

The event was a real collaboration of those in the area and involved in the ongoing sustainability of the social enterprise sector.

Thanks to SCCUL Enterprise Centre, LEO Galway, Galway City Partnership, Galway City Council and Galway Rural Development and Enterprise Ireland for pulling together to bring it about.

Our local Relationship Manager Mary Nohilly was in attendance along with inspiring ladies such Amanda Corbett of Brothers of Charity, Geraldine Ryan from Meals4health and Betsy Cornwell of The Old Knitting Factory and she had this to say:

“The event was well received with lots of key insights that will bode well for the ongoing sustainability and vibrancy of the social enterprise sector.”

Pictured at the recent Bizmentors Social Enterprise Community Event are left to right Amanda Corbett Brothers of Charity, Geraldine Ryan Meals4health, Betsy Cornwell Old Knitting Factory and Mary Nohilly Community Finance Ireland at the Harbour Hotel Galway

If you and your community facility need advice, get in touch today. We speak finance, but we hear people and we’re listening. 

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Ballymacash Sports Academy, based in Ballymacash outside Lisburn, Co. Antrim has been able to install a new floodlit 3G pitch, car park and spectator fencing thanks to a Social Finance loan from Community Finance Ireland.

But this is just the start of the club’s ambitious developments. As Chairman Phil Trimble comments:

“It feels like the building work going up is us just getting started. There is an unstoppable force, an army of volunteers, coaches, people behind the scenes and our committee who put in phenomenal efforts to make the club what it is. It’s a brilliant place to be with a great vibe. It’s all really really positive.

In addition to providing sporting facilities on the pitch for their members, they have teamed up with local community development organisations to create a community garden and allotments which has had lasting social impact for the groups involved. One such community group led by Karl Bothwell said:

“We’ve been kindly welcomed in by the Ballymacash Sports Academy. Our young adults come here three days per week and they work at the allotments, planting vegetables and then they take the vegetables they have grown and donate them to local foodbanks and homeless charities.”

Two young adults tending to their allotments at the Ballymacash Sports Academy

Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland has supported 166 sports clubs, social enterprises and organisations from across the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, with a total of £18.1 million in social finance loans, with £5.6m of that going to sporting organisations like Ballymacash.

Peter Smyth, Client Manager at Community Finance Ireland added:

“In the case of Ballymacash Sports Academy, the improved facilities has led to an increased sporting success by the club and greater usage by local schools and groups. The collective ambitions and efforts of the committee and the wider community is admirable and one that we were keen to support with social finance funding. Often capital projects like this one creates new facilities, but it also helps build momentum and shows that the club committee is delivering on the club development plan.”

During the BBC’s coverage of the Ballymacash Rangers v Glentoran match on 2 February, the broadcaster kindly featured the community’s efforts. You can play this back here at 1:13:40 in.

If you and your community facility need advice, get in touch today. We speak finance, but we hear people and we’re listening.  

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– £18 million social finance provided to Northern Ireland voluntary sector since 2016 –

Kilcreggan Homes, an independent charity that provides housing, day and employment opportunities for adults with a Learning Disability, Autistic Spectrum Condition or an acquired brain injury, is expanding its residential accommodation offering with £85k support from social finance providers, Community Finance Ireland.

The charity has received a total funding package of £240k from Community Finance Ireland in 2023. The package includes refinancing of existing accommodation loans, £85k towards the purchase of a property to support the rehabilitation of a client with complex needs and a £5k charitable donation to Kilcreggan Homes, towards developing its Mid Ulster Sanctuary site near Magherafelt.

Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland has supported 166 social enterprises and organisations from across the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, with a total of £18.1 million in social finance loans.

Phelim Sharvin, Head of Community Finance Ireland, Northern Ireland said:

“The team at Kilcreggan Homes is hugely ambitious and has worked hard to widen the organisation’s portfolio in the past year. Across multiple sites including an urban farm and supported living properties in Carrickfergus, the charity helps 160 clients every week and achieves a clear social impact through the delivery of a high quality essential care service. Community Finance Ireland has provided £18million in social finance to Northern Ireland’s voluntary sector since 2016 and we’re proud that almost a third of that has gone to organisations like Kilcreggan Homes, which delivers Community Services and Health and Wellbeing services.”

Kilcreggan Homes Community Finance IReland
L-R, Phelim Sharvin, Head of Community Finance Ireland, Northern Ireland, Damien Cassidy, Managing Director of Kilcreggan Homes and service users Lynn and Grace pictured at Kilcreggan Homes Garden Centre.

Damien Cassidy, Managing Director of Kilcreggan Homes said:

“The financial support from Community Finance Ireland allowed us to restructure existing debt and in turn to plan for the purchase of a property in Newtownabbey and develop our Mid Ulster site. As well as our urban farm, our café, garden centre and pop up Christmas shop welcome 15,000 visitors annually and provide service users with training, day opportunities and employment.. We have a resource centre where they can socialise and the purchase of the residential properties close by means we can now also offer further independent living opportunities to complex needs service users. We very much appreciate the advice from Phelim and his highly experienced team throughout the process, along with their enthusiasm for our vision.”

Read more stories from Community Finance Ireland’s clients here.

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– Community Finance Ireland delivers £5.1 million of support in Antrim since 2016 –

A Carrickfergus-based sport and leisurewear company, founded by two friends during the pandemic, is the latest Co Antrim company to be supported by the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan FundThe Hybrid Academy was established by best friends Rob McFall, an aeronautical engineer and John Magill, a sales professional and received funding of £30,000 working capital to purchase stock and improve their supply chain.

The Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund is managed by Ulster Community Finance Ltd (UCF) on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. UCF is a subsidiary of the social enterprise Community Finance Ireland. Small businesses, sole traders and partnerships keen to develop their business can avail of loans up to £100,000, while start-up businesses can obtain initial loans of up to £15,000.

Rob McFall who lived in Italy prior to the pandemic explains how The Hybrid Academy has grown:

“The name existed for years before we founded the company as a nickname for the group of friends we regularly train with.  Like many small businesses, ours was founded in lockdown when we took a chance on making something we’d talked about for years, into a reality.  The team at NISBLF really helped us to understand what we needed to keep up with customer demand and make the business grow and of course support us with the finance to improve our supply chain.”

Community Finance Ireland NI Small Business Loan Fund Hybrid Academy Carrickfergus
L to R: Nigel McKernan (Invest NI’s Director of Corporate Finance), Robert McFall and John Magill (Founders and Owners of Hybrid Academy) and Dónal Traynor (Ulster Community Finance Ltd’s Chief Executive) at Hybrid Academy in Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim. Photo Credit: Brian Morrison Photography

Ulster Community Finance Ltd Chief Executive, Dónal Traynor said:

“This ambitious young company is performing well in the crowded fitness apparel market and they are ready to take their business to the next level, keeping up with the demand created by their impressive digital marketing and athlete influencer engagement programme. The fast and flexible finance that the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund offers, is perfectly suited to support the Hybrid Academy and we look forward to seeing how the business evolves.

Other sectors which have benefitted from the Fund to date include manufacturing and renewable energy. The Fund is open to organisations throughout Antrim who are interested in learning how financial support of up to £100,000 could further their business ambitions.”

Nigel McKernan, Invest NI’s Director of Corporate Finance, said:  

“The Small Business Loan Fund continues to assist businesses throughout Northern Ireland to fulfil their growth ambitions. The Hybrid Academy is another great example of an early-stage business which has used the fund to help it to grow. It is encouraging to see that Rob and John benefitted from not only financial support but the knowledge of experienced business advisors throughout the application process.”

The NI Small Business Loan Fund is part of Invest NI’s Access to Finance suite of loan and equity funds.

To find out more about the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund and how it could help with the next stage of your business’s plan, visit their website.

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Clifden Town Hall is ready to turn it up to eleven at their local arts festival, dance classes, and their long-standing Bingo nights, having installed a new, state-of-the-art sound system with the support of Community Finance Ireland (CFI).

The Town Hall building has been a central part of the Clifden community for over 100 years and has undergone significant renovations in the past decade. General Manager, Kevin Gavin says this latest technological upgrade has kitted Clifden Town Hall out for the increasing number of activities they host for the local community including dance classes for young and old; indoor bowls; meditation; Thursday night Bingo and the longest-running community arts festival in Ireland, Clifden Community Arts Festival.

Clifden Town Hall Mary Nohilly
Photographed at Clifden Town Hall are: Stephen O’Donnell, Clifden Town Hall committee member and Mary Nohilly, Community Finance Ireland (CFI) Client Relationship Manager Connaught and Donegal. Photo credit: Andrew Downes Photography

Mr. Gavin described how he remembered a chance meeting with Community Finance Ireland CEO Dónal Traynor when the time came to apply for funding for the much-needed sound system upgrade. He said:

“When I met Dónal at an event a few years ago, his commitment to supporting community organisations had stayed with me. When our committee recognised that we urgently needed funding for a new sound system for the hall, I immediately thought of Community Finance Ireland.

“Our experience with CFI has felt like a very personal one. It has always felt like Mary is just down the road and is happy to answer any questions we might have.”

Clifden Town Hall
Photographed at Clifden Town Hall are: Mary Nohilly, Community Finance Ireland (CFI) Client Relationship Manager; Ailbhe Gavin, aged 11; Kevin Gavin, Clifden Town Hall General Manager; Aoibhín O’Malley, aged 12; Cllr Eileen Mannion and Gráinne Gavin, aged 17. Photo credit: Andrew Downes Photography

Mary Nohilly, CFI Client Relationship Manager for Connacht and Donegal said:

“It has been a pleasure to work with the team at Clifden Town Hall. This beautiful, warm space brings so many people together from the local community and the great many visitors the area welcomes throughout the year. The team here provide so many fantastic activities and now everyone will be able to enjoy relaxing background music at their meditation sessions, and hear every call clearly at Thursday night bingo!”

Supporting Communities in Galway

Between 2016 and 2022, Community Finance Ireland delivered €3.4 million in social finance supports to volunteer and community-led organisations in Connacht, including €0.9m million in support of projects in Galway.

Based on a Social Value Analysis undertaken by the Rural Community Network in Northern Ireland, CFI has established that its funding solution delivers a return on investment that creates a multiplier effect of 3.42 times the initial investment through wider social benefits such as improved community health and increased employment opportunities and skill levels.

If you want to unlock a grant award or have a community idea that needs finance get in touch with a team member near you or simply search community finance.

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Community Finance Ireland’s Donal Traynor is the First Irish CEO appointed to the Board of European Finance Federation

Dónal Traynor, CEO of Community Finance Ireland (CFI), has been appointed as the first Irish board member of the European Federation of Ethical and Alternative Banks (FEBEA), an umbrella group of 33 financial institutions from 15 European countries which develop and promote ethical finance principles.

The appointment was announced following the FEBEA Annual Conference in Athens last month, where Mr. Traynor spoke to delegates about the impact of CFI’s work providing social finance solutions to voluntary-led and grassroots organisations on the island of Ireland.

Donal Traynor Community Finance Ireland first irish CEO appointed to FEBEA Board

Community Finance Ireland, which has been a member of FEBEA since 2016, offers social finance loans to community organisations which drive social impact through sport, faith-based groups, social enterprises and community projects.

CFI was established in Belfast in 1995, and has supported a wide variety of organisations across the island of Ireland to a value of €100million in social finance.

Speaking on his appointment, Mr. Traynor said,

“I’m delighted to join the board of this excellent European network. FEBEA’s mission to work for the development of a fairer, more sustainable and more inclusive society is directly aligned with our mission at Community Finance Ireland. We’re proud to offer tailored supports to organisations that are creating palpable social change in our local communities across Ireland. Just as our peers in FEBEA do in communities right across Europe. For CFI, for our clients, and for the wider Not-For-Profit sector in Ireland, this closer collaboration with our European partners is an important step. We know from working with volunteers on the ground in communities from Bantry to Ballymoney, Donegal to Dublin, we have much to share with our colleagues across Europe and we will have much to learn from them.”

Pedro M. Sasia, President of FEBEA said:

“For FEBEA, the participation of an organisation like Community Finance Ireland, deeply aligned with ethical finance values and the spirit of community, is of great importance. That’s why we’re beyond happy to see Donal Traynor stepping up and actively engaging in the network’s most vital body: the Board of Directors.”

Originally from Cavan, Mr. Traynor was appointed to CEO of Community Finance Ireland in 2020, having led their business in the Republic of Ireland since 2004. He is the youngest CEO in the organisation’s history and the first to come from a non-banking background.

For more information on FEBEA, visit their website here, and to learn more about Community Finance Ireland’, visit our home page’s story click here.

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On 9th October 2023, Sport NI opened a new £1million pound capital investment fund which seeks to reduce the environmental impact of sports clubs throughout Northern Ireland and contribute to a more sustainable sports club network.

Funded by The National Lottery, the Renewable Energy Fund will support sports clubs with infrastructure upgrades such as solar energy systems, air and ground source heating systems, sustainable water recycling solutions, and floodlight upgrades.

The Renewable Energy Fund will be delivered as a pilot programme in 2023/24, as Sport NI gathers information on which environmental interventions have the greatest impact within sports clubs. The fund was developed using feedback from sports clubs through Sport NI’s Environmental Sustainability Survey.

Investment will be spread across Northern Ireland with at least one club from each of the 11 council areas being selected to take part. To be eligible, clubs must have completed Sport NI’s Environmental Sustainability Survey.

Phelim Sharvin, Head of Community Finance for Northern Ireland at Community Finance Ireland said:

“I welcome the announcement of this new initiative from Sport NI which will enable sports clubs across Northern Ireland to invest in infrastructure upgrades in line with renewable energy ambitions. Not only will the initiative have a positive impact on the environment but it will reduce clubs’ long term energy costs, allowing them to invest the savings into other areas of the clubs’ development.”


  • The Renewable Energy Fund Pilot Programme will only accept applications from sports organisations in Northern Ireland who either own or operate their own sports facilities.


  • Sport NI are interested in taking forward the following types of energy projects within sports clubs:
  • Solar Energy Systems (and ancillary equipment).
  • Air Source Heating Systems (and ancillary equipment).
  • Ground Source Heating Systems (and ancillary equipment).
  • Sustainable Water Recycling Systems.
  • Fixed Floodlight Upgrades (Specifically upgrades to LED Bulbs and Connection to Grid).
  • Sport NI may consider alternative interventions if recommended in your club energy audit, and if the benefits of that intervention have been clearly articulated.

If you are ready to apply to the Sport NI Renewable Energy Fund, click here for more details.

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Following the launch of our Social Value Analysis Research Report earlier in the year, Community Finance Ireland’s Chief Executive Donal Traynor discusses the findings, the impact of the multiplier effect for local communities and the importance of finding a common reporting metric across the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector in his latest Leadership Insights blog piece.

During Covid, clients across the VCSE sector saw the demands for their services escalate. While much of the typical services we participated in were closed, the need for elderly care, meals on wheels, mental health services and a vast range of what we term the caring community network were operational and needed social finance to keep those services delivering.

Our need to evaluate the social impact of our clients has always been a question for Community Finance Ireland. How do we measure social impact? How do we measure a feeling? Following the sensational resilience of our client base during and post Covid challenges, we wondered again how might we measure the social impact of what was delivered during that historic period?
Our feeling was that with the “right partners” we might just be able to establish a benchmark multiplier effect demonstrating the ancillary benefits generated to the circular economy, and therefore have the ability to genuinely tell the story of the deep and lasting impact social finance can deliver for community groups. The “right partners” turned out to be Rose Regeneration and Rural Community Network.
The approach involved harvesting a range of data from investees, using the social value engine platform and working with clients who represented local sports clubs, faith groups, social enterprises plus special needs and rescue services, among many others.

Social Return on Investment Report brings lots to smile about (L to R): Conor McGale Rose Regeneration & Donal Traynor CEO Community Finance Ireland

Their collective contributions helped our social enterprise establish a multiplier effect of 3.42 times our initial investment. This is a figure that is reflective of a moment in time, but one that helps us establish a benchmark to understand the real value of social finance in action.
A figure that we hope will give our whole team a target on which to continue building upon.

Over the coming weeks, we will spotlight some of the clients who helped deliver this multiplier effect. Clients such as Walkinstown Greenhills Resource Centre CLG, Sensational Kids, Fort Dunree Military Museum, Carnaross GFC, Hillside Evangelical Church and Made in Mourne, saw immediate benefits in being able to keep their services running, but also helped achieve wider improvements in:

A figure that is reflective of a moment in time, but one that helps us establish a benchmark to understand the real value of social finance in action.

And one that we hope will give our whole team a target on which to continue building upon.

Over the next while, we will spotlight some of the clients who helped deliver this multiplier effect.  Clients such as Walkinstown Greenhills Resource Centre CLG, Sensational Kids, Fort Dunree, Carnaross GFC , Hillside Evangelical Church & Made in Mourne, saw immediate benefits in being able to keep their services running, but also helped achieve wider improvements in:

Local impact can be felt pretty quickly, but the wider benefits to supporting the Sustainable Development Goals, which every community across the world are working towards, are an important part of the local narrative.

Our membership with FEBEA (European Federation of Ethical and Alternatives Banks and Financiers) sees us engage in constructive conversations with wider communities across Spain, Belgium, Greece and further afield in understanding the multiplier effect across all types of social finance initiatives.

The importance of finding a common metric in reporting progress or impact continues to challenge all of us in this community. As we publish this, our first Social Value Report, my hope is to realise the streamlining of a common approach so that we can all collectively understand progress.

Two of our clients who took part in the research project. On the left Sensational Kids and on the right Fort Dunree Military Museum.

Whilst such a common approach may be some time away, here at Community Finance Ireland our team are now committed to investing resources into an annual Social Value Analysis, which will continue to spotlight the real value of social finance.

We are really looking forward to engaging with more clients next year and see what further benefits or improvements Community Finance Ireland can support with its service and offering.

You can read more about the importance of Social Value Analysis and the detail behind our first report here. In the meantime we continue to support and raise awareness of the value of the sector and the changemakers who work within it.

Donal Traynor Sports
Donal Traynor CEO Community Finance Ireland

Donal Traynor Chief Executive,

Community Finance Ireland