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A new piece of research entitled Valuing Our Sector has found that the Third Sector’s value to the local Northern Ireland economy is estimated at a staggering £2.4 billion.

The report carried out by research specialists MV Advocate on behalf of the Chief Executives of the Third Sector (CO3) and supported by Community Finance Ireland, Marsh and Ecclesiastical was made public at the CO3 Annual Leadership Conference on 29th September 2022.

The event allowed the sector to gather collectively for the first time in three years, the first since before the Covid 19 Pandemic. The successful gathering saw those committed to the continued success of the Third Sector engage with difficult subject matter including mitigating financial uncertainty, navigating uncertain funding terrain and how to lobby government in the interests of the sector.

Consensus on the day was that the Third Sector in particular is resilient, that we have collaborated during tough times in the past and in doing so has allowed us to persevere and come out the other end stronger than before.

Despite tough times the new report has shown that 78% of organisations saw an increase in their service demand during and after the Covid Pandemic, showing just how integral the Third Sector is to the wider well-being of Northern Irish society.

As Valerie McConville, CEO of CO3 put it:

“It’s clear that the Third Sector is creating jobs and that this community is indeed a group of change-makers who are health and wellbeing advocates, shock absorbers who support in tough times.”

The conversation about the value of our sector has always been one for us and our team but this new report continues to promote the importance of the Third Sector and the ambition of those working in it.”

Valerie McConville, CEO of CO3

Community Finance Ireland’s Head of Community Finance for Northern Ireland Phelim Sharvin facilitated a panel discussion and workshop around accessing Social Finance at the event. He remarked that:

“As the head of the Northern Ireland business, I am delighted to have been approached to support and fund this new benchmarking survey.”

Phelim Sharvin, Head of Community Finance (NI), Community Finance Ireland

If you would like to learn more about the report and its findings these are available for a small fee on the CO3 Website.

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Social Finance: is Not another Grant and the awareness of how social finance and grants differ is becoming increasingly important as the Not for Profit sector looks towards sustainability and ongoing success. Our Group CEO Donal Traynor shares his thoughts on this topic in the latest piece from our Leadership Insights Blog Series.

Continue reading “Social Finance is Not another Grant”

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The ambition of all within the Social Economy is to encourage sustainability and reduce levels of dependency, where possible, on the uncontrollable, whatever guise it might take.

The Community Voluntary & Social Enterprise (CVSE) sector owes a great deal to the availability of charitable support, as well as start-up and development grants from various quarters. Much of the Community & Voluntary subset will no doubt always be reliant on continued grant support to maintain the level of service provision. But what of the rest of the sector involved in growing the earned income side of their Social Enterprise?

Social Enterprise will usually need debt finance at some point, to draw down retrospective grant support, for capital acquisition, development, refinance personal debt, or manage existing unsustainable borrowings where immediate demands on repayment are a real threat.

The volunteer led ethos implies to the conventional debt system that there exists at least a reduced, if not total, absence of financial vested interest in the project.

The absence of collateral of any marketable value, often requires volunteers to sign personal guarantees in order to access this debt. A community manager pledging their home as security on a loan has been as bad as I have seen. That the voluntary board allowed the situation to arise is a whole other matter.

Social Finance is the incubator for the community sector on the road to achieving experience in borrowing, developing a credit score, but on terms and conditions appropriate to that market. It does not request personal guarantees off volunteers (or staff!). It normally does not charge arrangement fees. Its priorities are simple.

Presently in Ireland (2022), social finance up to a general limit of €500k is available to the CVSE sector absent arrangement fees and personal guarantees, yet recent survey findings would suggest that much of the sector remains unaware of the support, with over 50% financed by the conventional banking instruments such as overdrafts and secured borrowings.

IRD Kiltimagh in Co. Mayo are clients who understand the benefits of refinancing and are thriving as a result.