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Essential funds will be made available to capital projects in communities across Northern Ireland thanks to a brand new £13m loan fund managed by Community Finance Ireland (CFI).

The unique Financial Transactions Capital (FTC) fund, made available by the Department for Communities, will be used to address social need through targeted funding to help communities meet objectives set out in the draft Programme for Government.

North Belfast based Crusaders Football Club is the first recipient of the loan fund for the installation of a 3G pitch at its Loughshore Road Grounds for use by its women’s and youth teams.

Donal Traynor, Group Chief Executive of Community Finance Ireland (CFI), welcomed the new tranche of funding. At a visit to Crusaders Football Club, he said: “This new programme offers the most substantial capital intervention to the social finance space in Northern Ireland, ever.

Pictured at the launch of the brand new £13m loan fund managed by Community Finance Ireland (CFI) and made available by Department for Communities for capital projects in communities across Northern Ireland, were Phelim Sharvin (Community Finance Ireland), Mark Langhammer (Crusaders FC), Sue O’Neill (Crusaders FC), DfC Minister Gordon Lyons, Donal Traynor (Community Finance Ireland), Tommy Whiteside (Crusaders FC). North Belfast based Crusaders Football Club is the first recipient of the loan fund for the installation of a 3G pitch at its Loughshore Road Grounds for use by its women’s and youth teams.

“As the most progressive community lender with over 20 years of history working with local communities in Northern Ireland, our team are ready to speak to community and social enterprise projects seeking financial support, and to channel the distribution and management of this capital.

“Loans of £10,000-£500,000 will be available for terms of up to 15 years, with no penalties for early repayment. Where community projects demonstrate a need for a larger loan amount, we can consider making match funding available.

“CFI has a current social value return of £3.42 to every £1 invested, meaning that we can help organisations to create significant positive change in their communities that far exceeds the face value of the loan. It’s an exciting opportunity for communities and we look forward to seeing the impact from projects like the new 3G pitch at Crusaders Football Club.”

Minister for Communities, Gordon Lyons said the scheme would provide targeted funding to the VCSE sector: 

“The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector is hugely important for our local economy, providing much needed employment opportunities as well as vital community support. It is great to visit Crusaders FC to see their plans for a new training base for their ladies and youth teams and meet some of the people who will benefit from the investment. As the Minister for Sport, I’m pleased to see projects which will increase participation in sport, encouraging people to be more active, more often.”

“The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector is hugely important for our local economy, providing much needed employment opportunities as well as vital community support. It is great to visit Crusaders FC to see their plans for a new training base for their ladies and youth teams and meet some of the people who will benefit from the investment. As the Minister for Sport, I’m pleased to see projects which will increase participation in sport, encouraging people to be more active, more often.”

Minister Lyons added:

“This scheme goes beyond the benefits these bricks and mortar projects will deliver. It also increases accessibility to facilities and builds community confidence, offering sports, cultural and social enterprises access to sustainable funding.”

Funding streams like this one can offer the VCSE sector a financial lifeline at a time when organisations are facing challenging budgetary conditions.”

Mark Langhammer, Crusaders FC Vice Chair said: “Crusaders Football Club are delighted to work with Community Finance Ireland in developing training facilities that will particularly benefit the female and junior sections of our club and surrounding area. The close relationship, added value and flexible nature of the finance provided by Community Finance Ireland best allows us to deliver on our plans and make modern football facilities available to everyone.”

The £13 million investment will be made by the Department for Communities in three tranches to 2025/26. £4.333m has already been released to the scheme and loans totalling £576k have recently been made available to three projects.

Community Finance Ireland will apply their existing business model to prioritise projects for investment and manage repayments; the investment will be repaid to the Department for Communities over 15 years from drawdown.

ENDS

Donal Traynor is available for interview via Alice Public Relations.
Contact: Julie Sherlock, Alice Public Relations, Tel: +447834 776519 Email:
media@alicepr.com

Link to DfC webpage

About Community Finance Ireland
Community Finance Ireland delivers social finance solutions that support local communities and drive social impact through sports, community projects, faith-based groups, and social enterprises. It is the most progressive social finance/community loans provider across the island and delivers a social return on investment that creates a multiplier effect of 3.42 times the initial investment.

Community Finance Ireland is part of the Ulster Community Investment Trust Group, established in Belfast in 1995 and now supports a diverse portfolio of clients across the island of Ireland from Bantry to Ballymoney, and from Dublin to Donegal.

Community Finance Ireland was recently awarded The Social Enterprise Mark- an independently assessed accreditation that recognises organisations operating as social enterprises. This means that they are using business to create social and environmental impact, and are committed to reinvesting their profits back into their mission.

Currently, Community Finance Ireland is the only Irish and UK member of FEBEA, the European Federation of Ethical and Alternative Banks.

For further information, visit www.communityfinanceireland.com or @ComFinanceIrl.

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📢 Attention All Local Communities! 📢

Almost €9 million in funding is now available under the 2024 CLÁR (Ceantair Laga Árd-Riachtanais) programme. This funding is specifically aimed at supporting community and sports facilities nationwide, particularly in areas that have faced significant population decline.

Here is the breakdown of what’s available:

  • Measure 1: Grants ranging from €5,000 to €50,000 for community and sports facilities, youth clubs, playgrounds, sensory gardens, walking tracks, and more.
  • Measure 2: Support for voluntary groups providing free transport for cancer care, Community First Response Support, Search and Rescue organizations, and this year, meals on wheels services. Maximum grants of €50,000 for a car and €100,000 for a bus.
  • Measure 3: Aimed at supporting offshore island communities, with maximum grants of €120,000 for community transport projects and up to €50,000 for amenities projects.

CLÁR Programme 2024

At Community Finance Ireland, we understand that if your grant is approved you may need additional support in the form of accessing your grant via bridging finance. And this stage is often needed swiftly.

That’s why our local relationship managers are here to support you at that key stage in the overall process. Whether you are in one of Ireland’s most remote areas or not we’re dedicated to helping you drawdown that much needed grant award.

If you are interested in accessing CLÁR 2024 funding and need assistance on the drawdown of an approved grant, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our team is committed to working with you make the most of a successful application.

Get in touch with Community Finance Ireland’s seasoned navigators who are here to help you access Bridging Finance.

More info from the department visit their website.

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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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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 delivers €1.4 million of support in Louth since 2016 –

“This is a much-needed space that young people in Carlingford have asked for and which they can make their own while also feeling feel safe and supported.” That is according to the team at Carlingford Community Development Ltd (CCDL) who recently opened a new Youth Hub and Café in the Foy Centre, which was supported by a bridging loan from Community Finance Ireland (CFI). 

Established in 2002, the CCDL manages the Foy Community Centre, a multi-purpose community space, at Dundalk Street, Carlingford. Through consultations with young people in the local community, CCDL took action to address a rise in anti-social behaviour in the local community, by converting an existing vacant café within the Foy Centre into a dedicated Youth Hub.

Erin Finegan joined the CCDL in 2020 as a Youth Volunteer, working to improve community initiatives for young people in the area.  She said:

“The Carlingford Community Development team has been at the heart of Carlingford’s community sector for twenty years and we’re delighted to create a dedicated space for young people here in the Foy Centre. We’ve run some really successful initiatives with young people in the area over the past year and the feedback they shared was that they needed a space of their own to meet and socialise and feel connected. We knew we could make that possible for them with the right financial support.

On foot of Louth Leader Grant Aid we approached Community Finance Ireland and they could not have been more straight-forward and the team were so easy to work with. Once the paperwork was submitted, we could access the funds within 2-3 weeks which meant we could get started with work on the café straight away.”

Community Finance Ireland Carlingford Community Centre
Photographed at The Carlingford Community Development Centre, Co. Louth are (L to R): Colm Prendergast Client Executive (CFI), David Savage Chairperson and Mrs Erin Finegan Youth Volunteer.

Community Finance Ireland provides social finance loans to community and volunteer-led organisations that drive social impact through sport, community projects, faith-based groups, and social enterprises. Operating a model similar to traditional credit unions, all loan repayments go toward supporting other communities across Ireland. To support CCDL’s refurbishments, Community Finance Ireland provided a bridging loan of €20,400.

Colm Prendergast, CFI Client Relationship Executive for North Leinster said:

“It has been a pleasure to work with the CCDL team and we’re delighted to see how the newly established Youth Café has transformed the local community’s relationship with its young people. The café has already hosted several different initiatives including a Women’s Aid outreach programme and English lessons for Ukrainian refugees. In the evening time, the café is a safe space for local young people to meet and socialise while being supervised and supported.

Supporting Communities in Louth

Between 2016 and 2022, Community Finance Ireland delivered €16.2 million in social finance supports to volunteer and community-led organisations in Leinster, including €1.39 million in support of projects in Louth.

Based on a Social Value analysis undertaken by the Rural Community Network in Northern Ireland, CFI has established that 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.

A total of €33.5m million has been allocated to organisation and sports clubs organisations across Ireland between 2016 and 2022.

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.

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– Community Finance Ireland delivers €7 million of support in Munster region since 2016-

A new community garden and café will open its doors at Killaloe Ballina Community and Family Resource Centre following major renovations. The renovations have been completed in time for the centre to celebrate its 20th anniversary in early July, thanks to support from Community Finance Ireland (CFI).

Well established in the local community since its foundation in 2003, the Family Resource Centre moved into the former Garda Barracks on The Green in 2017.

With the support of Community Finance Ireland, refurbishments were undertaken to make the building fully accessible; to upgrade toilet facilities; repurpose outbuildings; and to landscape the rear of the building into a community garden. The outbuildings now accommodate a training kitchen and café which will be open to the public in Autumn 2023.

Providing training and education, information services and tailored supports for young people, elderly people, parents, refugees and those with disabilities, the Family Resource Centre also offers rooms for hire to local community organistions, including the newly established training kitchen.

Kees Duson, Manager of Killaloe Ballina Family Resource Centre, said:

“When we first opened our doors in 2003, we were based in a small residential apartment, which we outgrew very quickly. We spent the next decade located in a commercial premises on Main Street in Killaloe, which, while it gave us fantastic footfall and helped many people in the community to discover our services and supports, the steep hill meant it was difficult for older people in our community and for those with mobility issues to access.

When we agreed a long-term lease with the Office of Public Works for this building, we knew we’d found a home for the community that was full of potential. This is a very old building and it had been empty for four or five years before we took it over so it needed a lot of work to address wear and tear and damp and bring it up to standard on accessibility and energy ratings. There weren’t many options for community groups seeking funding around that time so we were delighted to discover Community Finance Ireland’s tailored supports for volunteer and community-led organisations. It was exactly what we were looking for.”

Killaloe Ballina FRC Community Finance Ireland Community Loans
Pictured at Killaloe Ballina Family Resource Centre’s new premises in Co. Clare: Gillian Costelloe, Chairperson; Bróna Moriarty; Nora Keogh, Client Relationship Manager for Munster at Community Finance Ireland; Linda Stainsby; Marie Moroney and Kees Duson, Killaloe Ballina FRC Manager.

Nora Keogh, CFI Client Relationship Manager for the Munster Region, said:

“We’re delighted to have played our part in supporting the Killaloe Ballina Community and Family Resource Centre through these works and to have helped make this renovation possible. The team approached us with a dream of what could be made possible with this fantastic building which would provide an accessible and welcoming space for so many individuals and groups in the community, delivering a broad range of activities, courses and events including art and crafts, computer classes and cookery programmes for all ages and abilities, youth services including a youth cafe, to name a few- and now with the expanded rooms, the new training kitchen, community cafe and garden space, all of that has been made possible. I have no doubt that for their next 20 years, this team of change-makers will be dreaming even bigger for the local community.”

Community Finance Ireland provided Killaloe Ballina Community and Family Resource Centre with a long-term loan of €218,000 to undertake the repairs and renovations required on the buildings. Further funding was provided by the Town and Village Renewal Scheme from the Department of Rural and Community Development via Clare County Council, and LEADER funding from both North Tipperary Development Company & Clare Local Development Company.

Between 2016 and 2021, Community Finance Ireland delivered €7 million in social finance supports to volunteer and community-led organisations in Munster, including €1.7 million in support of projects in Clare, and €1 million in support of projects in Tipperary.

If your community group is  looking for finance, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter.  

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– Community Finance Ireland delivers €3.8million in support of local sports clubs –

The oldest skiff-rowing club in Dublin will be launching their traditional skiffs from a modern new pontoon at the mouth of the River Liffey thanks to support from Community Finance Ireland (CFI).

Founded in 1936, St Patrick’s Rowing Club in Ringsend has taken the All-Ireland Senior Skiff Race title 16 times in the last 20 years and has secured gold in international competitions in London and Italy. The club now boasts a membership of 100 people, aged from 9 to 90.

Treasurer at St. Patrick’s Rowing Club, David Cox said that the new infrastructure will enable the club to streamline their activities – getting their heavy training boats on the water with less manpower – and crucially make their boats fully accessible for wheelchair users. He said:

“Skiff racing originates from hobbling – a competitive business which saw working boats race to approaching ships to pilot them into port and win the contract of unloading and loading their cargo.. When this practice was outlawed in 1936, clubs began to appear all along the Dublin coastline and beyond, with our own club here in Ringsend being the first. So much of our community is steeped in this rich history but we also want to give our members the best, most advanced infrastructure that we can and importantly, to make it accessible to everyone in the community. This new pontoon means we can get everyone out on the water to enjoy this fantastic sport.”

Traditional skiff boats are 25 feet long, housing four rowers and a cox.

Pictured at St Patrick’s Rowing Club’s Ringsend base in Dublin City are the club’s youth members

Visiting the new pontoon, Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance Ireland ROI, said:

“Watching the team here at St Patrick’s Rowing Club working together – it really is all hands on deck to move these skiffs down the water but with this new pontoon you can see how much easier that task is for them. It’s taking the strain off the existing members, getting them out on the water quicker, where they want to be and crucially, it’s opening up the sport to a even more people by making the boats more accessible.

“After recent open days, St Patrick’s have welcomed over 60 new members in the last few weeks. The team here – David, Phil, Irene and Richie – have all been involved since childhood and they’re passing their love of the sport on to the next generation. There’s a rich history here in Ringsend and there’s no doubt of the club’s future either.”

Community Finance Ireland provide tailored social finance supports to grassroots and community organisations across Ireland. In 2022, the team delivered over €3.8million in social finance loans to sports clubs such as St Patrick’s Rowing Club which accessed a bridging loan of €40,000 to undertake the planned developments.

This bridging enabled St Patrick’s to unlock two approved grants, from the Sports Capital Grant and from Dublin Waste to Energy Community Gain Projects Grant Scheme.

If you and your sports club need advice on funding options available to you, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter for the latest Community Finance Ireland news.

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