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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.


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

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 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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– £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.