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At Community Finance Ireland we take a hands-on approach when it comes to working with our clients. We put people first. When our clients call with a query, they hear a familiar voice at the end of the phone. They know the face who is at the other end of an email. Our Change-Makers are on the ground, supporting communities, meeting clients and making an impact in their regions.

We speak finance but we hear people – So, we thought you might like to get to know them a bit better.

Our first Change-Maker is Emmett O’Hara, Client Executive from Meath. Working with clients like Alone, Irish Association of the Deaf and Dublin Food Co-Op in North Leinster, Emmett is passionate about getting out on the ground and helping our clients make change happen.

Some of Emmett’s clients from L to R: Alone, National Society of the Deaf and Dublin Food Co-Operative

What did your journey to Community Finance Ireland look like?

I came to Community Finance Ireland after 24 years at one of the top finance lending businesses in Ireland where I went direct from school and worked through numerous roles initially in back office support before progressing though to credit risk, and front line commercial banking management roles. In that time I’ve also studied for a BSc in Credit Risk from Dublin Institute of Technology/Technical University Ireland. I hold a QFA and a Professional Diploma in SME Credit from UCD/Institute of Bankers. So, I bring a lot of financial experience to the team and I’m still learning! I’m currently studying for a Diploma in Big Data from Dublin Business School.

What does your current client base look like? Are there sectors you expect to see or want to see growth in?

Our current client base includes a good number of sports clubs, particularly GAA Clubs, but there’s also a mixture of social enterprises, faith-based organisations, organisations in the health sector, environmental organisations and community working hubs.

In terms of how our client base might change or grow in the future – it will all depend on what communities need. We’ll continue to maintain and develop strong relationships with our existing clients across those sectors and keep talking to people in local communities to understand where else we can provide the support they need. We’ll always look to expand our offering in sectors such as the environment and community working hubs which are definitely a key focus from a government and, more generally, a societal perspective given the great changes we’ve seen in the last year or so.

Do you have a client that, in your opinion, best demonstrates the impact Community Finance Ireland can have?

In my opinion, I would have to say Let’s Get Talking a non-profit Counselling & Psychotherapy Service providing accessible, professional, non-set fee therapy across Ireland. Each client of the service is treated according to their needs and not what they can afford to pay. They focus on early intervention, supporting adults and children in relation to a wide range of issues ranging from depression, anxiety, stress, relationship issues, addiction, trauma, bullying, eating disorders, parenting issues, and family breakdown support. 

Let’s Get Talking have seen a 53% increase in demand for access to their services due to the pandemic. Community Finance Ireland has been working with Let’s Get Talking for the last year providing support which has allowed them to increase their weekly appointments to clients nationally and helped them to be proactive in their response to the mental health implications of the pandemic. Our support has meant that Let’s Get Talking remained accessible to clients by providing online counselling & psychotherapy since March 2020.

Let’s Get Talking is now in a stable financial position and ready to move to the next stage of their strategy to further provide mental health services to the community. Community Finance Ireland will be there to support them along that journey whenever they need us.

How do you switch off from work? What are your hobbies and interests? (Do you play with any local clubs? Do you coach any local underage teams? Are you involved with a community group?)

I live with my family within walking distance of Bettystown Beach in County Meath, so a large part of my unwinding time is spent there!

Both of my children are involved with local sports clubs Naomh Colmcille GAA and Donacarney Celtic Football club so a large part of my time when I am not working or studying is spent ferrying them to training or matches.

Now you know a little more about us, we’d like to hear about you.

If you and your team have a dream that could make a difference in your community, we’re here to listen. Whether you want to change something by solving a problem or creating an opportunity, we want to hear what you have to say.

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Tinahely Community Sports Hall, Arklow Gerladine’s Ballymoney GAA Club and Hillside Evangelical Church are just some of the projects that have benefited from Community Finance Ireland’s €30 million investment in communities between 2016 and 2019.

The extent of their investment in communities across Ireland was detailed in the first all-island impact report launched last month. At the launch, Dónal Traynor, Associate Director of Community Finance Ireland spoke about the importance of access to social finance as communities recover from Covid-19.

“With the fallout from the pandemic, we anticipate a reduction in grant funding to the community sector generally, so- in the coming years- social finance will play an increasingly vital role in supporting grassroots community organisations and social enterprises. At the same time, Covid-19 has starkly shown the importance of community solidarity, ‘social capital’ and sustainability within communities.”

Dónal Traynor, Associate Director of Community Finance Ireland

As Ireland’s and the UK’s fastest-growing social finance provider, the organisation works with groups that drive social impact, including sports clubs, social housing organisations, community projects, faith-based groups and social enterprises.

Mr Traynor said:

“We can provide loans ranging from €30,000 up to €500,000 and our finance products are specifically tailored for the community sector. We have waived arrangement fees to make loans as accessible and cost-effective as possible, we have a quick turnaround time for lending decisions, and- given the organisations we lend to are typically run by volunteers- we do not ask for personal guarantees. There has been a default rate of just 0.75% on our loans since 2008, which is low by any standard and particularly when you consider that many of our loans are made available on an unsecured basis. This is in no small part due to the strong relationship which we have developed with communities over time.”

Dónal Traynor, Associate Director of Community Finance Ireland

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Earlier this summer we were accredited as a lender under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

This initiative, created directly to help those impacted by Covid-19, is welcome news for UK based Social Enterprises and Charities (as well as small and medium sized businesses).

As an accredited lender under the British Business Bank’s CBILS scheme, we are delighted that we can continue to support those amongst us, who are working to make a positive impact on society or the environment but are working through the impact of Covid-19 to their ideas or projects.

If you are re-setting or re-collaborating a CBILS loan could be very attractive and timely:

Reduce your cost of funding.
The scheme promises no interest or fees payable in the first year – these costs will be covered by the Government’s Business Interruption Payment.


No need to provide personal guarantees
For a facility up to £250,000.

Here is a Confidence Checklist:

How much can I borrow? 
The range is between £50k -£500k+.  

Do I have to apply to the British Business Bank?
No. Community Finance Ireland and in particular our Associate Director, Phelim Sharvin are on hand locally to handle every aspect with you.  

I’m an existing client, can I apply for CBILS?  

Of course. The fund is for open to all social enterprises or charities if they meet the loan criteria.

How long does the application take?  

If you are fast – we are fast. There is supporting paperwork you need to pull together but once we have that – it can be all in place in a matter of weeks.

Can I repay my CBILS facility early?  
Yes and without any early repayment fees.
Need to chat further?
We speak finance but we hear people. Associate Director, Phelim Sharvin is ready to listen and has already approved CBILS funding to NI clients. Contact him directly on 07803834124

You are eligible to apply if you answer yes to any of these short criteria:  
Your business has been adversely impacted by Covid -19
 Your CBILS-backed facility will be used primarily to support trading in the UK.  
 You are able to confirm that your business generates more than 50% of its turnover from trading activity e.g. Sports clubs may include some fundraising, event income and gate receipts (registered charities are exempt).  
 You are a UK-based small or medium sized enterprise with an annual turnover of up to £45 million per year.  
 Please note: The following are not eligible under CBILS:
• banks, insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers),
• public sector bodies,
• state funded primary and secondary schools.

The borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. British Business Bank plc is a development bank wholly owned by HM Government. It is not authorised or regulated by the PRA or the FCA. Visit british-business-bank.co.uk.

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A makeover for the annual ‘Willie Clancy Festival’ in Clare, an upgrade for Ballinasloe Town Hall Theatre, and new equipment for the Dublin Cliffhangers Climbing Club in Finglas are just some of the projects that have benefited from Community Finance Ireland’s €30 million investment in communities between 2016 and 2019.

As Ireland’s and the UK’s fastest-growing social finance provider, the organisation works with groups that drive social impact, including sports clubs, social housing organisations, community projects, faith-based groups, and social enterprises.

The extent of their investment in communities across Ireland was detailed in the first all-island impact report launched today (02.07.2020). Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland has loaned €8.6m to clients in Leinster, €3.5m to clients in Munster, €1.8m to clients in Connacht, and €16.3m to clients in Ulster.

Dónal Traynor, Associate Director of Community Finance Ireland, said:

“We can provide loans ranging from €30,000 up to €500,000, and our finance products are specifically tailored for the community sector. We have waived arrangement fees to make loans as accessible and cost-effective as possible, we have a quick turnaround time for lending decisions, and – given the organisations we lend to are typically run by volunteers – we do not ask for personal guarantees.

There has been a default rate of just 0.75% on our loans since 2008, which is low by any standard and particularly when you consider that many of our loans are made available on an unsecured basis. This is in no small part due to the strong relationship which we have developed with communities over time.”

Donal Traynor, Associate Director Community Finance Ireland

Panel Discussion
Following the launch of their all island Impact Report, Community Finance Ireland hosted an online panel discussion on sustaining communities across the island beyond Covid-19. The panel was chaired by broadcaster and journalist Dil Wickremasinghe. Dil was joined by Tipperary hurler Noel McGrath, CEO of ARC Healthy Centre Julie Irvine, as well as Associate Directors of Community Finance Ireland Dónal Traynor and Phelim Sharvin.

Mr Traynor said:

“Access to social finance will be more important than ever before as communities recover from Covid-19. With the fallout from the pandemic, we anticipate a reduction in grant funding to the community sector generally, so – in the coming years – social finance will play an increasingly vital role in supporting grassroots community organisations and social enterprises.

At the same time, Covid-19 has starkly shown the importance of community solidarity, ‘social capital’ and sustainability within communities.”

Donal Traynor, Associate Director Community Finance Ireland

Official Rebrand
Community Finance Ireland was established in 2007 as part of an expansion into the Republic of Ireland by the Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) Group. UCIT was established in Belfast in 1995 in response to decreasing grant support from government and the difficulties experienced by community organisations in accessing commercial loan facilities.

Under a rebranding initiative announced today (02.07.2020), the social finance group will be known as Community Finance Ireland in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The organisation unveiled a new logo, website, client videos and a new podcast series as part of the rebrand.

Community Finance Ireland Chief Executive Harry McDaid said:

“While the organisation’s trading name is changing in Northern Ireland, our collective purpose remains the same – to support people changing their communities for the better across the island. The response to Covid-19 has highlighted a public desire for greater collaboration and cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This first all-island annual report and our brand reflects a renewed focus for the organisation operating on an all-island basis.”

Harry McDaid, CEO Community Finance Ireland

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A leading social finance provider has recorded its highest ever level of funding for the community, voluntary and social enterprise sector in Northern Ireland, a report launched today has revealed.

The annual social impact report from Community Finance Ireland (formerly UCIT) reported loans for community organisations in Ulster to the value of £14.2m from 2016-2019.

The all-island report, a first for Community Finance Ireland, revealed that a total of £26m had been loaned across Ireland in the last four years, with more than half of all customers (54%) based in Ulster.

As Ireland’s fastest-growing social finance provider, the organisation works with groups that drive social impact, including sports clubs, social housing organisations, community projects, faith-based groups and social enterprises. Phelim Sharvin, Associate Director, Community Finance Ireland said:

“We can provide loans ranging from £10,000 up to £500,000 but an average loan request is typically £100,000. In our 20-year history, first as UCIT and now as Community Finance Ireland, we have helped more than 500 organisations across Northern Ireland, spanning the arts and culture, hospitality, faith and sports sectors. We have seen first-hand the force for good behind these organisations and the positive change they make to the communities or end users they serve. We’re only too glad to support these extraordinary change-makers in their ambitions to enable change in our society.”

Phelim Sharvin, Associate Director Community Finance Ireland

The Community Finance Ireland report has been published to coincide with a rebranding initiative which will see the social finance provider transition to be known as Community Finance Ireland in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The organisation unveiled a new logo, website, client videos and a podcast as part of the rebrand.

Community Finance Ireland Chief Executive Harry McDaid said:

“While the organisation’s trading name is changing in Northern Ireland, our collective purpose remains the same – to support people changing their communities for the better across the island. The response to Covid-19 has highlighted a public desire for greater collaboration and cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This first all-island annual report and our brand reflects a renewed focus for the organisation operating on an all-island basis and signifies a new era for the organisation.”

Harry McDaid, CEO Community Finance Ireland

Ulster Community Finance Ltd (another group company) has since 2013, managed two Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Funds on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland with the latest contract awarded in 2018. The loan level is up to £100,000, which means the new Fund has the potential to lend over £9 million to local SMEs, helping them to optimise their potential through investment. To date, approximately £10m has been disbursed to SMEs in Northern Ireland.

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Community Finance Ireland, the fastest-growing social finance provider across Ireland and the UK, has welcomed the announcement today by the Social Finance Foundation of new funding initiatives targeted at community organisations and social enterprises.

The Social Finance Foundation (SFF) is an independent organisation established by government in 2007. It provides loan funding to social organisations through lending partners including Community Finance Ireland.

Today, SFF announced that:

  1. Facilitated by Banking and Payments Federation Ireland, the Irish banks (AIB/EBS, Bank of Ireland, permanent tsb and Ulster Bank) will make available an additional €44 million in low-cost funding to SFF over the period 2021 to 2025; and
  2. The European Investment Fund has agreed to provide loan guarantees totalling €25 million to support new lending by the Foundation.

Access to capital “at a time when it is really needed”
Welcoming the announcement, Dónal Traynor, Associate Director of Community Finance Ireland, said:

“These measures confirm access to capital for the community and social enterprise market for at least another five years, at a time when it is really needed.

“With the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, we anticipate a reduction in grant funding to the community sector generally, so – in the coming years – social finance will play an increasingly vital role in supporting community organisations and social enterprises. At the same time, Covid-19 has starkly shown the importance of community solidarity, ‘social capital’ and sustainability within communities. The SFF measures announced today will help us continue our support to grassroots communities groups and, in turn, will help groups provide essential services in their local areas.

“We have been proud partners of SFF since our accreditation with them as a Social Lending Organisation in 2008. Right across the island of Ireland, Community Finance Ireland works with groups that drive social impact, including sports clubs, social housing organisations, community projects, faith-based groups, and social enterprises.

“We can provide loans ranging from €30,000 to €500,000, and our finance products are specifically tailored for the community sector. We have waived arrangement fees to make loans as accessible and cost-effective as possible, we have a quick turnaround time for lending decisions, and – given the organisations we lend to are typically run by volunteers – we do not ask for personal guarantees.

“Since the start of 2020, Community Finance Ireland has already approved loans of €3,900,000, supporting community organisations to acquire new premises and equipment, restructure current debt, and bridge financial gaps caused by delayed grants or other postponed income. The new SFF initiatives announced today will ensure we can continue this important work well into future years.”

Donal Traynor, Associate Director of Community Finance Ireland

Credibility of social finance sector
Mr. Traynor said the SFF initiatives – and the support for them from industry groups – demonstrate the credibility of the social finance sector, and will open up funding opportunities to a wider range of community groups.

“This commitment from Banking and Payments Federation Ireland is a testament to the credibility of the social finance sector, and to the strong performance of our diverse loan portfolio over the past 12 years.”

He added:

“There has been a default rate of just 0.25% on our loans since 2008, which is low by any standard and particularly when you consider that the majority of our loans are made available on an unsecured basis. This is in no small part due to the strong relationship which we have developed with communities over time.

“Meanwhile, the loan guarantee from the European Investment Fund will allow Community Finance Ireland to consider those deals where, previously, social finance could not provide the funding due to the level of risk involved, and potentially where the absence of realisable security may have been the difference in making funds available.

“At a time when communities across Ireland have been sorely tested and when many community groups are feeling the strain, today’s SFF announcement is good and welcome news for our sector.”

Donal Traynor, Associate Director Community Finance Ireland

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We are doing everything possible to support community organisations in coming to terms with the unprecedented challenges now faced by all.

We want to assure you, that we are behind you and will help and support in any way we can. 

To all our clients:

  • Your local client executive continues to be available to you.
  • Flexibility and Fairness is our customer experience. This remains. Our team are working remotely, in line with public policy. 
  • Collaboration with our capital providers continues and we are working, with them, right across the island of Ireland, in the best interests of the sector.

To the Sector in general:

  • We have always understood the importance of collaboration.
  • We remain open to listening to you and your ideas.
  • We remain committed to supporting communities and those who need our assistance.

Please ensure you keep yourself updated with the relevant expertise.

Northern Ireland www.health-ni.gov.uk/

Republic of Ireland www2.hse.ie/coronavirus

Wash your hands. Practice Social Distancing. Stay Safe.

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The European Federation of Ethical and Alternative Banks and Financiers (FEBEA) held a board meeting for the first time on the island of Ireland. The federation, which represents 28 European social finance institutions with assets totaling €30bn, was invited by Community Finance Ireland (formerly UCIT), its only UK and Irish member.

In addition to learning more about Community Finance Ireland’s business model the FEBEA Board also visited a customer who received Community Finance Ireland (formerly UCIT) funding to support projects including the Enler Complex in Ballybeen and Bryson Street Surgery.

FEBEA Chairman, Pedro Manuel Sasia Santos, said: 

“Northern Ireland has a vibrant social enterprise sector and UCIT has an exceptionally strong community focus in areas such as sport and faith-based initiatives which many of our members are interested in replicating.”

Pedro Manuel Sasia Santos, FEBEA Chairman

Pictured with Mr Santos are Wlodzimierz Grudzinski, FEBEA’s Vice Chairman and Harry McDaid, UCIT Group’s Chief Executive.

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Community Finance Ireland were awarded the coveted All-Ireland Business All-Star accreditation at an event held in Croke Park earlier this month.

Pictured is Donal Traynor Associate Director Community Finance Ireland with Kapil Khann Managing Director All Ireland Business Foundation.

This is an independently verified standard mark for indigenous businesses, based on rigorous selection criteria.

The accreditation, overseen by the prestigious All-Ireland Business Foundation, whose adjudication panel is chaired by Dr Briga Hynes of the Kemmy Business School at the University of Limerick and Kieran Ring, CEO of the Global Institute of Logistics.

Dr Hynes said the accreditation, now held by over 350 firms, is needed by the thousands of small and medium businesses, which operate to their own standards, but have nothing to measure them by. “We evaluate a company’s background, trustworthiness and performance, and we speak to customers, employees and vendors,” she said.

“We also anonymously approach the company as a customer and report back on the experience.The business goes through at least two interviews and is scored on every part of the process against set metrics.”

Dr Briga Hynes, Kemmy Business School (University of Limerick)

The All-Ireland Business Foundation is responsible for overseeing the All-Ireland Business Summit and All-Star awards, ongoing All-Star accreditation, Thought Leader awards and promoting peer dialogue among members.

Donal Traynor on receiving the award says:

“We are a people business. We are delighted that this recognition offers us a platform to reach more people and to continue to raise awareness of Community Finance Ireland. Thank you to the foundation for welcoming us to this professional group”.

Donal Traynor, Associate Director of Community Finance Ireland

For more information check out Community Finance Ireland’s profile on the Business All Star Awards website.

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A unique social enterprise in Derry is offering art and wellbeing programmes for people with severe physical, sensory and learning disabilities in order to enable them to develop holistically and to provide them with essential job skills. Each week over 200 people are benefitting from daycare and multisensory programmes at Artspace.
 

Artspace opened in April 2012 and has now received a £30,000 loan from our Building Better Futures Fund. The additional funding has allowed Artspace to redevelop new facilities in Campsie industrial estate.
 

The £1m Building Better Futures fund was launched in 2017 and is a unique collaboration between Community Finance Ireland (formerly UCIT), Belfast Charitable Society, and Building Change Trust. The fund, which provides support in the way of a loan, is aimed at community-based groups seeking to make a positive difference to society across Northern Ireland.


Artspace currently provides employment for 13 staff. Martina Bell is the founder and Managing Director of the business. Following 20 years working in mental health care, Martina took voluntary redundancy in 2011 and established the social enterprise to help support the local community.

Martina said:

“Our art and wellbeing programmes stimulate and develop participant’s self-esteem. Participants learn to engage with other people and build job skills that could help them secure future employment.  Each person gets a tailored programme and we’ve partnered with the Northern Regional College to offer yoga and IT skill classes.   

“We recently moved to a 20,000 sq. ft. premises and the Building Better Futures Fund has allowed us to further develop our facility so that we can cater for a greater number of people. Our goal is to have the largest multisensory room on the island of Ireland. We also want to create an immersive suite and install a gym facility.”

Martina Bell, Managing Director Artspace

Damian McAteer, Vice Chair of Community Finance Ireland (formerly UCIT) said:

“Artspace is a unique social enterprise that is providing an essential service to the local community. At a time when budget cuts to our health service are well-documented, Martina has identified a growing need for additional support to people who are being excluded from day opportunities as a result of their disability.

“This new facility will ensure Artspace has the resources necessary to continue its upward growth and we’re delighted to support an organisation that demonstrates such a clear positive social impact.” 

Damian McAteer, Vice Chair Community Finance Ireland
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