Click here to view our all island annual report 2020 View Now

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The Northern Ireland Executive and the Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey MLA have provided COVID recovery funding for charities and social enterprises and a range of other not-for-profit organisations.

Community Finance Ireland will deliver the COVID Recovery Programme for Charities & Social Enterprises with the aim of reducing or removing operating deficits in eligible organisations which have arisen in the 2021/22 financial year because of the COVID pandemic.

The COVID Recovery Programme for Charities & Social Enterprises will support eligible organisations which have been negatively affected by the pandemic in the financial year 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022; and which have a financial operating deficit during that period which is attributable to COVID.

All the details that you will need are here to help you and your team get ready for the 5 January 2022 live application date.


How to Apply

  • All applications must be made through the online form accessed through the ‘APPLY HERE’ Button below (available from opening date 5 January 2022).
  • Supporting documents requested in the checklist below, must be supplied as an upload in the relevant section of the online application form.
  • Respondents don’t have to complete an application in one sitting. They can start to fill one in, close it, and then return later and their answers will still be there. However, you should ensure that you remain on the same browser and device (and not in Incognito or Private browsing mode). Your answers will be kept safely in your browser’s local storage, for 15 days. When you open the application again, you’ll be taken to the start of the form, but will see your existing answers from your last visit. You can edit those answers and fill out the rest of the questions before submitting.

Checklist of Supporting Documents

To help you prepare in advance, you have here a checklist of documents you will need when submitting your application:-

  • Completed Financial Overview Template (included in Readiness Pack below)
  • Governing Documents (e.g. Constitution and/or Memorandum and Articles of Association)
  • Copy photo ID & Proof of Address for two Trustees/Directors and Key Contact (please see document list in guidance notes)
  • Bank statement – This must be the account you want the grant paid into (Ensure that you have uploaded a copy bank statement clearly showing applicant name, bank name, bank address, bank account number and bank sort code.)
  • Management accounts for April 2021 to September 2021
  • Financial Projections for October 2021 to March 2022
  • Reserves Policy Statement
  • Annual Accounts (Year end 2019 & Year end 2020)

All of these elements will need to form part of your completed application to be submitted between the 5 January and the closing date of 28 January 2022.


Covid Recovery Programme Readiness Pack


Further Help is on Hand

For Charities

NICVA will provide on-going independent advice for charities from today right through until the closing date of 28 January 2022.  This is either by phoning NICVA on 028 9087 7777 or by requesting a call back on the NICVA website.

In addition, NICVA are also hosting an information webinars on Monday 10 January 2-3pm (Session 1) and Wednesday 12 January 12noon-1pm (session 2), be sure to book a place here: Session 1 or Session 2

For Social Enterprises

Social Enterprise NI will provide on-going independent advice for social enterprises from today right through until the closing date of 28 January 2022.  This is either by phoning Social Enterprise NI on 028 9046 1810 or by requesting a call back by email: info@socialenterpriseni.org.

In addition, Social Enterprise NI are also hosting an information webinar on Tuesday 11 January 12noon-1pm, be sure to book a place here: DfC Covid Recovery Fund Social Enterprise NI Advice Hub

Covid Recovery Programme DfC Charities Social Enterprises

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Our all island team are very aware that every small step can help the enormous challenges that climate change and sustainable choices can make to our everyday lives and the planet at large.

We moved “house” in 2021 and had almost 15 years of paperwork stored in boxes that needed to find a home too. Step up Shred Bank, who shredded those old files, helped recycle it and helped us save five trees.

Our client Western Forestry Co- Operative, based in Sligo town have often told us that “trees are the lungs of the earth” and their passionate CEO Marina Conway is a key change-maker herself in the preservation and love of trees.

Marina featured in one of our first Change-maker podcasts and you can hear her views on sustainable forestry here:

Social Impact is in all our hands.

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This time last year we all had hopes that the Pandemic would be done and dusted. We are all aware this didn’t happen and, as we close off another year we will continue to live with its effects for a while yet.

Whilst we acknowledge Covid continued to affect us during the past 12 months, we can confidently say that we supported both our clients and key stakeholders to achieve progress and ensured that, whilst we were often asked to stay apart, we came together in ways that helped our clients deliver health, happiness and hope.

  • We took the opportunity to grow our local footprint and welcomed new team members Emmett, Anne, Pauline, Nora, Nick, Stephanie and Jack.
  • In Belfast our new head office was finally able to open its doors and support our new norm that is a hybrid working model.
  • We helped deploy £7.1m to 354 charities on behalf of Department for Communities via the Covid- 19 Charities Grant Fund.
  • We collaborated with Conor McGale at Rural Community Network and Larry O’Neill CEO Dublin South Co Partnership on the launch of our All Island Recovery Loan
  • We collaborated with Joanne O ‘Riordan of The Irish Times, Brendan Boyce Olympian Athlete and Patsy McGonigle of Finn Valley AC on the launch of our All Island Sports Fund
  • We continued to work with key stakeholders such as Invest NI, Enterprise NI and Department for Communities in Northern Ireland, as well as Social Finance Foundation, Rethink Ireland and DCU in the Republic.
  • We listened to and worked with 91 enquiries.
  • We welcomed an additional 62% increase in followers across our social media channels

All of the above are indications that despite hurdles the sector continues to seek support, insights and social finance.

Donal Traynor, Group Chief Executive, said the following:

“Whilst the Pandemic continues to challenge all communities we have seen greater solidarity across the whole island of Ireland. Clients are responding with innovative fundraising initiatives as-well as migrating to an online service (an investment we ourselves undertook in 2020) to help make the provision of services easier and sustainable.

The sector itself is not immune to trends. We expect to see hybrid events and campaigns plus sustainable, remote working facilities, as well as questions around how we play our part in supporting climate change targets.

All of the above offer the opportunity for us to continue to work with clients who want to ensure social impact is felt not just dreamt – we are here listening all the time and committed to finding solutions that support that ethos”.

Donal Traynor, Group Chief Executive

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Today CFI’s impact was evidenced as Nora Keogh Client Relationship Manager for the Munster region, provided support to local social enterprise Limerick Gateway to Education.

Nora met with the brilliant charity, based in Limerick City, to hear first-hand how they are working to address social and economic barriers to education.

Our thanks also to the Limerick Leader for also recognising the merits of this organisation and featuring the organisation’s story in the local business section of the paper and online on the ilovelimerick.ie website.

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. 

Community Finance Ireland was established in 1995, and now supports a diverse portfolio of clients across the island of Ireland from Bantry to Belfast, and from Dublin to Dingle.

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

Pictured above: Nora Keogh (CFI Client Relationship Manager Munster) with Limerick Gateway to Education’s Andy Fogerty (Accountant), Paul Goodwin (Assistant Manager) and Suzanne Roche (CEO , Founder).

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

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Today (16 September 2021) Ulster Community Investment Trust Ltd t/a Community Finance Ireland held its all island AGM and officially launched its 2020 Annual Report.

The report published today highlights the following key takeaways:

Northern Ireland

  • £3.1 m of loan approvals into 37 local projects;
  • £9.1m to 315 social enterprises via much needed grant payments in collaboration with Department of Communities NI and SENI; and
  • £ 4.1m to 140 SME clients through the management of NISBLF Fund II.

Republic of Ireland

  • £2.6m/ €2.7m of loan approvals into 37 projects in the Leinster Region;
  • £1.4m./ €1.67m of loan approvals into 32 projects in the Munster Region;
  • £0.6m./ €0.5m of loan approvals into 25 projects in the Connaught Region; and
  • £4.4m/€4.6m of loan approvals into 72 projects in Ulster (including NI).

With a client portfolio, whose core assets are predominately its volunteers, the 169 projects saw their own belief mirrored back to them and secured term or bridging loans which supported them in:

  • Keeping their doors open;
  • Pivoting their business;
  • Ensuring their viability when their services were needed more than ever; and
  • Ensuring their sustainability as the island transitions to a new normal.

In what was an extraordinary year for the history the organisation and for the communities and citizens on the island of Ireland Donal Traynor Group Chief Executive said the following:

“The combined market conditions of Brexit and Covid left us all a little shaken in 2020. Yet it also stirred in us a reminder of the importance of access to social finance and the resilience of communities across our shared island.

Our partners in NI: Invest NI and Enterprise NI and Department for Communities, and in ROI SFF, Rethink Ireland and DCU also stepped up and showed their support to the ongoing sustainability and viability of the NFP sector.

It was a year like no other and yet we can confidently say that we supported both our clients and key stakeholders achieve great things and ensured that, when we were asked to stay apart we came together in ways that we could have only imagined.

As a result, we have much to admire and be proud of as our ongoing promise to ensure social impact is felt not simply dreamt continues”.

Donal Traynor, Group Chief Executive Community Finance Ireland

View the report in full here.

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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.

This week’s Change-Maker is Phelim Sharvin, Client Executive from Strangford, County Down. Working with clients like Forkhill Childcare and Aghavea Parish Church in Northern Ireland, Phelim is passionate about local area regeneration and all matters relating to community development.

Just two of Phelim’s clients: Forkhill Pre-School (Left) and Aghavea Parish Church (Right)

What did your journey to Community Finance Ireland look like?

I joined the team at Community Finance Ireland in 2002, before that I worked in the private sector. I studied European Regional Development, Economics and Business Management at degree and master’s level. In the last few years, I’ve supplemented this with Charter Banker accreditation and a Professional Diploma in Banking. My time working in Community Finance Ireland has given me an extensive knowledge of the Social Finance sector, in particular, Credit, Risk and Portfolio Management. I’ve been responsible for the CFI Northern Ireland portfolio since 2007 and have worked on developing loan products and funds in the areas of local sports, childcare, green energy and start-up social enterprise.

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

Our clients in Northern Ireland represent a broad mix of sectors ranging from sports clubs and faith-based organisations to training providers, green energy schemes and health & social care providers, and are spread across virtually all rural & urban communities in Northern Ireland.  

Sports, Social Enterprise, Faith and Workspace are the largest sectors represented, with some clients being long-established and others are more recently formed. Due to the pandemic and other changes in society I can see health & social care growing in the future.

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

For me, it would have to be Artspace CIC. It’s a specialist facility that currently caters for up to 40 people with complex support needs. A placement fee is paid to Artspace by WHSCT for providing bespoke support to individuals with challenging physical and mental disabilities. CFI have provided finance on three separate occasions to Artspace and helped it grow and deliver its essential service to its user group.

How do you switch off from work? What are your hobbies and interests?

I am interested in Sport, local history and Community Development. I have long history of being involved in a range of voluntary management committees including prominent positions in my local GAA Club, local Community Association and Festival Committee. And in my spare time I have coached GAA and Soccer across a range of age groups from U8 to Senior level.

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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Put aside 15 minutes and you might win our €250 thank you voucher.

The launch of a collaborative project that sees the best social minds in Ireland get the support of European funding and thinking, is currently Live.

Our team are working with @DCU, @Irish Social Enterprise Network and @Rethink Ireland in helping to establish what type of financial models are missing for the sector, what models are working elsewhere across Europe, and what might a vibrant future finance model look like.

At a recent sold out event to launch this exciting, 2 year, research initiative our CEO Donal Traynor shared his thoughts:

“Community Finance Ireland speaks finance but hears people and this collaborative project is very much about this ethos. Our team are delighted to work on behalf of the sector to ensure that today’s, and tomorrow’s, social enterprises have sustainable and innovative supports and solutions that can deliver results for everyone”

With the next phase of listening now open – the project team are asking all social enterprises to give their views and help shape solutions that will support the sustainability and success of this sector, today and into the future.

Open the link below and get your thoughts across before 6th August 2021.

https://socialfinance.ie/survey/

If you would like more information on the Financing Social Enterprise in Ireland project – click here.

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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 third Change-Maker takes us to Northern Ireland and to Peter Smyth. Based in Moira, County Down. Peter covers clients across Northern Ireland, working closely with the likes of Forkhill Childcare and Aghavea Parish Church.

Just two of Peter’s clients: Forkhill Pre-School (Left) and Aghavea Parish Church (Right)

What did your journey to Community Finance Ireland look like?

I studied Economics and Accounting at Queens University Belfast and went on to train as an accountant. From there, I worked as a Company Accountant for a large haulage firm before moving into the private banking sector. I spent 28 years working for an international financial institution in various roles such as Head of Invoice Finance, Business Banking Manager, District Manager and Head of Risk & Operations, before joining the Community Finance Ireland team in 2017.

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

I have a very mixed and varied client base ranging from unincorporated organisations to charities and more sophisticated social enterprises. My clients include Local Enterprise Agencies, sports clubs, childcare organisations, community hubs, faith-based groups and mental health and wellbeing groups.

Coming out of the pandemic I would expect to see a growth in the number of organisations involved in addressing mental health and wellbeing issues.

How do you switch off from work? What are your hobbies and interests?

I am heavily involved in my local church as Church Treasurer and office bearer and also serve on the Board of 2 other faith-based charities.

I am a keen soccer fan and an avid follower of Leeds United and Glenavon. I serve on the Committee of Lurgan BBOB where my son is team captain and I spend every Saturday watching him play.

I walk a lot with my miniature dachshund and enjoy my annual fortnight’s holiday in Majorca each year. I also enjoy a number of weekend breaks with my wife. I also became a Granda in February 2020 and love spending time with my new granddaughter Annie Joy!

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.

Share this article:

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 next Change-Maker is Anne Graham, Client Executive from Drumfries, Co.Donegal. A new face in the Community Finance Ireland team, Anne is taking advantage of the easing of restrictions to get out and about in Connaught to meet with clients like Sensational Kids, Ballinasloe Town Hall Theatre and Alone.

Some of Anne’s clients from L to R: Sensational Kids, Ballinasloe Town Hall Theatre and Alone.

What did your journey to Community Finance Ireland look like?

I have worked in Financial Services throughout my whole career and wore many hats such as a Loan & Mortgage Advisor and Business Executive, these roles provided me with me valuable credit assessment skills which I bring to my new role at Community Finance Ireland.

Throughout my career, I gained invaluable and highly educational, practical experience but I felt I still needed a formal qualification to complement the skills I garnered over the years.  In 2017, I decided to undertake an MBA in Business Administration, through University of Ulster, which I completed in May 2020.  I thoroughly enjoyed this educational experience and believe the timing of this course was ideal as it allowed me to reflect, value and share my professional, practical and voluntary experience. 

Away from work, I have been a volunteer at our local community centreSliabh Sneacht CentreI began working with our committee as a treasurer and fundraiser and I now hold the position of chairperson.  This voluntary experience was instrumental in steering my latest career move to CFI as I fully understand the challenges, difficulties and rewarding experience that comes with working in a community setting and that sense of shared achievement when your dream becomes a reality.  I can’t wait to help and support ‘the dreamers’ and I believe I am ideally positioned to support ‘the change makers’ as I have walked their path before.

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

My current client base is broad and diverse and includes everything from tourism and sport, to housing associations and forestry groups. Out here in the west we have rich cultural heritage and strong community organisations so I work with a range of community centres, museums, arts centres, drama groups, church and faith-based groups. One day I’m talking to an angling group, the next is a counselling service, the next it’s a community playgroup.

As a result of Covid-19, I think we’ll see more organisations within those sectors growing and trying to meet the changing demands in their local communities. Covid-19 has also shown us the benefits of physical activity and outdoor spaces. Staycations will provide growth opportunities in tourism and outdoor pursuits. The pandemic has shown that we don’t necessarily need to be tied to a fixed office space and as a result, growth of remote working hubs has been fast tracked. Never has the concept of wellbeing and mental health ever been amplified more and its importance to every facet of our society, the need for connectedness and community has been magnified and immeasurable.

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

To me, there are a number of clients that really demonstrate the impact Community Finance Ireland can have.

Tourmakeady GAA Club in Mayo are exemplars in what can be achieved in a rural sports Club. It is much more than a sports club it is the community centre of this locality.

IRD Kiltimagh in Mayo who support directly and indirectly Enterprise, Tourism, Housing, Arts, any other community group that needs support.

How do you switch off from work? What are your hobbies and interests?

I switch off by spending time with family and friends. I’m kept busy during the week with my son and daughter’s sporting activities (football and GAA). Most nights there is training or match to attend. At the weekends I try to squeeze in a bit of jogging and sea swimming with friends and walking with family. I also enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes when time allows, and have recently joined a ladies’ book club so I’m looking forward to reading more.

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.

Share this article:

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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