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are being delivered by volunteers and community champions behind local visitor experiences. When planning a weekend break in Donegal, don’t forget to consider some of the terrific clients that our team have helped over the past few years.

From sports activities to sight-seeing, there are many venues and activities located throughout the county whose core purpose is social impact as well as visitors’ enjoyment.

These venues and experiences are housed alongside beautiful beaches, traditional pubs and scenic landscape. Whether you experience a heatwave or a downpour, you are guaranteed a warm welcome and value for money. Get booking.

If you’re brave enough to storm the cold waters, then our first two suggestions will raise an eyebrow…

Kilcar Kayaking or Mullinasole Bay Water Sports Club is the perfect opportunity to explore whilst having fun. Mullinasole Bay is located in Mullinasole, south of Donegal Town whilst Kilcar Kayaking is located in Kilcar, east of Donegal Town. We recently supported both organisations to bridge a finance gap for a retrospective grant fund. It’s fulfilling to see these activity groups flourish and it’s worthwhile visiting for the scenery alone.

Mullinasole Bay Water Sports Club are an unincorporated club with a constitution and a committee who run the Club with a not for profit ethos. Mullinasole Bay Water Sports Club was set up formally in 2020 to promote and provide resources for children and adults to enable them to enhance their experience in salt water based activities such as swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, windsurfing, Rowing, Sailing and boating. 

Whether health and fitness is a priority or bringing your family and friends together for an event is on your to do list, Finn Valley AC is one of many great facilities.

With one of the best sports facilities on the island of Ireland, Finn Valley AC offers a wide range of facilities. From athletics tracks, pitches to indoor facilities catering for events. Situated in Ballybofey, south of Letterkenny it truly is a modern clubhouse that caters for all and could be the perfect opportunity to hold an event or keep fit throughout your tenure in Donegal. With countless athletes charging out of the blocks representing Ireland, proving the level of commitment and professionalism that goes on behind the scenes here at Finn Valley AC.

Famously, the terrain of Donegal is known for its breath-taking views and there is no exception when mentioning Fort Dunree – which is definitely one for the road trip bucket list with a driving route worthy of an Instagram. Located on the North Coast of Donegal overlooking the North Atlantic Sea.

Fort Dunree was established to enhance the level of tourism on the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal. The centre underwent major refurbishments in 2000, and again in 2006, and now incorporates walks, a museum, and a café. In 2019 the organisation received a loan from Community Finance Ireland to bridge FLAG grant aid and cash flow being used towards capital upgrades. 

“Its stunning natural beauty and abundant wildlife are drawing increasing numbers of visitors to one of Inishowen’s most beautiful and peaceful locations. It is a must see for every visitor to the Inishowen peninsula.” – Fort Dunree.

We first helped support Fort Dunree in 2007 so it’s great to see the impact it’s had on tourism over a decade later.

On site, is a military museum with exhibitions, events and the ability to hire the venue for celebrations such as weddings, receptions and conferences would be a unique experience and one to remember. Fort Dunree in Irish means “Forth of the Heather”.

Why not take a trip into what life used to be like and experience the harsh reality of the famine era with a tour around the Dunfanaghy Workhouse.

Located in Dunfanaghy, which now houses a Heritage Centre, explores local history and culture. This beautiful historic building includes tourist information point for the area, as well as an exhibition centre, a coffee shop, art gallery, craft and book shop.

The Workhouse opened as a heritage centre in 1995, and was officially opened by the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson.

Catering for all, admission is free into the Workhouse. Although, some exhibitions do charge giving an in-depth experience of the struggles throughout The Famine and what the Workhouse was used for – a worthwhile experience.

In summary, this is just a snapshot of the inspiring organisations that we are able to support and love to see the social impact added throughout the Island of Ireland, highlighting projects that continue to choose change reinforces our purpose and the true value of social finance. If you are ever in the region of Donegal and are looking for things to do, make sure to consider these wonderful sites.

With a total of 225 miles of track, formed the largest narrow gauge railway system in north-west Europe from Co. Donegal to Co. Derry and Lough Swilly Railway.

A blast from the past, allowing you to see what life was like back in 1889 with one of the first combustion engines in the world. The recently refurbished museum comprises of railway rolling stock, interesting artefacts, displays, a video presentation, audio presentations, model railways, a reference library, a shop, a coffee hut and much more. The star exhibit has returned to the museum, an original 1907 Donegal Railway steam engine, “Drumboe”, the first engine to return to the county in many decades.

Donegal Railway Heritage Centre have been in existence for over 20 years in Donegal Town attracting some 6,000 visitors per year. At Community Finance Ireland, we are proud to have supported this organisation in restructuring their existing loans to aid cash flow.

Spending your time and money in these venues helps deliver social impact and the endorsement that the local volunteers and committees’ efforts are valued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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