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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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Today (16 June 2022) Ulster Community Investment Trust Ltd t/a Community Finance Ireland held its all island AGM in person for the first time in three years. As part of the AGM the team officially launched its 2021 Annual Report.

The report published today highlights the following key takeaways:

Northern Ireland

  • £2m of loans into 14 local projects;
  • £7.2m to 354 charities via much needed grant payments in collaboration with Department of Communities NI and NICVA; and
  • £4.4m to 152 SME clients through the management of NISBLF Fund II since 2018.

Republic of Ireland

  • €2.2m of loans into 26 projects in the Leinster Region;
  • €1.2m of loans into 15 projects in the Munster Region;
  • €0.1m of loans into 4 projects in the Connacht Region; and
  • €1m of loan approvals into 17 projects in Ulster (excluding NI).

With a client portfolio, whose core assets are predominately its volunteers, the 76 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 another 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:

“Our team continue to ensure social impact is felt not just dreamt and 2021 was no different. Dreams were realised and progress was felt right across the island. Choose change is indeed the mantra of the sector and the volunteers who keep it vibrant. We are delighted to be part of that change, whilst recognising there is always more to do.”.

Donal Traynor, Group Chief Executive Community Finance Ireland

View the report in full here.

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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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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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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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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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