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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