Click here to view our all island annual report 2022 View Now

Share this article:

Ballymacash Sports Academy, based in Ballymacash outside Lisburn, Co. Antrim has been able to install a new floodlit 3G pitch, car park and spectator fencing thanks to a Social Finance loan from Community Finance Ireland.

But this is just the start of the club’s ambitious developments. As Chairman Phil Trimble comments:

“It feels like the building work going up is us just getting started. There is an unstoppable force, an army of volunteers, coaches, people behind the scenes and our committee who put in phenomenal efforts to make the club what it is. It’s a brilliant place to be with a great vibe. It’s all really really positive.

In addition to providing sporting facilities on the pitch for their members, they have teamed up with local community development organisations to create a community garden and allotments which has had lasting social impact for the groups involved. One such community group led by Karl Bothwell said:

“We’ve been kindly welcomed in by the Ballymacash Sports Academy. Our young adults come here three days per week and they work at the allotments, planting vegetables and then they take the vegetables they have grown and donate them to local foodbanks and homeless charities.”

Two young adults tending to their allotments at the Ballymacash Sports Academy

Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland has supported 166 sports clubs, social enterprises and organisations from across the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, with a total of £18.1 million in social finance loans, with £5.6m of that going to sporting organisations like Ballymacash.

Peter Smyth, Client Manager at Community Finance Ireland added:

“In the case of Ballymacash Sports Academy, the improved facilities has led to an increased sporting success by the club and greater usage by local schools and groups. The collective ambitions and efforts of the committee and the wider community is admirable and one that we were keen to support with social finance funding. Often capital projects like this one creates new facilities, but it also helps build momentum and shows that the club committee is delivering on the club development plan.”

During the BBC’s coverage of the Ballymacash Rangers v Glentoran match on 2 February, the broadcaster kindly featured the community’s efforts. You can play this back here at 1:13:40 in.

If you and your community facility need advice, get in touch today. We speak finance, but we hear people and we’re listening.  

Share this article:

On 9th October 2023, Sport NI opened a new £1million pound capital investment fund which seeks to reduce the environmental impact of sports clubs throughout Northern Ireland and contribute to a more sustainable sports club network.

Funded by The National Lottery, the Renewable Energy Fund will support sports clubs with infrastructure upgrades such as solar energy systems, air and ground source heating systems, sustainable water recycling solutions, and floodlight upgrades.

The Renewable Energy Fund will be delivered as a pilot programme in 2023/24, as Sport NI gathers information on which environmental interventions have the greatest impact within sports clubs. The fund was developed using feedback from sports clubs through Sport NI’s Environmental Sustainability Survey.

Investment will be spread across Northern Ireland with at least one club from each of the 11 council areas being selected to take part. To be eligible, clubs must have completed Sport NI’s Environmental Sustainability Survey.

Phelim Sharvin, Head of Community Finance for Northern Ireland at Community Finance Ireland said:

“I welcome the announcement of this new initiative from Sport NI which will enable sports clubs across Northern Ireland to invest in infrastructure upgrades in line with renewable energy ambitions. Not only will the initiative have a positive impact on the environment but it will reduce clubs’ long term energy costs, allowing them to invest the savings into other areas of the clubs’ development.”

WHO CAN APPLY?

  • The Renewable Energy Fund Pilot Programme will only accept applications from sports organisations in Northern Ireland who either own or operate their own sports facilities.

WHAT TYPE OF PROJECTS CAN BE FUNDED?

  • Sport NI are interested in taking forward the following types of energy projects within sports clubs:
  • Solar Energy Systems (and ancillary equipment).
  • Air Source Heating Systems (and ancillary equipment).
  • Ground Source Heating Systems (and ancillary equipment).
  • Sustainable Water Recycling Systems.
  • Fixed Floodlight Upgrades (Specifically upgrades to LED Bulbs and Connection to Grid).
  • Sport NI may consider alternative interventions if recommended in your club energy audit, and if the benefits of that intervention have been clearly articulated.

If you are ready to apply to the Sport NI Renewable Energy Fund, click here for more details.

Share this article:

– Community Finance Ireland delivers almost €1 million of financial support in Cork since 2016 –

Na Piarsaigh GAA, a thriving football and hurling club with almost 800 playing members, is looking to the future with further expansion plans, after support from Community Finance Ireland (CFI) enabled the club to restructure existing bank debt.

First founded by a group of local schoolboys, Na Piarsaigh GAA Club has been at the centre of the Fairhill community in Co. Cork since 1943. As the club prepares to celebrate its 80th anniversary, the board are outlining plans for further expansion to meet the demands of a growing membership.

During the recession, the club experienced financial difficulties, which former Club Chairman Denis O’Neill says led to an anxious time for the board:

“The recession hit us badly, we fell back on payments and were very worried. When we dealt with the bank, they were dealing with us like we were a business. It was at that time that James O’Connor, Selector and Club Accountant at Na Piarsaigh, brought Community Finance Ireland to the attention of the Board.”

Na Pairsaigh GAA Sports Capital Grant Community Finance Ireland
At Na Piarsaigh GAA club Grounds Fairhill Cork City are L to R:) Seán Óg Ó hAilpín (local player & legend); Nora Keogh, CFI Client Relationship Manager Munster and Daire Connery (current club legend). As the club restructures its finances with CFI support and advice all looks well for the future legacy of this fantastic volunteer led GAA Club.

Community Finance Ireland provides social finance loans to community and volunteer-led organisations that drive social impact through sport, community projects, faith-based groups, and social enterprises. Operating a model similar to traditional credit unions, all loan repayments go toward supporting other communities across Ireland. CFI provided Na Piarsaigh Hurling and Football Club with a long-term loan of €500,000 to restructure their existing bank loans.

Club Chairman Na Piarsaigh GAA Denis O’Neill said:

“I particularly like that Community Finance Ireland are a non-profit organisation. CFI understand that we are volunteers who just want to provide quality sports services for our local community. They understand where we are coming from and the challenges we faced as a voluntary board.”

Nora Keogh, CFI Client Relationship Manager for the Munster Region, said:

“Na Piarsaigh are an important hub for the local community with members playing at under six right up to senior level. Beyond the players and their families, the club also offers accessible facilities to the wider community through hire of the hall, and their indoor arena, the first of its kind to be built in Ireland which is a great source of pride for the club. We’re delighted to have helped the club refinance and find a pathway to become debt free. The legacies of the recession still have a hold on many clubs across Ireland and we’re proud to help them pave a way forward so that like Na Piarsaigh, they can plan for the future, rather than feel bogged down by the past.”

O’Neill says the club hopes to develop new facilities for the local community and upgrade the public walkway. They hope to secure adjacent land to accommodate an additional training pitch.

Between 2016 and 2022, Community Finance Ireland delivered €7.8m in social finance supports to volunteer and community-led organisations in Munster, including €0.8m in support of projects in Cork.

A total of £16.9m (€18.5m) has been allocated to 162 sports clubs and organisations across Ireland between 2016 and 2022.

If your club is  looking for finance, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter.  

Share this article:

This week Ulster Community Investment Trust Ltd t/a Community Finance Ireland held its all island Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Belfast’s Clifton House. As part of the AGM, the team officially launched its Annual Report for 2022.

The report published today highlights the following key takeaways:

  • Ulster Region: £2.8m (€3.2m) of loans into 28 organisations
  • Leinster Region: £3.1m (€3.5m) of loans into 38 organisations
  • Munster Region: £0.9m (€1.0m) of loans into 16 organisations
  • Connacht Region: £0.6m (€0.7m) of loans into 7 organisations
  • £6.5m to 231 communities via much needed grant payments funded by the Department of Communities NI and in collaboration with NICVA
  • £5.8m in loan support to 186 SME clients through the management of the Invest NI sponsored NISBLF Fund II since 2018, in collaboration with Enterprise Northern Ireland.

With a client portfolio, whose core assets are predominately its volunteers, the 89 projects saw their own belief mirrored back to them and secured term or bridging loans which supported them in:

  • Providing access to facilities and services for their local area
  • Expanding their businesses and growing their memberships
  • Improving their sustainability and helping them achieve their long-term goals

In what was another extraordinary year for the history the organisation and for the communities and citizens on the island Donal Traynor Group Chief Executive highlighted the following in his welcome video message:

To learn more about Community Finance Ireland and discover the inspiring stories of the organisations we supported in 2022, please visit here.

Share this article:

Dolmen Leisure Company CLG has announced it has successfully secured €175,000 in LEADER funding, which has been formally approved by the Donegal Local Development Company and Donegal LCDC, to establish a new Thatching School at the Dolmen Centre in Kilclooney, Portnoo, Co. Donegal.

The project, developed by the committee of Dolmen Leisure Company CLG, aims to support the continuation of the craft of thatching, which is an integral aspect of vernacular architecture in Donegal and Ireland.

With 75% of the construction costs covered by LEADER funding, the committee is actively raising funds to secure the remaining 25% through other funding and donations. The Thatching School will provide training in thatching delivered by master thatchers, who are keen to pass on their skills and knowledge. This unique educational facility will create employment opportunities and boost tourism in the area, offering a rewarding role to those who are seeking to work for themselves.

Speaking about the initiative, Patsy Harkin from Dolmen Leisure Company CLG, said: 

“One of our founding members of The Dolmen Centre, Conal Shovlin, first mooted this idea for Portnoo and tried to secure funding over 20 years ago so we’re thrilled to see our plans come to fruition after all these years. We’re excited to have professionally trained thatchers pass on their skills and keep this dying trade alive. The Thatching School and its construction is no longer a dream but will now be a reality.”

Dolmen Thatched Cottage 1
Sinead McLaughlin, Rural Development Manager DLDC, Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance Ireland ROI, County Councillor Anthony Molloy with the Dolmen Centre Committee and members of the local community who came to celebrate the announcement of the LEADER funding.

Sinéad McLaughlin, Rural Development Manager, DLDC, expressed her support for the Thatching School:

“DLDC is delighted to support the Dolmen Leisure Company CLG in their efforts to establish the Thatching School through its LEADER programme. This project will not only contribute to the preservation of an important cultural heritage but also create employment opportunities and boost tourism in the area.  We look forward to seeing the Thatching School thrive and the continuation of this unique craft.”

Dolmen Leisure also thanked Community Finance Ireland for providing interim finance for the project.  Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance ROI, said: 

The team at Dolmen Leisure Company CLG are a fantastic example of visionary community spirit. We are delighted to be able to help finance this project and welcome the opportunities both of employment and future tourism that the project will bring to the area”.

Paddy Mc Hugh Building Contractors Ltd has been appointed as the local contractor, and Cornerstone Architecture in Ardara will be responsible for the design and supervision of the build. The planning permission was approved by Donegal County Council in mid-2022.

Share this article:

– £18 million social finance provided to Northern Ireland voluntary sector since 2016 –

Loughgiel Shamrocks GAC, based outside Ballymoney, is celebrating a win of a different kind. The club is set to repay a £250,000 loan to social finance providers, Community Finance Ireland in full after just five years, following investment in new club facilities including a sand pitch and ball wall. 

With no penalty incurred for early repayment, Loughgiel Shamrocks hit fundraising targets early using a patron scheme fundraising strategy, where members and friends of the club commit to supporting loan repayments.

Sean McNaughton, former Treasurer of Loughgiel Shamrocks GAC, said:

“Our Development Committee identified a need for better facilities due to increased participation in sports in the area.  After purchasing land, we needed financial support to construct a sand pitch with floodlights and fencing and an enclosed, floodlit ball wall with a 3G surface.  We knew that Community Finance Ireland was familiar with the GAA and the needs of local clubs, and we very much appreciated their fast decision making, advice and of course flexibility, allowing us to repay our loan early without penalty.”

The facilities at Loughgiel GAC are used by local club teams, Antrim County Hurling and Camogie teams and primary and post primary schools in the area. 

Loughgiel Shamrocks GAA Community Finance Ireland
Peter Smyth visits Loughgiel grounds and hears from its former Treasurer Sean McNaughton and local players benefitting from the new facilities.

Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland has supported 166 sports clubs, social enterprises and organisations from across the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, with a total of £18.1 million in social finance loans.

Peter Smyth, Client Manager at Community Finance Ireland added:

“When we provide a loan to a GAA club, often towards a capital project like new facilities, it helps build momentum and shows that the club committee is delivering on the club development plan and is therefore worth supporting.

In the case of Loughgiel GAC, the improved facilities led to an increased sporting success by the club and greater usage by local schools and groups. The collective efforts of the committee, club members and supporters of Loughgiel to repay this finance in just five years, is an example of people power at its very best.”

Community Finance Ireland has provided £18million in social finance to Northern Ireland’s voluntary sector since 2016 and we’re proud £5.6m of that has gone to sporting organisations like Loughiel.

If you and your community facility need advice, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter.  

Share this article:

– Community Finance Ireland delivers €1.6million in support for Donegal community organisations.

Ballyshannon-based GAA Club, Aodh Ruadh is celebrating an upgrade to its facilities, helping it maintain county ground status and attract new members, thanks to funding from Community Finance Ireland (CFI). 

Originally founded in 1909, Aodh Ruadh CLG is one of the foremost GAA Clubs in Co. Donegal, with around 400 members.  The Club consists of the main pitch, Father Tierney Park, which holds county ground status and hosts at least one National Football League fixture each year.  It also owns Pairc Aodh Ruadh (Mundy’s field) on an adjoining site, which consists of two sand-based playing fields and training facilities including a Fitness Trail and a Hurling Wall. Aodh Ruadh CLG has enjoyed significant success at County, Provincial & National level and offers both football & hurling to members.

Patsy Kilgannon, committee member at Aodh Rua GAA, said that awareness of Community Finance Ireland’s experience in supporting GAA clubs was a key factor in their decision-making process.  He said: 

There was an awareness of Community Finance Ireland in the club, and we felt it was as convenient to go to Community Finance Ireland instead of traditional sources of finance. A great credit to Anne for making the process a positive experience all the way. The loan from Community Finance Ireland has been utilised to assist with our recent redevelopment costs, helping us to maintain county ground status and improve facilities for our members.”

Patsy Kilgannon, Committee Member, Aodh Ruadh GAA

Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland  has provided €1.6million in social finance loans to 21 projects based in Donegal.  Client Relationship Manager for Connacht and Donegal, Anne Graham, says there’s huge potential for others in Donegal to follow in Aodh Ruadh’s footsteps. 

Ms. Graham said:

“It’s fantastic to see GAA Clubs like Aodh Ruadh CLG investing in their facilities, which not alone helps them to maintain their county ground status, but no doubt plays a role in attracting and retaining members.  Like Aodh Ruadh CLG, Community Finance Ireland is focused on social improvement – all the repayments made on social finance loans go right back into supporting another community group either here in Donegal or across the country.”

Anne Graham, Client Relationship Manager for Connacht and Donegal, Community Finance Ireland

About Community Finance Ireland

Community Finance Ireland delivers social finance solutions that support local communities and drive social impact through sports, community projects, faith-based groups, Arts & Heritage, Childcare, Environment, Health & Wellbeing, Housing, Tourism and social enterprises.  It is the fastest growing dedicated social finance provider across the island of Ireland and the UK. 

Community Finance Ireland is part of the UCIT Group, established in Belfast in 1995 and now supports a diverse portfolio of clients across the island of Ireland from Bantry to Ballymoney, 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. 

For further information, visit our website or follow us on Twitter.  

Share this article:

Fundraising is one of the key income sources for GAA clubs. Unlike most mainstream lenders, Community Finance Ireland takes fundraising and projected fundraising into account when considering applications for finance for GAA projects.

Our recent #Supporting Clubs On and Off the Pitch Webinars hosted by Aisling O’Reilly Off the Ball Sports Journalist and featuring some of the best GAA clubs in our communities, offered some really insightful and diverse ways that GAA clubs and volunteers are engaged in helping finance the ambition of their clubs and players.

Here are some of the innovative and most popular fundraising initiatives that are being delivered right across the island of Ireland. You may already have tried these in your club, or you may not but as everybody knows all ideas for financing and keeping the club open and vibrant are always welcome.

1. Club Lotto

Club Lotto remains a big earner for GAA clubs. When Covid struck, volunteers weren’t able to go door to door to sell tickets anymore and a number of clubs moved their lotto activity to online. As one of our clients Jim Codd from Ballyhea GAA in Munster told us, at times the Club Lotto can account for up to 30% of our income.

2. Coffee Mornings and Bake Sales

Who doesn’t love a delicious treat? Host a coffee morning and invite the local community to come along. From Rice Krispie squares and millionaire’s shortcake to cupcakes and brownies, everyone can bring along their baked goods to sell, with the profits going into the club’s coffers.

3. Fundraising Walks

During the pandemic, the activity that saw the biggest rise in participation was walking. As a result clients like Knockananna GAA (Co. Wicklow) and Kilcoo GAA (Co. Down) invested in off pitch facilities such as floodlit walkways. Our own Client Relationship Manager for Munster Nora Keogh said that sponsored fundraising walks are a great source of income for GAA clubs as well as great family events:

“My daughter’s football club in West Limerick has the sponsored walk back again this year. The kids are delighted to go out and get €2 off each of their relatives for taking part. It’s only a small amount but it all adds up. It’s great to see and it’s a great family event on the day.”- Nora Keogh, Community Finance Ireland.

4. Golf Classics

The GAA continue to use other sports outside the realm of Gaelic Games to assist with raising funds for their club. One example that our client Jim Codd at Ballyhea GAA referenced was that of a recent Golf Classic, where a combination of players or volunteers created golf teams to compete against each other with all funds raised going back into the club.

5. Strictly Come Dancing Competitions

Add some sequins and sparkle to your fundraising activity with a Strictly Come Dancing style competition. Pair your GAA players with local community volunteers and sell tickets for a weekly dance off to see who knows their sliotar from their salsa.

6. The 300 Club

After meeting with Community Finance Ireland and setting specific and realistic fundraising targets, Freddie McInerney from Newmarket-On-Fergus GAA Club in Co. Clare explains how they set up a 300 Club:  

“We created a 300 club. We got almost 300 people to sign up over a four year period in which we asked for a donation of €5 per week, €250 a year or a quarterly or sign up on direct debit. People were very generous with some offering €1,000 upfront. We created a team of eight people dedicated solely to this fundraising activity. There were two lads in particular – Thomas Reagan and Darren Dugan who went out and collected probably the bones of €100,000 themselves, talking to people, ringing people, cajoling people and getting them to bring money in. So, in the end we got an awful lot of people signed up.”- Freddie McInerney, Newmarket-On-Fergus GAA.

7. Family Fun Days

With many GAA clubs now the hub of most communities the ability to offer family fun days for their members and their wider community is now a reality. Bouncy castles, Mr Whippy vans, face-painting, arts and crafts and fun and games are almost as likely to be found as the footballs or hurls.

8. Car Boot Sale

It’s an oldie but a goodie, but with us all trying to repurpose or resell rather than put items in landfill the car boot sale is a fantastic way to raise funds as well as reduce waste.

9. Table Quiz

Hosting a table quiz is a simple but effective way to bring in some extra cash and a great way to add some entertainment to the line up at the club house bar. A simple eight round event can be used to test your membership’s knowledge on a variety of subject. Maybe even include a specialist round about your club’s history.

10. Scrap Metal Collections

Scrap metal is valuable in high quantities and rural clubs have been jumping on the opportunity for years. It’s easy to raise money by asking farmers and people in your village for their unwanted scrap metal at a collection point so it can then be sold on. It doesn’t cost the community anything and in fact you’re providing a service that they would otherwise have to pay for.

“When we started fundraising initially, we wanted to find things that are a negative cost to people, so we ran a scrap collection, initially that can bring anything from €2,000 to €10,000 depending on when you are running it and how much people have in their backyards that they want to get rid of.”- Jim Codd, Ballyhea GAA.

Our thanks to all the club members or volunteers who participated in our webinar series this summer and for sharing their insights and experience. If you missed these webinars, don’t worry- you can play them back here. In the meantime we speak finance, but we hear people. Click here and the local client to reach out to the local Client Relationship Manager in your area.

#Supporting Clubs On and Off the Pitch.

Share this article:

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.

Top