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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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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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A unique social enterprise in Derry is offering art and wellbeing programmes for people with severe physical, sensory and learning disabilities in order to enable them to develop holistically and to provide them with essential job skills. Each week over 200 people are benefitting from daycare and multisensory programmes at Artspace.
 

Artspace opened in April 2012 and has now received a £30,000 loan from our Building Better Futures Fund. The additional funding has allowed Artspace to redevelop new facilities in Campsie industrial estate.
 

The £1m Building Better Futures fund was launched in 2017 and is a unique collaboration between Community Finance Ireland (formerly UCIT), Belfast Charitable Society, and Building Change Trust. The fund, which provides support in the way of a loan, is aimed at community-based groups seeking to make a positive difference to society across Northern Ireland.


Artspace currently provides employment for 13 staff. Martina Bell is the founder and Managing Director of the business. Following 20 years working in mental health care, Martina took voluntary redundancy in 2011 and established the social enterprise to help support the local community.

Martina said:

“Our art and wellbeing programmes stimulate and develop participant’s self-esteem. Participants learn to engage with other people and build job skills that could help them secure future employment.  Each person gets a tailored programme and we’ve partnered with the Northern Regional College to offer yoga and IT skill classes.   

“We recently moved to a 20,000 sq. ft. premises and the Building Better Futures Fund has allowed us to further develop our facility so that we can cater for a greater number of people. Our goal is to have the largest multisensory room on the island of Ireland. We also want to create an immersive suite and install a gym facility.”

Martina Bell, Managing Director Artspace

Damian McAteer, Vice Chair of Community Finance Ireland (formerly UCIT) said:

“Artspace is a unique social enterprise that is providing an essential service to the local community. At a time when budget cuts to our health service are well-documented, Martina has identified a growing need for additional support to people who are being excluded from day opportunities as a result of their disability.

“This new facility will ensure Artspace has the resources necessary to continue its upward growth and we’re delighted to support an organisation that demonstrates such a clear positive social impact.” 

Damian McAteer, Vice Chair Community Finance Ireland
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