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Following the launch of our Social Value Analysis Research Report earlier in the year, Community Finance Ireland’s Chief Executive Donal Traynor discusses the findings, the impact of the multiplier effect for local communities and the importance of finding a common reporting metric across the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector in his latest Leadership Insights blog piece.

During Covid, clients across the VCSE sector saw the demands for their services escalate. While much of the typical services we participated in were closed, the need for elderly care, meals on wheels, mental health services and a vast range of what we term the caring community network were operational and needed social finance to keep those services delivering.

Our need to evaluate the social impact of our clients has always been a question for Community Finance Ireland. How do we measure social impact? How do we measure a feeling? Following the sensational resilience of our client base during and post Covid challenges, we wondered again how might we measure the social impact of what was delivered during that historic period?
 
Our feeling was that with the “right partners” we might just be able to establish a benchmark multiplier effect demonstrating the ancillary benefits generated to the circular economy, and therefore have the ability to genuinely tell the story of the deep and lasting impact social finance can deliver for community groups. The “right partners” turned out to be Rose Regeneration and Rural Community Network.
 
The approach involved harvesting a range of data from investees, using the social value engine platform and working with clients who represented local sports clubs, faith groups, social enterprises plus special needs and rescue services, among many others.

Social Return on Investment Report brings lots to smile about (L to R): Conor McGale Rose Regeneration & Donal Traynor CEO Community Finance Ireland

Their collective contributions helped our social enterprise establish a multiplier effect of 3.42 times our initial investment. This is a figure that is reflective of a moment in time, but one that helps us establish a benchmark to understand the real value of social finance in action.
 
A figure that we hope will give our whole team a target on which to continue building upon.

Over the coming weeks, we will spotlight some of the clients who helped deliver this multiplier effect. Clients such as Walkinstown Greenhills Resource Centre CLG, Sensational Kids, Fort Dunree Military Museum, Carnaross GFC, Hillside Evangelical Church and Made in Mourne, saw immediate benefits in being able to keep their services running, but also helped achieve wider improvements in:

A figure that is reflective of a moment in time, but one that helps us establish a benchmark to understand the real value of social finance in action.

And one that we hope will give our whole team a target on which to continue building upon.

Over the next while, we will spotlight some of the clients who helped deliver this multiplier effect.  Clients such as Walkinstown Greenhills Resource Centre CLG, Sensational Kids, Fort Dunree, Carnaross GFC , Hillside Evangelical Church & Made in Mourne, saw immediate benefits in being able to keep their services running, but also helped achieve wider improvements in:

Local impact can be felt pretty quickly, but the wider benefits to supporting the Sustainable Development Goals, which every community across the world are working towards, are an important part of the local narrative.

Our membership with FEBEA (European Federation of Ethical and Alternatives Banks and Financiers) sees us engage in constructive conversations with wider communities across Spain, Belgium, Greece and further afield in understanding the multiplier effect across all types of social finance initiatives.

The importance of finding a common metric in reporting progress or impact continues to challenge all of us in this community. As we publish this, our first Social Value Report, my hope is to realise the streamlining of a common approach so that we can all collectively understand progress.

Two of our clients who took part in the research project. On the left Sensational Kids and on the right Fort Dunree Military Museum.

Whilst such a common approach may be some time away, here at Community Finance Ireland our team are now committed to investing resources into an annual Social Value Analysis, which will continue to spotlight the real value of social finance.

We are really looking forward to engaging with more clients next year and see what further benefits or improvements Community Finance Ireland can support with its service and offering.

You can read more about the importance of Social Value Analysis and the detail behind our first report here. In the meantime we continue to support and raise awareness of the value of the sector and the changemakers who work within it.
 
Regards

Donal Traynor Sports
Donal Traynor CEO Community Finance Ireland

Donal Traynor Chief Executive,

Community Finance Ireland

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– NI Small Business Loan Fund makes £2.3 million available to Co Tyrone businesses –

Cookstown-based go-kart and e-scooter retailer, Gorilla Karts, is one of 84 companies in Co Tyrone to be supported by the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund since 2013, bringing the total allocated to businesses in the county to over £2 million.

The Fund is managed by Ulster Community Finance Ltd (UCF) on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. UCF is a subsidiary of the social enterprise organisation Community Finance Ireland (previously known as UCIT Ltd). Small businesses, sole traders and partnerships keen to develop their business can avail of loans up to £100,000, while start-up businesses can obtain initial loans of up to £15,000.

Gorilla Karts was founded in 2006 by Andrew Hamilton. From his premises just outside Cookstown, he sells a range of manual and electronic scooters, go-karts, hoverboards and accessories.  In 2022, Gorilla Karts secured £75,000 funding from NISBLF to meet growing customer demand for products and the company’s repair service. 

L-R Andrew Hamilton, founder of go-kart and e-scooter retailer, Gorilla Karts, Nigel McKernan, Invest NI’s Director of Corporate Finance and Dónal Traynor, Ulster Community Finance Ltd Chief Executive on site at Gorilla Karts in Cookstown, Co Tyrone.

Ulster Community Finance Ltd Chief Executive, Dónal Traynor said:

“Andrew is a one man power house whose love of sporting products clearly makes this small business the success it is today. The ongoing demand for the suite of global products as well as their in-house repair service means it’s a one stop shop for those seeking to engage in sporting activities locally.

Other sectors which have benefitted from the Fund to date include manufacturing and renewable energy. The fund is open to organisations throughout Co Tyrone who are interested in learning how financial support of up to £100,000 could further their business ambitions.”

L-R Andrew Hamilton, founder of go-kart and e-scooter retailer, Gorilla Karts, Dónal Traynor, Ulster Community Finance Ltd Chief Executive and Nigel McKernan, Invest NI’s Director of Corporate Finance on site at Gorilla Karts in Cookstown, Co Tyrone.

Andrew Hamilton said:

“Growing public interest in e-scooters and hoverboards over the past two years, has resulted in a huge increase in sales. The funding Gorilla Karts received from the Northern Ireland Business Loan Fund has allowed us to purchase additional stock in time for the Christmas rush and to recruit technical repair staff. As well as our local customer base, we also sell online at eBay and Amazon so the funding and valuable advice provided by Ulster Community Finance meant we could maintain our stock levels to meet customer demand.”

The NI Small Business Loan Fund is part of Invest NI’s Access to Finance suite of loan and equity funds. Nigel McKernan, Invest NI’s Director of Corporate Finance, said:

“It is really encouraging to see so many businesses in Co Tyrone benefitting from the NI Small Business Loan Fund, with lending to businesses in the region now surpassing £2m. Gorilla Karts is a business “on the pulse” in terms of consumer demand and takes advantage of the global marketplace via its impressive website. It’s a great example of how the Fund can support a business to react to an increase in demand for its products.”

To find out more about the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund and how it could help with the next stage of your business’s plan, visit their website.

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Community and volunteer-led organisations who choose social finance solutions could see a social return of investment of over 3.42 times the initial investment. That’s according to Community Finance Ireland (CFI), the most progressive social finance provider across the island.

Based on a social value analysis undertaken by Rose Regeneration and the Rural Community Network, CFI has established that for every €1/£1 spent in delivering projects on the island, local communities have seen a return of 3.42 times that investment, through wider social benefits such as improved community health and increased employment opportunities and skill levels.

Dónal Traynor, CEO of CFI, says the cumulative impact of such projects is boundless:

“We strive to create a lasting social impact in every community on the island of Ireland. As the first all island Social Value Report our team and clients can really see the multiplier effect played out in communities across the island every day. If a community development group were to invest in remote working spaces, for example, the ripple effect sees stronger social connections in that community, more money spent in local businesses, and a greater sense of belonging for individuals who might have previously worked in isolation at home or spent hours on a commute. You cannot underestimate the social impact of these changes, and the social value analysis carried out by Rose Regeneration and the Rural Community Network, via the Social Value Engine platform, demonstrates the return of investment which communities can expect.”

Community Finance Ireland Social Value Analysis Report
All smiles as the first all island social value analysis report finds a 3.42 times multiplier effect for the initial investment. (L to R): Conor McGale Evaluation and Impact Manager at Rose Regeneration & Donal Traynor CEO Community Finance Ireland discuss the stunning results achieved with clients during Covid restrictions.

Mr. Traynor added that social finance offers communities even greater social impact:

“Not only do we offer more tailored supports and knowledgeable advice for volunteer-led organisations, but communities also know they’re part of an all-island social impact network – in repaying their loan, a sports club in Ballymoney is supporting a social enterprise in Bantry. Any profit goes straight back to supporting other similar projects, it’s a circular social economy that is making real change happen in communities across the island.”

Conor McGale, Evaluation and Impact Manager at Rose Regeneration said:

“We were delighted to be approached by Community Finance Ireland to carry out this analysis, which clearly demonstrates its social impact in supporting organisations across the island of Ireland. This report focuses on the assistance that CFI provided to a wide range of groups, whose financing and fundraising options were seriously curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the conversations that we had, it was clear that CFI played an essential role in ensuring many VCSE organisations were able to keep growing and developing, whilst continuing to provide essential services to their local communities.”

For more information you can view the report in full here.

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