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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.  

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Positive and dynamic professional, Mary Nohilly, joins Community Finance Ireland to help volunteers and charities with lending.

Community Finance Ireland is thrilled to announce the appointment of Mary Nohilly as Client Relationship Manager for the Connacht and Donegal Regions.

With a diverse background in the banking and business lending sector, Mary brings a wealth of experience and a proven track record of success.  During her tenure with financial services, Mary held several key positions, including Business Manager in Roscommon and Dublin & Galway.

In her previous role at the Irish Wheelchair Association, Mary successfully developed and implemented programs to support young school leavers in Tuam, Co Galway. Her efforts focused on enabling people with disabilities to participate fully in the community through personal and social inclusion initiatives.

Mary holds a Bachelor of Business Studies Degree from Dublin City University and is a Qualified Financial Advisor.

Mary Nohilly Community Finance Ireland
Community Finance Ireland’s newly appointed Client Relationship Executive in Connacht and Donegal, Mary Nohilly.

Community Finance Ireland offers tailored financial supports for sports clubs, community projects, faith-based groups, and social enterprises. Between 2016 and 2022, the organisation funded 51 projects to the value of €5.4 million across the Connacht and Donegal region.

Welcoming the appointment Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance (ROI) said:

“We are delighted to welcome Mary to our team, Her extensive experience, strong work ethic, and dedication to making a positive impact align perfectly with our organization’s values and goals. We look forward to leveraging her expertise to further enhance our client service and success.”

Do you have a project in mind? If you are based in counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Roscommon, Leitrim or Sligo get in touch with Mary today. She is ready to hear from you.

Mary Nohilly Community Finance Ireland Contact

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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.

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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.

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First cross-border workshop held in Derry~Londonderry as part of delivery programme for project supported through the International Fund for Ireland.

An ambitious cross-border project is bringing people together to deliver a capacity building programme that will make border communities more sustainable.

NetWORKS23 is funded by the International Fund for Ireland’s (IFI) Communities in Partnership Programme (CiPP). It has a strong focus on developing and embedding sustainable relationships on a cross-border basis through supporting cooperation and innovation between groups and organisations North and South.

The project is being led by Community Finance Ireland in partnership with Rural Community Network. Both organisations bring a wealth of experience in social enterprise, finance, peace building and reconciliation.

Through a shared learning approach, NetWORKS 23 will facilitate cross-community and cross-border engagement with people who have had limited opportunities for collaborative working. The Project targets community and voluntary organisations in Derry, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Fermanagh, Donegal and Tyrone.

Attending Networks23 event in Greysteel were left to right: Damian McAteer Community Finance Ireland Group Chair, Donal Traynor, Community Finance Ireland Group CEO, Columba Mailey, Manager of the Vale Centre, Bridie Mullen, Board Director Vale Centre and Paddy Harte IFI Chair.

Participants to date have attended residentials in Sligo and a cross-border workshop in Greysteel at the Vale Centre. The daylong seminar provided practical insight into the Vale Centre’s commercial activities,  revenue generation and how a social enterprise approach feeds into the public and social services offered to the wider community.

NetWORKS23 aims to build progressive partnerships that will deliver meaningful benefits for communities on both sides of the border and raise awareness of the issues and challenges while also contributing to the wider peace building work of the IFI.

Commenting on the project, IFI Chair Paddy Harte says;

“The NetWORKS23 Project is timely as border areas have traditionally suffered from isolation, lack of investment and the ongoing legacy of The Troubles. It is important to examine how we can improve reconciliation between rural Unionist and Nationalist communities to help build resilience and develop local leadership. This initiative will provide the necessary training for participants to examine the long-term development of their own projects within a wider peace and reconciliation context.

The IFI is committed to delivering cross-community and cross-border outreach, encouraging challenging conversations to deal with a range of issues. We are particularly pleased to support this project under CiPP, which values innovation and the creation of positive and long-lasting relationships between cross-border communities who share similar challenges.”

Donal Traynor Group CEO of Community Finance Ireland had this to say:

“Community Finance Ireland are delighted to lend their support to this cross-border initiative. Our support for the ongoing prosperity and development of all communities has been in place for over 21 years and our commitment remains for this generation and the next.”

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Community Finance Ireland are delighted to announce that we have been awarded the Social Enterprise Mark Accreditation. This prestigious accreditation demonstrates that the company is creating real benefits for people and the planet, and is committed to social impact.

The Social Enterprise Mark is an independently assessed accreditation that recognizes organizations that are operating as social enterprises. This means that they are using business to create social and environmental impact, and are committed to reinvesting their profits back into their mission.

Community Finance Ireland’s CEO, Donal Traynor, expressed his excitement about achieving the Social Enterprise Mark accreditation, saying:

We are thrilled to have received this accreditation, which confirms our ongoing commitment to creating positive social impact. At Community Finance Ireland, we believe that social finance can play a critical role in building a more equitable and sustainable future for everyone. Our recent Social Value Impact report and findings further demonstrate how social finance is working to achieve great results, and we are committed to continuing this important work.”

The Social Enterprise Mark is awarded by Social Enterprise Mark CIC, the leading global authority on social enterprise. To achieve the accreditation, Community Finance Ireland underwent a rigorous assessment process that evaluated the company’s social and environmental impact, governance structures, and financial sustainability.

SE Mark Donal and Stephanie
Community Finance Ireland’s Compliance Officer Stephanie NIcholl and CEO Donal Traynor awarded the Social Enterprise Mark Accreditation April 2023

As a registered social enterprise, Community Finance Ireland is committed to using finance as a tool for positive social change. The company provides affordable loans to community and voluntary organizations, social enterprises, and charities across Ireland, helping to build stronger communities and support important social causes.

As well as recognising Community Finance Ireland’s dedication to achieving high quality social impact, holding the mark demonstrates our commitment to effective good governance controls, stakeholder engagement, financial transparency and ethical and good business practices.

Stephanie Nicholl, Compliance Officer at Community Finance Ireland said:

The Social Enterprise Mark recognises and builds the capabilities of social enterprises as sustainable businesses that are dedicated to maximising social impact. The Mark recognises the value of our social impact, specifically with our clients that we work with in the Social Enterprise sector across areas such as sport, arts and heritage, community organisations, faith and church groups and the workspace provision.”

Stephanie further explains the importance of the recognition in the short video below:

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– £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.  

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Solving problems and creating opportunities for groups in North Leinster and South Ulster.

Bringing over 40 years of experience in financial lending, Colm Prendergast has been appointed as the new Client Relationship Executive in North Leinster and South Ulster for Community Finance Ireland, the fastest-growing social finance provider in Ireland and the UK.

Colm Prendergast joins an all-island team, as the appetite for social finance solutions in the community and voluntary sector continues to grow.

A native of Kilcock Kildare, now living in Blackrock, County Louth, Mr Prendergast will support organisations across the North Leinster and South Ulster regions, working with voluntary-led groups and social enterprises to make social change possible in their local communities. 

Community Finance Ireland’s newly appointed Client Relationship Executive in North Leinster and South Ulster, Colm Prendergast.

Community Finance Ireland offers tailored financial supports for sports clubs, community projects, faith-based groups, and social enterprises. Between 2016 and 2022, the organisation funded 127 projects to the value of €16.6 million across the Leinster region.

Speaking on his appointment, Mr Prendergast reflected on his how his previous role with the Credit Union Group has put him in good stead for this new venture:

“There’s something of a shared mission between credit unions and Community Finance Ireland- we’re here to help solve problems and create opportunities and every repayment is reinvested.“While the credit union supports individuals, Community Finance Ireland provides tailored supports for community organisations who run them. We don’t ask for personal guarantees, we don’t charge arrangement fees on loans and we’re flexible in a way that traditional high-street lending is not. If a client can repay their loan early, we won’t penalise them for that. I’m delighted to be joining the Community Finance Ireland team and I’m looking forward to hearing all the big ideas which people in have to make social change in their local community. Where I live in Louth with my family, I see how the local sports clubs, arts organisations and social enterprises are at the heart of our local community – all of them led by people power. I’m looking forward to working with new clients to solve problems and create opportunities for social impact.”

Welcoming the appointment Barry Symes, Head of Community Finance (ROI) said:

“Colm brings a wealth of financial expertise to our clients and potential clients across this region. We’re delighted to welcome him on board and I’ve no doubt he’ll be a huge support for community and voluntary organisations within the Cavan, Dublin, Louth, Monaghan and Westmeath regions”

Do you have a project in mind? If you are based in counties Dublin, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Monaghan or Cavan get in touch with Colm today. He is ready to hear from you.

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

Belfast charity, Kids Together, has purchased a new premises on the city’s Springfield Road, with £150,000 support from social finance providers, Community Finance Ireland.  The purchase will allow Kids Together to provide services for 408 children and people with complex needs each year, in response to increasing demands from local health trusts. 

Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland has supported 166 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.

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

“The rate at which Kids Together has expanded its service offering is indicative of the team’s professionalism and expertise and their desire to respond positively to the ever-increasing needs of individuals and their families. We’re delighted to support the next phase of Kids Together’s growth and development.  Community Finance Ireland has provided £18million in social finance to Northern Ireland’s voluntary sector since 2016 and we’re proud that almost a third of that has gone to organisations like Kids Together, which delivers Community Services, Childcare and Health and Wellbeing services.” 

Kids Together was established in 2005 and delivers wide-ranging childcare, youth programmes and specialist care/therapy support for children and young adults with complex disabilities.  Service users are located across the Greater Belfast area and growing demand from Health Trusts and families created the need for a new property. 

Kids Together Belfast Community Finance Ireland
Photographed at the new Kids Together Springfield Road premises in Belfast Orlaith Bradley and Sharon McCloskey, Kids Together and Phelim Sharvin Head of Community Finance Ireland’s Northern Ireland business.

Mairead McCrea who founded the charity explains:

“The demand for our services has risen every year since 2005 and the acquisition of the new property, which includes a lift for service users, is a great opportunity for Kids Together to help secure our future and deliver key services on-site . The social finance support and advice from the team at Community Finance Ireland that allowed us to move forward with the of our new property, has been invaluable.  Phelim and the team really understand and encourage our plans for growth and development.  We couldn’t have made the new property purchase and therefore extend our services without their help and advice.”

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

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

Ballymoney-based, Compass Advocacy Network has purchased and developed a social farm which provides training and leisure opportunities for over 50 people with learning disabilities each weekday, with support from social finance providers, Community Finance Ireland.  A total loan value of £350,000 enabled the purchase of the 11-acre site and farmhouse outside Ballymoney, and the subsequent installation of phase-3 electricity and upgrade of the farm’s outbuildings.   

Since 2016, Community Finance Ireland has supported 166 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 Relationship Manager at Community Finance Ireland said:

Each time we meet the team at Compass Advocacy Network, we are blown away by their innovation and ambition. At Community Finance Ireland we support a huge range of community and volunteer-led projects from sports projects to social enterprises to faith-based groups, but they all start with an ideas and a group of people who want to make it work.

The opportunities that Compass Advocacy Network provide for vulnerable adults from across multiple sites are incredible and we were delighted to support the purchase and development of Lislagan Farm.

We are proud to have made almost a third of our £18 million social finance available to organisations like Compass Advocacy Network, which deliver Community Services, Childcare, Health and Wellbeing and Education and Training.”

Compass Advocacy Network Peter Smyth Janet Schofield Community loans
Photographed at Compass Advocacy Network’s Lislagan Farm are Peter Smyth, Client Relationship Manager for Community Finance Ireland, Clint Langley, Compass Advocacy Service User and Janet Schofield, Chief Executive of Compass Advocacy Network.

The Compass Advocacy Group was established in 1997 to provide education, learning and employment opportunities to vulnerable adults. CAN’s bases provide social and leisure opportunities for over 50 people with learning disabilities per day, 5 days a week in Ballymoney, Ballymena and Coleraine.

Janet Schofield, Chief Executive at Compass Advocacy Network explained:

As a user-led organisation, the people we support are at the heart of our decision making. As well as social and leisure opportunities, our social enterprises which include recycling, upcycling and retail, give our users real work-based training towards employment.

The social finance support and advice from the team at Community Finance Ireland that allowed us to purchase and carry out improvement works at Lislagan Farm, has been invaluable. Peter and the team really understand and encourage our plans for growth and development. We couldn’t have made our plans for the farm a reality without them.”

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

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