Ballynahinch Rugby Football Club in County Down is among just some of the projects that have benefitted from Community Finance Ireland’s £14.2 investment in communities.
A leading social finance provider has recorded its highest ever level of funding for the community, voluntary and social enterprise sector in Northern Ireland, a report launched has revealed.
The annual social impact report from Community Finance Ireland (formerly UCIT) reported loans for community organisations in Ulster to the value of £14.2m from 2016-2019.
The all-island report, a first for Community Finance Ireland, revealed that a total of £26m had been loaned across Ireland in the last four years, with more than half of all customers (54 per cent) based in Ulster.
As Ireland’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.
Founded in 1954, Ballynahinch RFC has risen to become regarded as one of the leading clubs in Northern Ireland boasting a membership of over 500 individuals.
The club enjoys an excellent relationship with the local, largely rural, community. We were delighted to support this progressive club with a flexible, tailored loan to enable them to enhance their facilities and upgrade their grounds. Ensuring their mission to be at the social and sporting heart of their local community remains.
David George, Hinch Club Treasurer, said: “Ballynahinch Rugby Club found Community Finance Ireland (formerly UCIT) to be a superb organisation to deal with when we approached them to help us with a funding shortfall during the construction of our community walking trail.
“They made an effort to understand our club and it’s position within the local community and showed real empathy with our situation. The attention to detail was superb and the application was dealt with rapidly and efficiently.
“We would not hesitate to recommend them to other clubs and similar organisations. They have also shown themselves to be very responsible lenders with their help during the coronavirus outbreak.”
Phelim Sharvin, Associate Director, Community Finance Ireland said: “We can provide loans ranging from £10,000 up to £500,000 but an average loan request is typically £100,000.
“In our 20-year history, first as UCIT and now as Community Finance Ireland, we have helped more than 500 organisations across Northern Ireland, spanning the arts and culture, hospitality, faith and sports sectors.
“We have seen first-hand the force for good behind these organisations and the positive change they make to the communities or end users they serve. We’re only too glad to support these extraordinary change-makers in their ambitions to enable change in our society.”
The Community Finance Ireland report has been published to coincide with a rebranding initiative which will see the social finance provider transition to 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 podcast 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 and signifies a new era for the organisation.”
Ulster Community Finance Ltd (another group company) has since 2013, managed two Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Funds on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland with the latest contract awarded in 2018.
The loan level is up to £100,000, which means the new Fund has the potential to lend over £9million to local SMEs, helping them to optimise their potential through investment. To date, approximately £10m has been disbursed to SMEs in Northern Ireland.