Community groups proved resilient throughout Covid

Social Finance Foundation, backed by Ireland’s banks, says the efforts of the volunteers in local community groups have been remarkable during challenging times.

Social Finance Foundation (SFF) said it approved €41m worth of social finance loans across Ireland in 2020.

The organisation said that €44m is currently available in special loan funding for deserving community projects.

“We are focused on supporting the Government’s plan to reopen and rejuvenate Irish society after lockdown”

Despite the reduced activity of community groups under lockdown phases, 2020 saw total loans worth €41m approved and €22m drawn down in 2020.

The funding was apportioned across Ireland with Munster accounting for 34pc, Leinster 34pc (22pc excluding Dublin), Connaught 19pc and Ulster 13pc.

In excess of 460,000 people, one in 11 people in Ireland, availed of or visited SFF supported facilities during the year.

Some 1,200 jobs were supported (mostly temporary) by SFF and its service partners Community Finance Ireland and Clann Credo – up 80 jobs from 2019.

Bank funding

Funding from the Irish banks – including Bank of Ireland, AIB, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank – has enabled the Foundation to lend over €143m to more than 1,500 organisations since 2007, through partners Clann Credo and Community Finance Ireland.

In 2020, subsidiary Microfinance Ireland approved €27m in loans to micro-enterprises.

Through the Foundation and its subsidiaries, loans of up to €500,000 can be obtained, at competitive rates, for community-based projects, charities, sports groups, and social enterprises.

“We are focused on supporting the Government’s plan to reopen and rejuvenate Irish society after lockdown,” explained the chair of the Social Finance Foundation Aidan Barry.

“In keeping with our motto ‘Finance for Social Good’, we have a key role to play, with our partners, Community Finance Ireland and Clann Credo, the Irish retail banking sector, and the European Investment Fund, to reach those sectors in local communities that find it hardest to access loan finance. Even a modest amount of funding can have transformational impacts on communities and the quality of life of the people who are active within them. After 15 months of the pandemic and emerging from a third lockdown, this have never been more important.“

Since its inception in 2007, the not-for-profit Social Finance Foundation has been funded by AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank, firstly by way of a €25m non-repayable grant, followed by €116m in two tranches of loan funding at low interest rates for the combined period 2009 to 2025.

The bank funding has enabled the Foundation to lend over €143m to more than 1,500 organisations since 2007. This loan funding has enabled such social organisations to achieve their goals, delivering strong social benefits to their local communities.

The Foundation also enjoys the support of the European Investment Fund through a €25m loan guarantee facility.

Social Finance Foundation also serves micro-enterprises (employing less than 10 people) by providing loans of between €2,000 and €25,000 through its subsidiary, Microfinance Ireland.  Microfinance Ireland played a very important role during the lockdown periods in 2020 in providing €27m of much needed credit to those micro-enterprises that were negatively affected by Covid19.  This was an increase of 350pc from 2019 (€6m).

“This support is incredibly important, now more so than ever, given the impact the pandemic has on traditional fundraising methods,” said Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, TD.

“Many of the organisations who will avail of this loan funding have played a significant part in the community response to Covid-19 and this serves as a reminder of the value of the work which Social Finance Foundation, in conjunction with its partners Clann Credo and Community Finance Ireland, does to support the social sector.”

By John Kennedy (

Published: 19 July 2021