Demand for loans from an innovative community fund has exceeded all expectations. In just over six months the Building Better Futures Fund has committed over £500K to almost 30 groups across Northern Ireland.
Created by a partnership between Belfast Charitable Society, Building Change Trust and Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT), the £1M fund provides unsecured loans of up to £25,000 to voluntary groups, charities and social enterprises.
Among the groups supported by the ‘Building Better Futures Fund’ are the Strand Arts Centre in Belfast and Destined Enterprises in Derry-Londonderry. The Strand Arts Centre secured finance to acquire a new digital projector to help grow both its artistic programme and income. Destined Enterprises, which empowers people with learning disabilities, applied to the Fund to buy new equipment for its social enterprise taxi service.
Dermot O’Hara, Destined Enterprises Director, said:
“This loan has enabled us to provide much needed disabled-friendly transport in the city. In going to the Fund we had to think about our business model and how and when we can pay it back. We take the whole idea of ‘enterprise’ very seriously and we also use this to help our members learn more about managing their finances as well as those of the organisation.”
Paula Reynolds, CEO of the Belfast Charitable Society, added: “Our partnership approach with UCIT and Building Change Trust is unique within Northern Ireland. We have achieved much more together than we could separately. The Fund not only supports much needed work that tackles disadvantage, but it also gives organisations another opportunity to source income and to think about the viability and sustainability of their projects.”
Also speaking at the celebration event in Clifton House was Cliff Prior, CEO of Big Society Capital, the body responsible for investing over £300M from dormant bank accounts in England in support of good causes there.
Mr. Prior said: “Since the UK Government decided in 2010 to release dormant bank account funds we’ve invested in over 40 social investment intermediaries which have reached 600 charities and social enterprises. The funds have made a substantial impact, from tackling poverty, unemployment and homelessness, to supporting people who live with disabilities.”
Up to £20M might be made available locally from Northern Ireland dormant bank accounts. The Department of Finance, however, has indicated that the use of these funds remains a decision for the Executive.
Nigel McKinney, Director of Operations at the Building Change Trust, said:
“The use of dormant account funds in England and Wales demonstrates what is possible. The impasse over the use of Northern Ireland dormant accounts denies access to a significant and potentially transformative source of funding for local charities and social enterprises. It’s now time for a decision to be progressed.”
Further information is available by contacting UCIT on 028 9031 5003 or visiting ucitltd.com.