Local Charities Combine to ‘Unlock’ Potential
Three leading local charities have joined forces to unlock a £1m fund for community-based groups making a positive difference to society across Northern Ireland.
The ‘Building Better Futures’ fund will help charities, community and voluntary groups, and social enterprises by providing small, unsecured loans that are not currently available from traditional financial sources.
The scheme is being funded by Belfast Charitable Society, one of Northern Ireland’s oldest charitable organisations, Building Change Trust and Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT).
The launch event at Clifton House, featured the original money chest of the Belfast Charitable Society. Made in 1768, at a time when Belfast had no banks, the chest was used to store all of the monies collected to build the Poor House and the city’s first hospital. The chest could only be opened by three separate keys held by three key holders.
Paula Reynolds, CEO of the Belfast Charitable Society said:
“Since its inception over 265 years ago the Belfast Charitable Society has been to the forefront of tackling disadvantage and helping vulnerable people, be that through the city’s first hospital, clean water supplies, or the foundation of social welfare and the care of our older people.
“Building Better Futures is about harnessing those same values of compassion and philanthropy for today’s society. By investing in grassroots organisations and providing access to finance that isn’t readily available elsewhere, groups will be able to continue to work directly with those in need.”
The event was attended by a range of representatives from the community sector and Local Government from across Northern Ireland, including the Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr. Mary Ellen Campbell.
Nigel McKinney, Director of Operations at the Building Change Trust, said:
”We’re delighted our collaboration with UCIT has expanded to include Belfast Charitable Society.
”We’ve known for some time there has been demand from the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector for small, simple, unsecured lending. This collaboration shows what is possible when the focus is on meeting the needs of the sector and we’re excited to see the work that will be done using this form of social finance.”
The joint Fund, managed by UCIT, one of the UK’s largest specialists in social finance, will provide access to flexible finance and encourage organisations to place financial management at the centre of their operations.
Damian McAteer, UCIT’s Vice Chair, added:
“UCIT is delighted to further extend its reach by partnering with the Building Change Trust and Belfast Charitable Society to help us meet much needed demand for smaller unsecured loans from within the third sector.
“The Fund represents a significant investment from within the sector by organisations that value community activity and social enterprise in all its diversity across Northern Ireland. This partnership is a positive move for the sector and we hope that it will encourage similar collaborations or even new investors for the fund.”
Building Better Futures will provide unsecured loans of between £1,000 and £25,000 to help groups become more financially sustainable. The loans can be used for a wide range of purposes, including buildings and repairs, equipment purchase, making facilities more energy efficient or funding shortfalls in larger grant assisted projects.
Belfast Charitable Society was established in 1752 to tackle disadvantage and poverty, building a Poor House and Belfast’s first Infirmary which remain as Clifton House. Today the Society continues to work to tackle disadvantage and promote philanthropy while sharing its heritage with others.
Building Change Trust was established by the Big Lottery Fund supported by a National Lottery grant of £10 million to help build community capacity and the promotion of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland.
According to NICVA it’s estimated that there are over 6,000 organisations in Northern Ireland’s Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector, providing over 44,000 jobs and supporting 240,000 volunteers.
Further information about the scheme is available by contacting UCIT on 028 9031 5003 or visiting www.ucitltd.com