Parishes in Connor Diocese will be eligible to apply for support from a £7.1 million funding pot being made available from dormant bank accounts.
The money will be delivered by the Big Lottery Fund, but is not Lottery money.
Northern Ireland Finance Minister Mervyn Storey announced the new fund on February 24. It will use money from dormant bank accounts to finance projects in local communities.
The Northern Ireland Community Finance Fund, which is part of the UK wide Dormant Accounts Scheme, utilises monies from dormant bank and building society accounts to support social investment.
The Minister said: “The Community Finance Fund will provide a unique and innovative funding opportunity for social investment in Northern Ireland. It will help to improve access to finance for a range of organisations across the third sector, such as social enterprises, church and smaller community based groups.
Mervyn Storey added: “The third sector plays a vital role in Northern Ireland but its development and growth has been constrained by a lack of affordable finance. This Fund will enable such organisations to make further investment in their activities, grow their organisations and become self-sustaining through the availability of finance. Access to this financial support will help to increase their revenue and resources and enhance the level of social benefits they deliver.”
The intention to establish such a fund was announced as part of the 2015/16 Budget and was previously known as the Social Innovation Fund. The Fund is part of the UK wide Dormant Accounts Scheme established through the ‘Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2008’, and as of March 31 2015, £7.1m has been made available to the NI Fund. Future funding will vary, but is currently estimated at around £0.8m per annum.