Don’t let lack of funding hold you back from developing a vision for how your building might be adapted to serve the needs of congregation and community. Sources of support can be unlocked in the light of a convincing plan.
If you are planning a significant repair or development project, obtaining some form of grant aid will probably be your main source of funding. We therefore provide, below, information about some of the main grant-giving bodies. But first...
Running a project fundraising campaign
As most parishes do a major project only once in a ‘blue moon’, we offer you some tips to help you get off to a good start:
- Form a Fundraising group – ideally led by someone who has done fundraising before, or find someone who is optimistic, enthusiastic and quick to learn. Think carefully before using a professional fundraiser - most funders prefer a local voice that is passionate and supportive of the project.
- Research funding sources – you’ll need to match most grant funding with some cash from other sources, so don’t rely on a single funder to give you all you need. The main national bodies include Heritage Lottery Fund, Big Lottery and the National Churches Trust. A large number of other funders also operate nationally and some organisations like ChurchCare act as nationwide distributors and assessors for a number of trust funds. Regional and local funders are also worth exploring, usually smaller trusts offering modest grants – but every little bit helps! See below for some good places to start your search.
- Don’t forget your own sources - these may include Legacies & Bequests, a Friends Scheme and Planned Giving Schemes, and other fundraising possibilities are boundless! Most funders look for evidence of match funding before they commit. This includes cash, but can also include ‘in-kind’ contributions such as the value of volunteer time.
- Check funders’ aims, priorities and eligibility criteria carefully - and approach those whose priorities and criteria seem most relevant to your project and are therefore more likely to help your church. If unsure – speak to the trust administrator first before you spend time filling in application forms. And remember, not all funders are keen on funding churches as such – so the more your project offers to meet identified community needs the better the chances.
- Prepare a good project plan – in a nutshell, be clear about what your vision is, what needs are you trying to meet, what you propose to do, what outcomes you will achieve, and who will benefit. Many grant giving organisations will also ask you for a business plan to see how you propose to sustain your project into the future. Time spent doing this can be a valuable strategic exercise for a parish!
Most funding bodies are more interested in who the project will help (beneficiaries) than the physical improvements as such. In other words, they are looking for evidence of need and a solution that enables wider community benefit (for which, say, kitchen facilities and installing a toilet may be part of the solution to enable these benefits to be delivered). Therefore, if you are considering the development or adaptation of church buildings for wider use, we advise you to give some thought to identifying local needs and preparing a vision and plan to deliver wider benefits, increased community use, etc. This will help to underpin your project and strengthen your case. Funders may also look for a business plan that demonstrates how the project will be financially sustainable in future years.