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An organ transplant

02 November 2006


“We desperately need to do work on the organ; it’s on its last legs. Where can we get the funding?”

Nearly everyone who says this to me is looking for more than £300,000 to restore an instrument they believe to be uniquely historical and significant. There are lots of them.

However, it’s amazing how many organs do eventually get their make-overs.

getting ready

For a truly special historic instrument, say mainly Georgian or earlier, commission a report from an organ specialist that explains its provenance and its parts. Then, report in hand, ask for a quote from an organ builder.

Add your own report on when the organ is used, maybe for concerts and recitals as well as church services.

Look at the church finances and assess how much you are going to contribute. Can you find as much as 60 per cent of the sum? This will influence potential donors, who like to join a success story.

grant makers

The Heritage Lottery Fund has occasionally funded major organ repair and rebuilding. But I hear that this has been for uniquely historical instruments, and when they are being restored to their original state. Only very few strike gold this way.

If the organ has a key function in concerts and performances, I understand the Lottery Arts Fund may help. Last time I asked, though, the application process was rather tortuous.

The Council for the Care of Churches website, www.churchcare.co.uk, lists trusts who donate to organ funds.

the buck stops

Most of the money, though, usually comes from those who enjoy the organ, that is the church congregation and its friends.

A programme of local events, sales, and sponsored challenges might be the best route. Try to include in the programme events that build up links with local residents whose contact with the church may be marginal. An appeal that suggests that, one day, they might wish to have the wedding march trumpeting forth may spark generosity.

Expect to raise the money in a multitude of small gifts, rather than a few large sums.

be realistic

If the organ is nothing special, functional but ordinary, investigate alternatives. Have a preliminary conversation with the secretary of the Diocesan Advisory Committee, as she or he may know information that instantly reduces your options. Can interim repairs keep the organ going? It’s easier to raise £35,000 than a sum ten times greater. Can you mothball the organ? Leave it in situ and purchase an electronic organ for £10,000 or £15,000?

Or you may decide to bite the bullet and dispose of the pipe organ entirely. On every PCC, there will be someone who would rather use the space for the children’s programme or an administrator’s office. Be open to all ideas, at least at the start.

Do you have a question about an aspect of church development or growth for this column? Write to maggie.durran@churchtimes.co.uk.

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