Maggie Durran: Why do you want to repair?

by
23 August 2007

We want to do a great deal of work to our church — repairing the south wall and windows, repairing stonework, improving access, restoring wall paintings, and redecorating. We want to ask our local development corporation for money. Are they obliged to help us? If not, where else can we go?

“WHY do you want to do these capital works?” That is the first question of every potential funder.

Most funders are not going to be interested if you say: “Because this is a wonderful listed church with a great history.” Funding these days is targeted at projects that will bring benefits to others as a result of the work.

For churches with repair and adaptation needs, this consideration starts at a very basic level. Will your church be open to the public at least X number of days a year? If the public purse, through a government-funded agency such as English Heritage, is going to spend money to preserve your church, at the very least the public ought to have access to it.

If you think of applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the benefits that are identified have to be heritage benefits — not heritage benefits to the building, but heritage benefits to people. This includes greater understanding, more access, and more active engagement with the building.

In the course of creating a heritage project that benefits people, it may be necessary to adapt the building by having new facilities and some repairs. But the main grant-programme of the Heritage Lottery Fund is not open to church-building works that are eligible under the Joint Repair Scheme: the latter must be finished before any application is made.

Most development corporations are set up by central government working with the local authority to regenerate depressed areas by improving commercial, residential, and retail industries. A more minor by-product is helping the voluntary sector. Repairs to churches are seldom necessary to these objectives.

Begin by analysing whether the new activity and programmes in your church will provide new work-skills, new jobs, support to working parents, improvement of a business district, and so on. Download the “vision” document of the regeneration board for your area, and identify the objectives.

Are you able to deliver benefits for people within one or more of the corporation’s targets? If you can, it is time to start a conversation with the officers.

It is a golden rule nowadays that you fund-raise for benefits, with a bias towards the more disadvantaged in our society, and then funds will be unlocked. It is far harder to fund-raise externally for church projects that will benefit the building or the church members only; it may be time, even in the current climate of financial pressure, to renew engagement in the wider community. It will be beneficial — and not just financially.

Send your questions to maggie@churchtimes.co.uk

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