Hear the pennies dropping

by
03 May 2007

Tired of trying to raise money through jumble sales or sponsored walks? Julia McGuinness looks at other ideas

Community event: top: serving cream teas or cakes can be a way to meet the community; above: running fêtes can attract large crowds, too, provided the weather is kind

Community event: top: serving cream teas or cakes can be a way to meet the community; above: running fêtes can attract large crowds, too, provided the...

A TEDDY-BEAR parachute jump from the church tower; an exhibition of wedding dresses and memorabilia; and an auction of promises offering, among other things, a computer MOT. These were the winning ideas in the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group’s competition in 2002 to inspire ideas for church fund-raising.

Fund-raising can provoke mixed feelings among church members: some are apprehensive at the thought, while others can feel nagged. According to the Church of England’s Stewardship and Resources Officer, John Preston, fund-raising is not the best place to start seeking church income: “A church’s first priority should be to look at giving. In many cases, where the giving is right, fund-raising isn’t necessary for day-to-day running costs — though it might be different in a small rural church.”

Fund-raising becomes more relevant when a church needs to tackle a one-off project, such as taking an initiative in ministry or mission, perhaps by creating a new youth-worker post, or building maintenance or repair.

Clarifying a project’s nature and purpose will suggest potential donors. Church members may be generous in supporting special projects beyond their regular giving, but support may be combined with help from the wider community and grant-giving bodies.

Wendy Coombey, Community Partnership and Funding Officer for Hereford diocese says that, regardless of the incumbent’s involvement, there needs to be a core group to carry a project to completion — even if the incumbent leaves halfway through.

Wendy Coombey, Community Partnership and Funding Officer for Hereford diocese says that, regardless of the incumbent’s involvement, there needs to be a core group to carry a project to completion — even if the incumbent leaves halfway through.

She also advises being open to all available resources: “Don’t rely on the usual suspects in church life to do it all. Bring in fresh energy.” This includes drawing on the skills of the community — from the retired PR consultant living down the road to the local authority’s project-development team.

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She also advises being open to all available resources: “Don’t rely on the usual suspects in church life to do it all. Bring in fresh energy.” This includes drawing on the skills of the community — from the retired PR consultant living down the road to the local authority’s project-development team.

Diocesan officers can also offer support, particularly in applications for external funding. Tony Brown, the Diocesan Funding Consultant for Southwell & Nottingham, says that the earlier help is sought, the better.

He says that developing the vision for a large building project needs to happen at the right pace: “Churches sometimes rush ahead, commit to one approach, and get into difficulties further down the line. If they’ve invested £10,000 in an architect’s services early on, they may feel it’s wasted if they don’t stick with the resulting design, even if they later find they’ve not thought things through in terms of funding criteria.”

Churches can assume that large grants are there for the asking, but applying for money for church-building repairs can be viewed as little more than “doing up the members’ clubhouse”, according to Mr Brown.

Churches can assume that large grants are there for the asking, but applying for money for church-building repairs can be viewed as little more than “doing up the members’ clubhouse”, according to Mr Brown.

Lottery funding bodies look for the tangible benefits a church project will offer the wider community. “They take a dim view of schemes that present themselves as simply about promoting religion.”

Lottery funding bodies look for the tangible benefits a church project will offer the wider community. “They take a dim view of schemes that present themselves as simply about promoting religion.”

When All Saints’ in Huthwaite, north Nottinghamshire, needed its leaking roof repaired, its application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for £50,000 incorporated the required ten-per-cent proportion to be allocated to a community element, the “Living History Mine” project. The stone that was used to build All Saints’ — which celebrated its centenary in 2003 — came from a nearby pit. When the mineshaft was sunk, miners dragged the stone to the church construction site.

The All Saints’ project involved church members, using recording equipment, provided by the HLF, to collect material for an exhibition celebrating the stories from the local community. A sound roof, of course, was necessary to house the exhibition, and the repairs were carried out last autumn.

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The Revd Charlie Maiden, Priest-in-Charge of All Saints’, appreciates a dry church, but feels that “a lot of good has come out of this all round: All Saints’ Infants’ School loved getting involved; we’ve had support from Ashfield District Council; and local people have been able to tell their stories.”

Mr Brown advises that “Applying for church funding means not thinking too narrowly about what the money is for, but exploring the wider potential of community links. This is not manipulation, but partnership. You may want to improve disabled access, but the Heritage Lottery Fund wants to enlist the church’s energy in bringing its local heritage to life.”

Whatever the funding body — and these can range from the Lottery Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and English Heritage, to Entrust (the Environmental Trust Scheme Regulatory Body) and WREN (Waste Recycling Environmental Limited) — enlisting appropriate expertise is considered advisable in making an application.

A big project can energise a congregation, but fund-raising fatigue can be a potential parish health-hazard, says Mr Preston. One symptom is when “Balancing the books starts occupying too large a space in PCC discussions, and fund-raising is never off the agenda.”

An initial burst of activity, succeeded by long lull, is a sure way to weary the faithful, he says. According to Mr Brown, congregations become tired if a project stretches beyond two or three years. And there is another practical pitfall: “Some grants need to be taken up within 12 months of being awarded.”

One way of safeguarding against such ennui is to ring the changes, says Megan Pacey of the Institute of Fundraising: “Keep refreshing the ideas, and don’t always rely on the same people. Look to bring in new blood.”

Mrs Coombey advises drawing up a calendar of events at the planning stage, to ensure that a fund-raising programme is well-publicised, and that varied activities are carefully spaced out during the whole year.

The people at St George’s Pontesbury, in Herefordshire, maintained the momentum when they fund-raised to develop a section of their building into a community meeting facility. The project cost £100,000. The church sought just £5000 from external sources, and raised the remainder through an energetic programme of concerts, exhibitions, flower festivals, “selling” of bricks and windows (“anything that someone could have a name put on”), and poetry books. They fund-raised with other local community groups, and shared the proceeds. According to Mrs Coombey, “The church said they raised 75 per cent of the money through having fun.”

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Creativity is a key element in putting fun into fund-raising. Another way is to embrace a vision that goes beyond simply making money.

Holy Trinity, Clapham Common, in London, has held an annual summer fair for 20 years on the large enclosed green around the church. More than 3000 people come through the church and grounds. Last year’s profit was about £20,000, but the Rector of Holy Trinity, Canon David Isherwood, says that cash is not at the heart of the event. “We give away a large proportion of takings. The main issue is the relationship we’re building with the local community.”

The fair attracts much outside involvement, from estate agents’ paying £50 to put up advertising boards outside houses of members of the congregation, to stalls run by local traders, art exhibitions by schoolchildren, and even a dog show. The co-ordinator, Leona Mani, says: “This year’s fair, on 16 June, has a Fairtrade emphasis. We’re picking up on the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery Act as our theme.”

The view from St Mary’s, Wimbledon, looks across to the All England Lawn Tennis Club. For two weeks in June, the queue for Wimbledon’s tournament matches runs past the church. In 1976, the church set up a modest picnic stall to provide refreshments for waiting spectators. This fledgling fund-raiser developed into an annual event, as more church goers got involved in icing cakes and making sandwiches. This year, the church plans to serve early-morning bacon butties for those queuing overnight.

St Mary’s has another unique resource. It is fronted by a field, bequeathed on the condition that it was not built on. During Wimbledon fortnight, this becomes a convenient spectators’ car park, manned by about 80 church members. The church’s policy is to divide the profit from this initiative: one quarter to church funds, and the remainder between a national, a local, and an overseas charity. Last year’s profit was £43,000.

As at Holy Trinity, the purpose of the activities at St Mary’s is more than financial. Rosemary Chadden, the churchwarden, sees the fortnight as an opportunity for outreach and for significant conversations with customers.

The project has also brought benefits to the 550-strong church membership: “With many of us attending different services, it’s a real opportunity to come into contact with each other and work together.”

The project has also brought benefits to the 550-strong church membership: “With many of us attending different services, it’s a real opportunity to come into contact with each other and work together.”

As well as uniting a congregation, fund-raising can also bring churches into partnership. The Historic Churches Trust’s annual sponsored cycle ride, initiated in Suffolk — the county with the greatest density of medieval churches — sponsors cyclists to visit various participating churches, which provide refreshments. The money raised is divided between the Historic Churches Trust, and a church chosen by each individual cyclist. The annual event has now spread to 30 counties, and has raised £19 million to date. This year’s ride is planned for 8 September.

Church co-operation can also extend to partnership in the project itself. If it is too financially ambitious, for example, for a church to hire a youth worker on its own, it may be possible to develop a shared post at deanery level.

Ecclesiastical Insurance is again running a national competition “to celebrate the best in church fund-raising at all levels”. The closing date for this year’s entries is 31 May. The competition could also provide some fresh inspiration for fund-raising teams. Chris Pitt of Ecclesiastical Insurance says: “Fêtes and sponsored walks will always be great ways for churches to raise funds, but if they really want to gather some serious support, they need innovative and creative ideas.”

www.ecclesiastical.com/churchcomp

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