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Money wasted on drawings

22 September 2010

by Maggie Durran

We are planning to adapt our church for added community use. Our architect has advised us to get the design drawn in detail, and to apply for a faculty before we start to fund-raise. What do you advise?

I WOULD recommend that you commission the smallest amount of design work possible before you begin fund-raising. I know of only one trust that requires a faculty to be in place before application, and I sus­pect that it is more concerned that works are realistic, responsible, and likely to get faculty approval when the time comes.

Many churches have an ambitious design drawn out in full detail for faculty permission, then find that the money is not available, and the work has to be redesigned. All too often, I have heard of the spending of sums such as £30,000 on projects that cannot go ahead. A successful bid to raise funds from outside sources for the con­struction of community facilities needs a package of good materials appended to the descrip­tion; the architect’s work is only one part of that.

The essential elements of a good bid are: a thorough audit of needs and demands (ensuring that the facilities created really will be used by the local people); a summary of the benefits or outcomes that will be delivered by the project in the long term; financial projections or a business plan that shows that the renewed facilities are financially viable; a summary drawing from the architect, showing how the building will be laid out to meet the targeted needs; and an indicative budget from a quantity surveyor.

This package of materials can also be used for local fund-raising events and donation programmes that are less particular about your preparation than outside trusts.

Whether money is raised all in one go or takes place in phases can depend on the financial climate. A few potential sources of funds may not be affected by the recession or the political climate, but most of them are. During a downturn, when local regeneration money is dis­appearing and new investment is not taking place, be prepared for slow progress.

It is also much easier to raise money for a project that is already successful. If you are able to run a few events in your church, you have a good case for raising money to install a lavatory and a servery. Once these are in place, your programme can grow. You may find that more people want to use your building in the winter; so an improvement to the heating would be necessary. So the community activity grows in incre­ments, and the adaptations happen in phases, each of which will need specific drawings.

Having an overall concept or an agreed architectural approach to the bigger picture is advantageous, so that when the first phase — the lavatory, say — is undertaken, it fits in with that bigger picture.

For affluent churches, or those with affluent connections, things may be different. An ambitious plan at a church such as St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, or in a cathedral, draws on different funding sources from those available to ordinary parish churches. The rest of us depend on more limited funding sources, and cannot afford to have a £30,000 design redone.

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