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How a grants committee works

14 December 2012

We are working hard to raise money from trusts, but the number of those that actually help seems low. How do they choose which churches to help?

THE work of the trusts and foundations that make grants has become more challenging in the past few years. Not only is their income lower than it was, but the number of applications has grown as other sources of funds have melted away.

I serve on the grants committee of the National Churches Trust, which administers significant funds for church repairs and community facilities. I can tell you how it endeavours to administer its funds as fairly as possible.

From the application forms received, a summary is prepared on each church for the grants committee's perusal and assessment. The committee considers many factors, such as the poverty of the church's catchment area, the wealth of the church, funds already in place (the committee likes topping out funds so churches can get going), the ability to raise funds, how much hard work the church has done to raise funds from all sources, and more.

At each meeting, the committee has a sum to give away, a proportion of the year's total. We discuss all the cases individually, and agree together if a grant should be given, and, if so, how much it should be.

The grant meetings are just a few hours, and there are many cases to look at. The work is made possible by the administrative staff who receive the applications. They make phone calls, request missing information, gain updates, and help organise visits by members of the committee to some of the places that might receive large grants.

I am always impressed by the many ways in which both staff and committee work to help churches improve their bids, not dismissing applications where information is missing, instead asking for more to be sent in. This may take time, but when handing out the hard-earned grant money the committee wants to act as fairly and helpfully as possible.

Financial information is really important, alongside correct and up-to-date information on how much money has already been raised for the building project.

While the committee recognises that building repairs may require large sums of money, and, on the whole, cannot be reduced while ensuring repairs are of the requisite quality, it is somewhat averse to large, ambitious added facilities; it is far more interested in supporting modest, achievable schemes for lavatories and serveries.

As these latter grants average £10,000, they are of considerable help to modest schemes, but not enough to make the difference on the ambitious major schemes. The trust makes a number of repair grants of £40,000 each year - the donors of these funds want their money used this way - and these tend to go to churches with challenging repair-project targets, such as roofs and spires.

The staff at the National Churches Trust enjoy being helpful, and will happily speak to you on the phone to advise about grant applications. Bear in mind, however, that they are preparing your material for the committee that makes decisions, and will not be able to tell you whether you would get a grant, but will advise you on making out the best possible case.

Questions and comments to maggie durran@virginmedia.com.

There are more conference days next year, offering help with building projects and fund-raising. The first is on 3 March, near Bedford. For more information, email maggiedurran@virginmedia.com.


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