Several of your recent columns have sounded gloomy about
the prospect of raising money for building developments in
churches. We have seen several churches around us achieve some
excellent results, and we want to make our own changes. What are
WE HAVE had a great couple of decades for funds for charities
and churches, but the past three years have brought big changes
with an impact on church fund-raising potential.
Not many years ago, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) would
contribute to creating community facilities in historic churches.
But, with increasing demands on its funds, the HLF changed its
criteria to target heritage projects in heritage buildings. So it
became far harder for churches, whose primary activities tend not
to be heritage, to gain significant grants.
Do note that the newly revised Heritage Lottery Grants for
places of worship have extended the Repair Scheme to include modest
facilities such as lavatories and serveries. The biggest
all-singing and all-dancing projects would still, for the HLF, have
to be heritage projects.
The recession and the change of government have resulted in the
loss of much of the billions of pounds of grant aid that supported
charities and churches, with the result that charities are
competing aggressively for whatever is left.
So what is left? Many trusts and foundations have been perfectly
happy to support a church when its case has fitted the trust's
criteria, and has been as well-presented as that of other
charities. But the recession has resulted in these foundations'
losing annual income from dividends, and therefore they have far
less money to give. The result is fewer grants, and more
competition for them.
One of the few big funding sources that remains is Landfill
Communities Grants. The last government made it possible for
landfill operators to pay the tax due for their dumping operations
into a charitable fund for environmental causes, historic churches,
and community centres.
These sources are still making fair-sized grants to churches
that meet the criteria - mainly, distance from a landfill
operation. Unfortunately, these grants are not large enough to
replace the other sources of funds which have been available to
church developments, even when you are within a few miles of a
The one remaining significant source of funds is the
congregation and the parish served by the church. It's over to
This has led me, in the past couple of years, to emphasise that
the preparation of a feasibility study for church development must
have funding as one of the legs of its three-legged stool: the
other two are historic significance, and architectural
If a church has significant financial resources of its own, then
fitting essential and even extensive developments can be determined
by the combination of the Statement of Significance with the
architect's response to the brief of the PCC. The latter will
outline the actual needs for change.
But, as long as the church needs to raise money from outside
sources, the situation cannot be seen in the same way as it has for
the past two decades. At their annual conference, the Liberal
Democrats pointed out that it could be 2020 before our national
economy was restabilised. Until then, I expect that we have to
mostly tighten our belts, and be very careful in the ways in which
we plan our developments.
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