A column of yours earlier this year suggested that those
churches with bigger projects might need to tackle them in phases
in order to get the money (25 January). How can we make
realistic financial plans about what we might achieve?
I ALWAYS hope that churches with ambitious projects for their
buildings (and their outreach) have based their plans on something
more than a twinkle in someone's eye.
The earliest stages of looking at a project may include wanting
to do something inspiring, far-reaching - even life-changing. But
as soon as the idea begins to crystallise it must be based on three
foundational elements: what is needed and wanted locally; what is
architecturally feasible and reasonable; and what is realistically
affordable. Each of these elements will put substance and
limitations on where the church can go with its dream.
It is common for the architectural element to get a great deal
of early attention; the assessment of local need and demand among
the church and its neighbours is often less well explored and
reported. Very few churches make good assessments of what is
affordable. Ideally, these three legs of your new stool should be
Your bright idea should be tested among people in the area,
among those who will use the building in its new form. Do they want
and need the change? Early conversations with your architect will
give some clear directions to architectural planning. But nothing
can be decided until the financial realities are explored.
Often, architects are commissioned to take plans forward to the
point of faculty, before the local audit of need and demand (in the
Statement of Need) is prepared. And, often, because it seems to be
such an unquantifiable item, both may go forward without knowing
what can be afforded. There is no point going to the expense of
preparing faculty and tender documents for a project for which you
may not be able raise the funds.
To assess the realism of raising funds for the project, here are
a few ideas. Visit other churches that have undertaken similar
work, and find out how much they spent, and how they raised the
money. Explore the potential sources of funds: trusts, landfill
funds, local giving, and the Lottery, and find out how much each
In my experience, trusts - albeit as few as one in ten of those
you approach - may contribute anything from £500 to several
thousand pounds to a project that they consider financially sound
and achievable. The Landfill Communities Fund may contribute in the
tens of thousands if you fit its target aims, and are in its target
"Local contributors" means, on the whole, those living in your
neighbourhood, and you can assess how much local people like to
give; congregation members of long standing are likely to be the
most generous local donors. Lottery contributions may be large for
Repair Projects, but for "community" facilities are relatively
Unless there is some exceptional source of funds in your area,
into which you know you can tap, the larger projects may need to be
broken into smaller phases so that each may be set an achievable
budget. Some trusts and donors will be happy to donate a second
time to a second phase of works.
To do this, any church planning works that seem to be
significant could do with having a quantity surveyor on the team
early in the planning. This way, the breakdown of phases can be
budgeted without the expense of going out to tender each time.
Someone is sure to say that there is a cost saving in doing all
the work at the same time, but it is better for the project to be
achievable financially than to plan for an funding scenario that is
ultimately not realistic.