Your recent column on preparing a community audit when
thinking about developing a church (24 October) did not go quite
as far as we wanted. We are thinking of developing a
community/local business in our church. What kind of community
audit should we prepare?
I ASSUME that you are thinking of a business that would be
self-sufficient and contribute a rental sum to the church for its
use of the premises. So here are a few principles to consider.
First, prepare a report that is nearer market research than a
community audit (although there are some likenesses). Consider your
community, and, specifically, how much people in the area would
make use of your product.
For instance, ask people (and record the answers) how often they
would expect to make a purchase in your café; if they bought bread
there; how often; and how much. You would need to have a wide
spectrum of answers (not just your congregation) so that you can
make realistic estimates of the level of daily, weekly, and annual
sales. Would these people come regularly to your shop or café to
find those products and services?
Research the prices at which you might sell your goods and
services, and use your researched sales numbers to calculate the
Research the costs of running your business, taking advice from
other people running the same kind of enterprise in your area.
Include not just the direct costs of ingredients, but all rent and
overheads. Then consider how many staff you would need, and what
they would cost. A number of community businesses have a mixture of
volunteers and professionals - very few survive on volunteers
You will quickly see whether the numbers work. Will there be
enough turnover from your neighbourhood - using your specific
responses from neighbours, not a "finger in the wind" - to set up
and establish your business? The optimistic members of your church
may be convinced that this is a bright idea, and that that is all
that is needed. But, unless you have a great deal of money
available to cover both development costs and running costs,
without realistic and robust market-research you will be unlikely
to get grants, or even a bank loan to start up your business.
If your community business includes elements that are a service
to people in the area rather than part of the profit making, assess
the realism with professionals already working in this field. For
example, if you intend to put heritage or community activities on
the agenda of your business - school visits, for example, or
employing people with special needs - your professional staff will
have to have a say in how many visits they can sustain, and at what
times, and how many unskilled volunteers they can train or
Each of the Lottery boards - Arts, Heritage, Big, and Sports -
have extensive guidelines that may help you to develop the
marketing report, as this is fundamental to what you hope to
achieve. It will be a big piece of work, but it fits in well with
the parable about building on rock, not sand.
Issues and questions to