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Today’s climate for grants

10 April 2015

I was, until a year or so ago, chairman of the grants committee of our county trust; and, as I said many times during my term of office: "We can help with just about anything you want to do to your church - except pull it down." We also, in practice, ignored the word "historic" in our title. We made grants retrospectively, after work had been carried out, and also up front, helping to meet the cost of all the preliminary work, such as architect's fees for preparing applications to the main funding bodies.

THANK you for a timely reminder that there are those out there already on the side of beleaguered churches. It is timely, in the context of other information flying around recently on the fund-raising front.

The Historic Churches Trusts around the country are extremely generous towards their local churches, and, as our correspondent points out, are keen to help in any way to make our churches viable and sustainable. Some of the trusts are reasonably well endowed, and can make significant grants. Their correspondents also seem to be experienced, and may be able to offer you other potentially fruitful suggestions. Look them up through a search on the internet, or ask your diocese for information.

In the recent Budget, the Chancellor announced more funds for the repair of roofs and rainwater goods on church buildings. A large sum is going straight away on to the current round of bids. It was clear that, with thousands of bids being submitted, the already committed funds would not have scratched the surface of the need. If you have applied, you should have heard by now whether your bid is going to be met through this initial fund. If you have been turned down, information will be released telling you how to apply again when the Scheme reopens for the remaining £15 million, later this year.

In general, our churches are in better repair than they have been for decades; the support environment, in the past 20 years, has helped in that direction. But there is clearly still a way to go.

Other information on the fund-raising front: many of us are realising the importance of opening up our buildings up for use by a wider community. It is a way forward for mission, and for the sustainability of the buildings.

At least one of the Landfill Communities Fund Trusts has on record that nearly a quarter of their grant awards have gone towards community facilities in church buildings. Grants seem to be diminishing in total, although the amount of competition seems also to have gone down.

Remember, too, that the provision of a very large, albeit one-off, fund from central government will take some pressure off the funds of the Heritage Lottery Fund Grant Scheme for Places of Worship, and there may, temporarily, be less competition for those funds.

Overall, I would recommend that, if you are turned down in a bid for money for your church's repairs, you simply reapply in the next round, updating your material as necessary. After all, your repairs are now more urgent, and some at least of those perceived as more urgent than yours are gone from the top of the list.

Send issues and questions to maggiedurran@virginmedia.com

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