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Can we make a commitment?

04 December 2015

How long does it take to raise funds for extra facilities in churches? We want to develop our church, as so many others have been doing, but, since we know it may take a while, we are unsure how we can make a commitment to it.

THAT is a fair question, at a time when fund-raising from grant sources is challenging. But there is a little more to be said than “How long is a piece of string?”, and that leads into the ways in which you can raise funds in addition to external grants.

A considered appraisal is that grants for facilities — if your building is used for activities other than church services, you may want to say community facilities — are getting fewer and harder to gain. The Big Lottery is limited, as it is so over-subscribed, and the Heritage Lottery Fund provides mainly for repairs on listed places of worship.

After that, Landfill Community Funds are diminishing fairly rapidly, and the main grant-making trusts seem to be still recovering from the financial crash.

In times of diminishing funds, the competition gets more fierce, and churches’ inexperience in fund-raising works against them: they often fail to address how their project meets local needs; listed buildings cost more to alter than those not listed; and they fail to give full enough answers to questions that they seem to not understand (there is a difference in language and concepts between churches and the majority of the rest of the voluntary sector).

In this climate, ensure that your building adaptations are modest, and really meet the needs of people in the area. Prepare a thorough statement of need.

Allow several months for preparing and dispatching bids to outside funders; and, in parallel, start your fund-raising. In about 18 months to two years, you will be able to assess how near to your targeted total your applications have brought you. If your planned facilities were modest, you may be most of the way there, and some well prepared fund-raising may tip the balance.

I recently visited a community hall (a modest one), for which local people had raised all the funds, by obtaining grants and organising local events. It took them 12 years, and they had to “renew” their determination more than once.

Fund-raising can be tiring; so take care of your volunteers. Form a fund-raising committee for, say, two years, with a commitment to bring on board fresh people after that time. Get everyone working on events large and small — not only church regulars, but local groups as well.

Your programme of events should be determined by what you can enjoy and sustain; as you are in this for the long haul, look after your volunteers and clergy, and ensure that no one is overworked.

If you think that you, the movers and shakers in your fund-raising, are weary of the task, then you should review your objectives, asking whether you have a compelling and inspiring vision for the project, and also whether you have realistically assessed the people-resources that need to be invested in the work.

Question both the means and the target, and improve your project and your plans.

Send issues and questions to maggiedurran@virginmedia.com 

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