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Unrealistic building projects?

08 May 2015

Our church is being encouraged by a few members to fund-raise for a huge building project. But some of us are worried: we think it is unrealistic.


BECAUSE some churches have managed to raise "outrageous" sums, some of us may think large sums are possible; but others, looking at their own resources, are less confident. A logical, reasoned consideration of the possibilities is in order.

Use a few "sorting" criteria. If the target project is about essential repairs, then outside funds may be raised from a few sources. At present, government roof funds, Landfill community funds, and the Lottery may be achievable grant sources.

Nevertheless, if your church is unlisted, then these sources are much reduced - in reality to just the community funds, and, in this case, primarily for facilities rather for religious considerations. Landfill Communities Fund grants have a much lower limit than the other main sources, although they are still considerable.

Community facilities in buildings can attract more modest sums from outside, but those who make grants always receive more applications than they can fund.

So, quite often, for facilities such as heating, serveries, and lavatories, the church should be looking at the kind of sums it can raise by itself and in its communities. Realism has to strike home: this is not just a guessing game: look at your area.

Ask similar churches what they have managed to achieve. I say this to many churches, and a number of them seem to miss out this step, but it is incredibly helpful. Check around the deanery, find out who has fund-raised recently, and talk to churchwardens and those who organised the fund-raising.

Discover the methods they used, the events they ran, the electoral roll, how members of the congregation made donations, and even the size of the congregation and the committee that worked on fund-raising. How long did they take to reach their target, and how did they raise their spirits when energy flagged? What kind of part did their priest play: was he or she the champion, the key fund-raiser, the hand-shaker, for example? What would they do differently if they did it again?

A priest who is expected to champion, administer, and lead the campaign can do less of the other work with which he or she is tasked. And not all the clergy have the fund-raising skills that are needed: you may need to look further among yourselves.

Then look at the congregation. If your project costs were divided between the members, how much would each need to raise or donate, on average? Some will have disposable income or savings that they can contribute if they are engaged in the project; some will, instead, run coffee mornings, or craft or cake stalls to raise funds.

People will donate or work beyond the call of duty, however, only if they really see the need for the project, and think that the sums involved for the work are modest, or not inflated by non-essential expenditure.

This is the crux of the issue: those setting the fund-raising target have to ensure that not only are the sums involved correct (not inflated by design rather than practical issues), but also that enough time is invested to get everyone engaged, heart and soul.

And, of course, the fund-raising must not challenge the church's ability to achieve its stewardship target, or it will not be possible to maintain the refurbished church.


Send your issues and questions to maggiedurran@virginmedia.com.

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