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Cash-strapped Coventry Cathedral appeals for funds

23 June 2017


Double duty: the old and new cathedrals at Coventry

Double duty: the old and new cathedrals at Coventry

COVENTRY Cathedral has launched a double appeal for cash to fill a continuing six-figure gap between what it earns and spends each year.

Two funds — one targeting businesses, the other for personal giving — aim to raise about £300,000 annually to cover the church’s deficit and raise capital for future projects.

The appeal comes only two months after the launch of an investigation into the management of cathedrals, in the wake of a cash-flow crisis at Peterborough Cathedral last year (News, 13 April 2017). Several of England’s 42 cathedrals are known to be running on annual deficits of up to £500,000.

At Coventry, the Dean, the Very Revd John Wit­combe, has managed to halve the deficit, which was running at £200,000 when he was appointed in 2013, with a package of measures that included redundancies and a new financial-management team.

This week, one of the new appointments, the business manager, Isabel Merrifield, said: “We are struggling financially: more money is going out than coming in, and that has been the case for a number of years. The Dean has got it down to £100,000, but can’t carry on doing that. We have got to a point where if we cut more, we do less. The chal­lenge now is that we need to plug this gap and start to be able to grow ourselves and our income: the two are inherently linked.”

She said that, unlike many other cathedrals, Coventry did not have historic endowments or property assets to generate revenue. “We don’t have a cathedral close that we can rent out, or lots of estates and farms. And we have two cathedrals to maintain: a medieval one that is ruined; and a 20th-century one — which, quite frankly, wasn’t built as well as it should have been — and we have a massive space that we have to heat and light.”

Coventry has already made a suc­cessful bid to the Cathedrals Sustain­ability Development Fund for cash to help organise fund-raising and to refurbish and reopen its tower as a climb to generate income. It is also considering submitting a devel­op­ment plan to the Heritage Lottery Fund. “We have a plan to get us out of debt, in which fund-raising and committed giving are the most important,” Mrs Merrifield said.

“Coventry is bidding for the City of Culture in 2021, and we are working closely with a lot of businesses, as the cathedral is central to that. If we are shut by then, it would be a bit of a problem.”

The first £100,000 raised by the new appeals would cover the deficit; the second would allow the cathedral to replace its entry fee with admission by donation; and the final £100,000 would restore the services that it has been forced to cut, such as its reconciliation ministry. “That is desperately needed in today’s world, but we do struggle for funds,” Mrs Merrifield said. “We recognise the need for a bigger one.”

The cathedral’s Investors in Hope scheme seeks individual donations of at least £5 per month in return for membership of Friends of the Cathed­ral and regular updates about the life and work of the cathedral.

The Coventry Cathedral Business Partners scheme asks companies for £10,000 a year for various benefits.

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