THE Parish Giving Scheme (PGS), which processes more than £78 million in donations to parish churches every year, is to be transferred to the ownership of Church of England Central Services (ChECS), it was confirmed this week.
PGS is currently an independent charity (Features, 29 October 2021). Established in 2014, it is owned and funded by the 35 dioceses that are members. Its nine trustees are agreed by the members. On average, almost half (48 per cent) of the parishes in each diocese are signed up to the scheme. Donors can use the scheme to give monthly, quarterly, or annually by direct debit to a named parish, and can opt to have the donation linked to inflation annually. They can also give anonymously if they wish. The treasurer of the relevant PCC receives monthly and annual statements.
The scheme has grown exponentially since 2014: from 7244 people, giving £5.3 million, to 80,000 people, giving £78 million. The latest annual report states that it has served more than 4500 Church of England parishes: an increase of 34 per cent on 2021. The inflation-linked option — chosen by almost half of the donors — generated an additional £700,000. The average weekly gift was £18.17.
The report included indications that change was envisaged: “The current operating model requires a diocese to join as a member, thus limiting our ability to achieve our vision of every church. The goal for 2023 is to build on our partnership with the National Church and identify alternative operating models that could enable every Church of England parish to be able to access the PGS platform.”
This week, a spokeswoman confirmed that the PGS trustees and members had voted to transfer ownership to ChECS — the body that provides support services to the National Church Institutions — subject to the outcome of next week’s meeting of the Archbishops’ Council on whether to proceed with the investment, “which would make the regular giving scheme freely available to all churches and parishes”. It is proposed that the change of ownership would take effect from 1 January.
The chief executive of PGS, Grant Forrest, said: “This transition into a deeper and closer relationship with the Church of England is fully aligned with our vision to advance regular giving in every church. We feel immense gratitude to the founders and member dioceses of PGS who have both funded and shaped the development of the scheme over the last ten years, providing a vital service for parish ministry. We are excited by the opportunity ahead to keep innovating in response to the changing needs of parishes and givers, increasing the financial stability that underpins the mission and ministry of churches in their local communities.”
The ultimate legal status of PGS remains to be confirmed. Under the proposed change of ownership, it would remain a charity.
Last week, one PCC officer signed up to the scheme raised a concern that, after the merger, there would no longer be access to an annual report on the scheme. A spokesman said that “lots of information”, including monthly updates, would still be provided and that, if PGS remained a charity, annual reports would still be published.