Finding Funding

Don’t let lack of funding hold you back from developing a vision for how your building might be adapted to serve the needs of congregation and community. Sources of support can be unlocked in the light of a convincing plan.

If you are planning a significant repair or development project, obtaining some form of grant aid will probably be your main source of funding.  We therefore provide, below, information about some of the main grant-giving bodies. But first... 

Running a project fundraising campaign

As most parishes do a major project only once in a ‘blue moon’, we offer you some tips to help you get off to a good start:

  1. Form a Fundraising group – ideally led by someone who has done fundraising before, or find someone who is optimistic, enthusiastic and quick to learn. Think carefully before using a professional fundraiser - most funders prefer a local voice that is passionate and supportive of the project.
  2. Research funding sources – you’ll need to match most grant funding with some cash from other sources, so don’t rely on a single funder to give you all you need. The main national bodies include Heritage Lottery Fund, Big Lottery and the National Churches Trust. A large number of other funders also operate nationally and some organisations like ChurchCare act as nationwide distributors and assessors for a number of trust funds. Regional and local funders are also worth exploring, usually smaller trusts offering modest grants – but every little bit helps!  See below for some good places to start your search.
  3. Don’t forget your own sources - these may include Legacies & Bequests, a Friends Scheme and Planned Giving Schemes, and other fundraising possibilities are boundless!  Most funders look for evidence of match funding before they commit.  This includes cash, but can also include ‘in-kind’ contributions such as the value of volunteer time.
  4. Check funders’ aims, priorities and eligibility criteria carefully - and approach those whose priorities and criteria seem most relevant to your project and are therefore more likely to help your church.  If unsure – speak to the trust administrator first before you spend time filling in application forms. And remember, not all funders are keen on funding churches as such – so the more your project offers to meet identified community needs the better the chances. 
  5. Prepare a good project plan – in a nutshell, be clear about what your vision is, what needs are you trying to meet, what you propose to do,  what outcomes you will achieve, and who will benefit.  Many grant giving organisations will also ask you for a business plan to see how you propose to sustain your project into the future. Time spent doing this can be a valuable strategic exercise for a parish!

Most funding bodies are more interested in who the project will help (beneficiaries) than the physical improvements as such. In other words, they are looking for evidence of need and a solution that enables wider community benefit (for which, say, kitchen facilities and installing a toilet may be part of the solution to enable these benefits to be delivered). Therefore, if you are considering the development or adaptation of church buildings for wider use, we advise you to give some thought to identifying local needs and preparing a vision and plan to deliver wider benefits, increased community use, etc. This will help to underpin your project and strengthen your case. Funders may also look for a business plan that demonstrates how the project will be financially sustainable in future years.

Potential sources of funding

We regularly monitor information on funding sources, including regionally-specific sources and the best ways of accessing these. We have developed a database of over 80 sources of funding, cross-referenced to key types of repair need or development project. We are not able to put all of this online due to the size of the spreadsheet files, but we provide information below on some of the main grant-aiding bodies to help you get started. 

Heritage Lottery Fund - Grants for Places of Worship

Priority is given to urgent and high-level fabric repairs. However, additional work up to 15% of the overall project costs can be included, including activities that will help those within and beyond the congregation to participate and learn about the building, and/or it could contribute toward works that encourage the sustained use of the building, e.g. kitchens, toilets, heating and lighting systems. The scheme is open to all listed places of worship. There are usually four rounds each year for making applications. Go to HLF Grants for Places of Worship for details including downloadable Application Form and Application Guidance Notes. There are also some other HLF programmes that can support local community heritage projects.

National Churches Trust 

The National Churches Trust has opened its grants programmes for 2016, and these are not limited to Listed church buildings. These include Repair Grants of £10,000+ towards the cost of urgent and essential structural repair projects. A small number of grants of £40,000+ are available. Projects must have an estimated cost of £100,000+ (including VAT and fees) to qualify. The Trust also offers Community Grants of £10,000+ for projects which enable increased community use. All types of community projects considered, but should include toilets or catering facilities. To qualify, projects must have an estimated cost of £25,000+ (including VAT and fees). 'Micro-grants' are also offered to help set up a Cinnamon Network Recognised Project. Click here for more details

Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme (VAT recovery)

If your church building is listed it will qualify for the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, which allows you to claim back VAT spent on repairs and alterations. The VAT will have to be paid and then reclaimed from the scheme.  This is open to all listed churches and cathedrals used for regular worship.  Many cost items are now eligible, such as toilets, kitchens, plumbing and security systems - please check the scheme website for full details, terms and conditions: Click here for current information on LPWGS.  

Northumbria Historic Churches Trust

The Trust exists to help with the repair of Northumbria's historic churches, offering grants for restoration, repair and improvement of churches, contents and churchyards which are necessary, appropriate and carried out to conservation standard. Must be listed or built before 1946, have some special architectural or historic features or if unlisted be in a conservation area. Application form and guidance is available online at northumbriahct.org.uk. It is advisable to contact the Trust secretary to discuss proposals before applying.

Big Lottery

The Big Lottery can offer capital funding grants of between £100k and £500k to voluntary and community sector organisations under its Reaching Communities scheme, targeted  to certain priority areas - see the BIG eligibility checker.  The aim is to help transform existing buildings into community buildings which can offer a wide range of activities benefitting a broad group of citizens.  Projects must respond to need, involve people who will benefit and achieve one or more Big Lottery outcomes: improve people's chances in life, build stronger communities, improve rural and urban environments, healthier and more active communities. More information: Big Lottery - Reaching Communities.

Their smaller Awards for All scheme offers grants of between £300 and £10,000 for grassroots and community activity that aims to improve life for local people and neighbourhoods.

Partners in Community Action

An initiative of the Church of England Diocese of Newcastle: encouraging congregations to share ideas, resources and buildings and to engage with their local communities in new ways. Small grants may be available for suitable projects - this is usually one of the last stages in a process of prayer, reflection, study and engagement with members of the church and local community. Click here for further information.

Other useful links and resources:

  • Some handouts from the Inspired Futures 'Finding Funding' event in November 2015 are available here
  • The Heritage Alliance's Heritage Funding Directory is a free online guide to funding for the heritage sector, including churches: theheritagealliance.org.uk/fundingdirectory.
  • The Architectural Heritage Fund also has a directory of Funds for Historic Buildings here: ffhb.org.uk.
  • ChurchCare has pages offering advice to parishes on raising money towards repairs and developing their church building, and has useful links to a number of funding sources. It is worth exploring these pages in detail – there is a lot of helpful material here: churchcare.co.uk/...funding 
  • For small projects targeting community needs it may also be worth contacting the NE-based Community Foundation, which manages a range of local donor funds: communityfoundation.org.uk.
  • Useful reading: The UK Church Fundraising Handbook by Maggie Durran, Canterbury Press, Norwich. A down to earth ‘how-to’ manual and reference guide by a highly regarded practical expert in this field, well worth getting hold of and taking time to digest. Available via Church House Bookshop, Amazon and other retailers.

Sources of funding support can be unlocked given a convincing plan and a well thought out scheme. Inspired North East can help support you, give advice, make suggestions and put you in touch with other churches who have had success with particular funders. If, after looking into these resources, you need further advice on funding for a specific project in the Diocese of Newcastle you may contact David Lovie or Andrew Duff by email and we will do our best to help. (For projects in Durham Diocese please contact the Care of Churches Secretary in Durham)

Note: web links given above were correct at the time of writing, but are subject to change. If any don't work then we advise that you do an online search using the name of the funder and scheme of interest.

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