Funding your Church Building Project

bank-2179_640 copyWhere to find the money – How to fund your church building project.

Church projects will often be funded from a variety of sources; this guide looks at the typical range.

Giving:

There are no two ways about it – in most cases a substantial proportion of funds will come from direct giving from within the congregation. It is interesting to see this work across a number of different churches – often the most generous giving is not from those congregations with the wealthiest demographic. The key issue is whether the congregation are fully behind the vision for the building.

Henri Nouwen articulates the following important insight:

“Fundraising is proclaiming what you believe in, and proclaiming it in such a way that you offer the other person an opportunity to participate in your vision so it is precisely the opposite of begging.

 

It is not saying, please, we have a problem, could you help us out? We are saying, we have a vision that is so exciting that we are giving you the opportunity of participating in that vision with the resources that God has given you.”

Sacrificial giving tests our commitment, in the case of a church building project our commitment to being God’s people in this particular place. During the life of a project you may well launch a series of appeals, and it is important that there is a tangible sense of progress from one to the next – for example appeals might be made at the launch of the proposals, at planning, and after tenders are received. Before any appeal is made, however, it is often good for the church leadership (PCC etc) to make their own pledges – this sets a powerful example to others at the initial appeal.

Giving can be in the form of immediate cash, and in pledges over a period of say 3 or 4 years. The cash is important for funding the development of the project, when the chief costs are professional and planning fees etc. On the other hand, the existence of firm pledges will allow for borrowing. Loans from members of the congregation are also useful, and have been known in time to turn into gifts as the lender finds they can live without the money they have lent.

It is often the case that a building project is a training for the congregation in sacrificial giving, and that general levels of giving resume at a higher level after the project is complete.

Events:

The archetypal Jumble Sale or Church Fete may raise relatively modest sums, but will be important in other ways in providing an opportunity to generate enthusiasm in the wider community, and therefore connection with the project. Another useful type of event is an Auction of Promises – individuals and local businesses are often willing to give the promise of services (eg cake-making, babysitting, even a consultation with an architect…) that have real value for others.

Grants:

Applying for grants from Charitable Trusts can be a very time-consuming business, but if well targeted and well presented can generate some substantial funding. Grant-making bodies will want to see substantial progress being made in direct giving, because this demonstrates tangible commitment to the project. The Directory of Grant Making Trusts is an annual directory giving details of approximately 2,500 grant-making trusts, and is often available through public libraries or from the Directory of Social Change, 24 Stephenson Way, London, NW1 2DP; Telephone: 08450 77 77 07; website: www.dsc.org.uk. (Also available on CD)

Landfill Tax:

Tax on landfill waste was introduced in 1996 as a means to reduce the amount of landfill waste and to promote a shift to more environmentally sustainable methods of waste management. The tax then is redistributed in grants in the range of £5,000-£50,000; these are awarded with the aim of benefitting the lives of people who live close to landfill sites through support for community, conservation and heritage projects. Check whether you have a landfill site within 10 miles, and if so who distributes the grants. It should be noted that timing is important with these grants – the grant needs to be sought once the project costs are well defined, but before a contract for the works is entered into.

English Heritage:

Grants are available for urgent repairs to listed buildings that are in regular use as public places of worship. Note that the scheme is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is run by English Heritage on behalf of both organisations. You will need to provide access for the general public to see the grant-aided work at least 40 days a year. You will also need to agree and implement a maintenance plan. Given that there is a high demand for grants, EH will tend to prioritise the higher grades of listed building.

National Lottery:

Some churches are happy to take National Lottery funds, and use them for church purposes – sometimes this is described as ‘taking Egyptian gold’, after the way that gold and jewellery were pressed on the Israelites as they left Egypt with Moses. Other churches, particularly those concerned with providing debt advice and wishing to question our society’s attitude to gambling, may not wish to take this money. You may well have different opinions on this within your church membership, and it is important that you think through this issue together.

Section 106:

This is money paid to Local Authorities by developers of large projects to provide community benefit. Whether your Local Authority is sitting on any Section 106 money will depend on your location, and what major developments have been constructed in the last few years. If they are, they will be keen to dispense this money, as it is embarrassing for a Local Authority to have to hand it back to the developer if it remains unspent. To qualify for these monies, you will need to show a genuine community benefit – an example might be a daycare facility for young children. With the current political emphasis on ‘the Big Society’, Local Authorities are increasingly open to working with churches, who have often been faithfully doing this sort of essential work within communities for generations. It is important, however, to understand any strings that might come attached to any grant.

Sale of Property:

In some cases it makes sense to dispose of another building you already own, particularly one that is off-site, and to invest the money in improving your main building. Where possible it is best to sell the leasehold, even if on a very long lease, rather than the freehold – even if you can imagine no use for a building, future generations may well thank you.

Mortgage:

Stewardship and Kingdom Bank are two Christian organisations that provide loans for church property projects. However, it should be noted that as with a domestic mortgage, the church in question will need to be the full owners of the building which excludes, for example, most Church of England churches. If you think you may qualify, then it is well worth getting advice from a specialist church mortgage broker. While the two organisations above will help you as best they can to get the right information into your application, this can be a real pain for them; a little help from a specialist will enable you to put forward a much better application with a better chance of success. Contact us if you would like a recommendation. There are also some great resources at www.stewardship.org.uk/smartweb/resources/briefing-papers.

Counting the Cost

It is important to be realistic about money from the outset; building projects are expensive, chiefly because they require a great deal of time and care to construct. Jesus even uses this very image in Luke 14.28:  ‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?’.

Initial proposals should be worked up with one eye firmly on cost, with the help of a Quantity Surveyor. This can form the basis of a cost plan that can be updated as the project evolves, to ensure budgetary discipline. Finally it is important also to think about on-going revenue. It may be that the proposed alterations will generate regular income, for example from letting a meeting room. If this is part of the plan, then you will need to do research and prepare a simple business plan, which of course should include all relevant costs including staffing, heating etc. If you do not plan well then there is danger that in enlarging the size of your building will simply increase the size of your outgoings.