Freelance Fundraiser’s Jottings

11 August 2008

Church Fundraising Appeals are no dead cert!

Filed under: Buildings,Church — freelancefundraiser @ 11:09 am
Tags: , , , ,

A recent local story ought to be considered by any churches wanting to embark on a fundraising capital appeal. All Saints Church in Harrogate was faced with major restoration work after it was discovered there was dry rot, wet rot and asbestos in the building.

The Victorian building built in 1870 is probably typical of many like it throughout the country. They were not built like the older churches to last for centuries, but rather to serve the growing populations of Britain’s

expanding towns and cities. As a result, there are now many problems with these buildings, having developed defects over the years. Sadly, many of them are not listed, neither are they particularly “aesthetically pleasing”, so attract less priority when it comes to applying for grants, especially from the Heritage Lottery and other historic buildings oriented trusts.

Victorian church - now demolished

A Victorian church - now demolished

Sadly, in the case above, after 3 years of a fundraising appeal, they have only managed to secure less than half of the £200k required to do the work. As a result, they have decided to call it a day and move to new premises instead, returning the raised monies to the donors.

Their church won’t be the first to have experienced this problem. Unfortunately, Britain is littered with church buildings that are crumbling, especially the Victorian and post Victorian ones. However, there is only a limited pot from which funds can be sought. Local event fundraising isn’t going to deliver the sort of figures needed and, unless you’re blessed with one or two millionaires in your church who are highly philanthropic, the outlook isn’t good!

Alongside this is another factor that needs to be taken into consideration. Major renovations are often coupled with what is called “re-ordering”. This is the changing of the layout and facilities within the church building, often to make it far more flexible and user-friendly. Re-ordering enables churches to make their building fit with their vision, goals and objectives for the next 5-10 years. It can be a very liberating experience for some churches and a highly divisive one for others.

A typical Victorian "barn" church

A typical Victorian "barn" church

In my experience (having worked for the Church of England for 14 years) many parishes don’t even look beyond the current year, let alone to the next 5-10 years, so having a vision means little to them. Then there are the people who are building worshippers, those who consider moving pews and altars a heresy. They just want to preserve everything as it is and not make the church relevant to the current community. Sadly, this can cause horrendous division in a parish and does nothing to help with raising the funds they need, nor moving the church forwards.

I believe that unless the members are wholeheartedly behind the vision to restore and renew their church, there is no point beginning. It is a projected doomed to failure or shortcomings. Compromises end up being the order of the day and no one ends up happy with the outcomes.

So, if your church is crumbling, ask yourselves these questions, before embarking on a costly fundraising appeal:

  • What is our vision as a church for the next 5-10 years?
  • Are we fully agreed and supportive of this?
  • Is the church building really suitable to be renovated?
  • Is the building likely to secure the needed funding?
  • Is there a better alternative than to try and keep the building propped up for future generations to have to cope with further major repairs?
  • What are we prepared to invest into the fundraising in terms of time and money? (You don’t raise funds without first making an investment into it.)

Lastly, is your church regularly promoting that members leave a gift in their Will to it? If you’re not, you should be. Get in touch with me if you’d like to know more!

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