Establishing the groundwork for successful grant fundraising

Northgate Church

“Andrew was very helpful. He’s easy to work with, very focused and did a great job. He was able to suggest a range of grant funding bodies for us to go to, then worked with us to fill in the blanks in the various forms and info that the funders wanted. We wouldn’t have been able to do that ourselves without a whole lot of head scratching.”

David Hopper, Secretary Northgate Church Trust

Northgate Church is an independent evangelical church in Chester. Built in the late 19th century, it is a Grade II listed building with a standalone church hall of similar age within the curtilage. The hall roof had been in need of renovation for some time, with regular tile slip requiring costly scaffolding and repairs. The church received quotes of £55,000 to £90,000 for the roof work and, with a structural survey of one of the walls required, set a fundraising target of £100,000, with an additional £20,000 expected to come from members contributions and church reserves.

Initial investigations into available grant funding had made little headway so the Trustees decided it would be sensible to talk to someone who had knowledge of what was out there and expertise in constructing the bid. They approached Action Planning and we assigned experienced church fundraiser Andrew Rainsford to the project.

Andrew was asked to deliver on two counts: firstly, to identify appropriate funders; and secondly, to help Northgate Church Trust Secretary David Hopper and Gerald Sidery (Trust Treasurer and part of the Leadership Team) in writing the applications.

Andrew worked on the case over a period of three months, with a lot of activity required up front to get the basics in place: the case for support, which was built around activities within the community and rebuilding communities post-Covid, as well as a link to the University of Chester; and an agreed focus from the senior leadership.

An enquiry to the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme established that the church did not qualify for a grant because the hall, although within the curtilage of the Grade II listed church, is a standalone building, separate from the church building. While this was an added complication, knowing the situation from the start enabled Andrew to frame the financial case accordingly and thus strengthen the approach to other funders. This made a difference of £18,000 to £20,000 in the amounts other funders were prepared to give.

Andrew identified several likely sources of grant funding for the project, scrutinised their application criteria and wrote the bids, with David and Gerald’s input in reviewing and updating the information.

At the time of writing, two grants had been secured: £10,000 from National Lottery Community Fund and £63,000 from the FCC Community Action Fund. A further £25,000 was expected to come in once the work was done, bringing the total to just £2,000 short of the £100,000 target. David described this as “a good measure of success”.

Consultant’s insight:
It was slightly unusual having a listed non-main church building within the curtilage of a listed church. Interesting to say the least, so it was worthwhile making the initial enquiries of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme to confirm their view on it, because this enabled us to build the financial case on not getting funding from them.

It was a nuance that I identified, having worked with that particular funder for more than two decades, and needed to clarify before going anywhere else, mainly to avoid other funders asking, “Why haven’t you gone here?” This case shows the importance of having the confidence to ask the question, because it made a difference of about £20,000 to the amount we could raise.

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