Raising funds for a phased church facilities upgrade

St Mary's Church Bloxham

“We’ve had a really good relationship with Linda and are pleased with what she’s done and the way she has done it. She’s been a valuable member of our team: helpful, proactive and happy to do discretionary stuff that she didn’t have to do and go the extra mile. We weren’t in a position to  raise anything from trusts without her. Her experience and expertise in which grant bodies to go for, which to prioritise and the sort of approach needed to succeed was invaluable. She also helped us to navigate a very difficult time structure. We may well need to consider further help from Linda for future stages of the project.”

Ian Myson, Project Co-lead, St Mary’s Church Bloxham

In early 2020, we were asked to carry out a fundraising feasibility study and put forward a fundraising strategy for St Mary’s Church in Bloxham, Oxfordshire, a magnificent Grade I listed church. They had set a target of £1.5million with which to develop church facilities, including the addition of toilets, a kitchen, upgraded heating system and more flexible seating to make the church more practical for the wider community to use. There were significant restoration elements also.

We recommended that they divide their fundraising into two phases: essentials and ‘nice to haves’. This was taken on board and the project, dubbed ‘Building Our Future’, moved forward, despite the strictures of the pandemic. In September 2020, the project team asked us back to update our study and recommendations, taking into account the effects of the pandemic. On the back of that we were commissioned to support them in the delivery of fundraising activity for phase one, worth about £450,000.

To provide fundraising support for phase one of Building Our Future. This included two main elements: a new heating system, for which a fair proportion of the funding was already in place, and the bigger element, putting in facilities at the back of the church, including toilets and kitchen. Upgrades to AV equipment completed this phase of the project.

We assigned the case to Linda Trew, our Christian lead and an experienced fundraiser, who worked closely with St Mary’s fundraising team from December 2020 until February 2022. The fundraising team was led by Sir Tony Baldry, a former MP for the area with a background in church governance.

In that time Linda put a plan together for the phase one fundraising, setting out the sequencing through a private phase, grant phases, congregation phase and public phases. She helped with communications and messaging and, as Project Co-lead Ian Myson puts it, “the nitty gritty of grant applications”. This amounted to about 40 applications in all.

The private funding phase was based around an online ‘garden party’ for 20-25 people on Zoom in April 2021. Linda was very instrumental in how the event was planned and targeted, and in related messaging. They delivered nibbles and drinks to the attendees’ homes ahead of the event and then presented the case and asked for funds in an informal, conversational online session.

The private funding phase was “pretty successful”, in Ian’s words, raising about £60,000 with Gift Aid – a good return on investment. The grants, which Linda led on, generated about £125,000-130,000, with some applications still to be settled and the hope of up to £70,000 more to come.

The congregation phases, for which Linda helped with structuring and messaging, have generated about £50,000.

At the time of writing, the total in hand (having paid for the new heating system and other project costs along the way) was about £230,000 and could go up to £300,000. With construction costs going up all the time, this still left “a bit of a gap”, which the fundraising team have a plan to fill.

Meanwhile, the new heating system is fully functional and the money is in place to upgrade the AV equipment.

Consultant’s insight:
It was a real privilege to work with the team at St Mary’s. They had spent a long time in building the foundations needed for a successful appeal, having invested time and money in researching the needs of the community as well as their members. They had made sure that they had involved potential key stakeholders, such as local businesses, schools and neighbouring churches, taking on board the feedback they received.

Following extensive consultations and research, they came up with three strands for development, above and beyond the proposed physical changes to the building: Community, Church and Heritage. Each strand had a dedicated committee, focused on delivering success for their specific area. The committees were supported by fundraising and communications teams. These amazing groups of volunteers made up of church members and the community brought a wealth of experience to the project, ensuring momentum was maintained. The structure worked brilliantly and is one that I would recommend to others.

Unfortunately issues around the faculty slowed the project down, preventing us reaching deadlines for potential funding applications, and so having to wait months for the next round of funding. However, the church were flexible and the structure agile ,which meant that we could work with this.

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