Researching funding for net zero at diocese level

Diocese of Leeds

“Sean was very personable to work with. He really took time to listen and understand what we were after, to get to grips with our situation and how that works, and therefore to be able to advise us more effectively. We were really pleased.”

Jemima Parker, Environment Officer, Diocese of Leeds

The Diocese of Leeds has set out an ambitious vision to achieve net zero across all Anglican buildings by 2030. This aligns with the Church of England's national net zero agenda and amounts to roughly 440 clergy properties, 550 churches and 57 voluntary aided schools. With costs expected to be sizeable, reaching this goal will create a more welcoming, environmentally sustainable estate of churches, cathedrals, schools, housing and offices. The diocese, having already taken significant steps, with clear plans for the work needed in the coming months and years, asked Action Planning to explore its funding options. 

We were asked to identify funding opportunities, create a fundraising action plan with resourcing recommendations, develop a range of resources to support the Diocese, its cathedrals and parishes in their fundraising, and deliver training for stakeholders. 

In carrying out this brief we were able to build upon the national net zero funding research that we had previously undertaken for the Church of England, and to shape the resources and training to suit the intended audiences. Additionally, we were able to offer advice around how the Diocese shaped the job role of a new net zero funding officer, to be funded via a central CofE grant.

A key part of developing the fundraising action plan was spending time onsite with relevant members of staff. This enabled us to grasp the progress already made and listen to the funding challenges they faced, which made it easier to map out the availability of funding (both now and in the future) against the capacity and skills of the team.

As we reported back, needing to raise nearly £90m in seven years from a relative standing start (fundraising-wise), was ambitious, but we knew that there was no point in making unrealistic (and ultimately undeliverable) recommendations. So instead we set out what we felt were manageable goals whilst emphasizing what “good” might look like. We then built upon our written report by delivering a full team workshop to consolidate the findings of the report and align it with their net zero action plans. 

We also developed an online Case for Support builder, a template mainly aimed at parishes and churches to help them think about and develop their own versions of this crucial resource, which is a key foundation to fundraising success. We ran two online training sessions to put this resource in context and train those that might use it for their fundraising appeals. 

The report gave our client confidence that their goal was achievable. “I think it’s given us a lot more confidence in knowing what route we need to go to find funding,” said Jemima Parker, Diocese of Leeds Environment Officer. “There are lots of other things that may or may not influence whether we get there or not but funding was a major barrier. We now have a lot more confidence in understanding the landscape of funding going forward.

“In my role, thinking about how we frame our ambition, we’re now seeing it as an amazing opportunity for inward investment rather than a fundraising burden. By making our buildings more efficient they’ll be less of a cost over time.”

We left the Diocese in the process of recruiting a net zero funding officer to support fundraising and support the parishes in finding their own funding. “The case for support document was really helpful and the workshops and staff training too,” said Jemima.

Consultant’s insight
This assignment gave us interesting insights alongside our nationally focussed net zero work with the Church of England: initially 'zooming in' on a single Diocese to understand the context and implications at a regional level, and then 'zooming out' to inform the bigger picture of net zero as a patchwork of 42 dioceses and the carbon reduction journey. We will use our learning from this assignment to improve our rollout of resources and training nationally, maximising the potential of this ambitious and necessary vision.

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