Sean Tully

May 26, 2020, 10:00 AM

Church development project? Why it pays to call for help at the start.

Action Planning recently had the privilege of working with three churches across Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. Each church will modernise their building to become more accessible for the congregation and the community that they serve. 

Each church contacted Action Planning for help to overcome a range of challenges that – it’s reasonable to assume – are also being experienced by numerous other churches throughout the country. 

It struck us that churches could save much time and, indeed, money by seeking professional help early on. In this article, we’ve set out the three main reasons why.

1. Time is Money

All three of the projects we advised had been evolving for nearly a decade, and were in need of new impetus in order that the time, effort and money invested so far was not wasted. Action Planning made an assessment of the feasibility of their fundraising target and, if deemed feasible, a plan to achieve it. 

Building projects take time, we understand that; not least when there are a multitude of stakeholders to consult, permissions to seek, regulations to fulfil. Architects, structural engineers, and planning consents all cost money, and those costs can increase if plans have to change or even if funding cannot be secured in time. When building projects lose momentum they can be very hard to reinvigorate. 

To avoid this happening, there needs to be a robust plan that can be clearly communicated, a well-researched strategy for fundraising and a strong collective sense of direction.

2. Communication is key

Each church had a similar vision: they saw the potential in their buildings and how using them to serve the wider community required facilities appropriate to the 21st century. Toilets, kitchens, efficient heating systems, meeting rooms… 

Changes of this nature to an historic church naturally stir mixed feelings, so communicating the vision and potential of the project to your congregation, to the local community and potential funders is crucial.

Churches that we’ve worked with in the past tell us that an independent perspective is really helpful for gathering the views of stakeholders, and for assessing the merits and strengths of the project.

3. Fundraising is hard

At all three churches, members of the congregation had already been incredibly generous in committing funds towards the projects. Now they were looking beyond the congregation and, even beyond the immediate community for the rest.

A golden rule of fundraising is never to assume the money will just be forthcoming. As a member of another church we helped recently put it, “God will provide, but we’ve got to walk through doors to make that work.”

So which doors do you need to walk through? And when? As soon as you know how much you’re going to need for your project, a fundraising feasibility study can help to answer those questions, as it did for the churches that we worked with:

“I’m very happy with the service Action Planning provided. It’s helped to get the congregation on board. Having a third party conduct this study certainly helped. I wouldn’t have been able to gather those views myself – people wouldn’t have been as honest. It really helped me to realise what I faced and to get to know people.”
Holy Trinity Headington Quarry

“Action Planning’s recommendations were spot on and Sean’s presentation to the PCC… was very thorough. Their report passed the ‘bucket of cold water in the face’ test and it was helpful to have a third party telling us the things we need to address. I would certainly envisage communicating with Action Planning on further work.”
St Mary’s Bloxham

“The Action Planning team were very courteous and thorough… They ‘did what they said on the tin’. I absolutely know that as a congregation there’s no way we’d have been able to do the fundraising ourselves.”
St Mary’s Painswick

How Action Planning saves time and money

We apply a tried, tested and methodical approach to carry out a fundraising feasibility study for churches. This takes account of the history of the project, tests the strength of the future plans and analyses the present opportunities to raise the funds needed. The result is a detailed fundraising plan, which informs the decisions and actions to be taken by the PCC, Trustees or church leadership. 

Commissioning a fundraising feasibility study early can help to invigorate your planning, communications and of course your fundraising, potentially saving your church time, money and energy! 

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Whatever stage you’re at with your church project, whether you are a rural or urban church, relatively affluent or located in an area of deprivation, we can help you add focus. Here are four stages along the project journey where it might be appropriate to call us:

  • You have a vision and maybe some ball-park costs, but want a better understanding of where the money will come from. Get in touch with us for a no obligation chat. Now might be an ideal time to attend one of our online workshops, Fundraising for Church Capital Appeals, to get a thorough overview of the whole process from start to finish.
  • You know what you want, how much it will cost and you are ready to start moving forward in the next 12-24 months. Action Planning can deliver a Fundraising Feasibility Study, giving you a practical plan and the tools you need to raise funds from a variety of sources.
  • You are ready to start and have secured gifts and pledges from the congregation. Now you want to look externally at grant funding opportunities. Action Planning can undertake detailed grant funding research and advise and support you with applications.
  • Your building works are half way complete but the money has run out! It’s never too late to seek advice, although your options may now be limited. Give us a no obligation call and we will see what can be done to get you unstuck.

Our three churches are now ready to pursue their fundraising campaigns and have clear stepping stones to begin with, even during the current lockdown period. They have clarified their messages and seen an increase in supportive sentiment within their respective communities, which all bodes well. And if at any point they feel the need to revisit their plans, they know they can call on Action Planning to lend a hand.

If you’re planning a church capital project, or you have a project that needs putting back on track, please call us.

01737 814758