Keeping places of worship where they belong - on the heritage front row

At the beginning of April, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), announced its new approach to supporting places of worship. Sensitive to the many challenges facing volunteers who maintain these cherished buildings, HLF’s Head of Historic Environment, Sara Crofts, explained how the closure of Grants for Places of Worship, by September 2017, would make way for more streamlined access to HLF’s open programmes, Our Heritage and Heritage Grants.

The new direction is driven by HLF’s three-fold aim of enhancing its grant schemes with more flexibility, simplicity and administrative support. So, whether you’re a congregation in a listed or unlisted building, raising money for a leaky roof or a community café – the application process is designed to be quicker, easier and even better resourced. There’s also the assurance that levels of HLF spending on places of worship, currently at more than £20 million a year, will be maintained. You can read more about the HLF’s new approach to supporting places of worship, here.

So, why worry?

It’s understandable, though, that many congregations and community volunteers are feeling nervous about the changes. Losing ring-fenced funds on this sort of scale, when the need for essential repairs is rapidly increasing, could be seen as a worrying development. It’s prompted some organisations, like the National Churches Trust (NCT), to push for greater consultation with stakeholders, as the new process unfolds. NCT has welcomed HLF’s pledge to work closely with interested parties and to foster strong relationships between potential grant applicants and dedicated HLF Development Teams.

Make your story one that funders will listen to

Whilst the shape of HLF’s support for places of worship may be evolving, the fundraising stories that so many of these heritage buildings tell, are as clear and compelling as ever. At Gifted, we’re often humbled by the commitment, creativity and sheer determination of volunteer fundraisers, who live and breathe inspirational stories of stewardship and outreach. Whether their focus is the restoration of a crumbling spire or a major extension to a Gurdwara’s kitchen, serving free food to the hungry - it’s a privilege to work with remarkable organisations, tirelessly reminding us of why these places of worship, history and social cohesion, matter so much.

If your place of worship has a fundraising challenge ahead and you’re unsure of the next steps to take, feel free to contact one of our Directors for an informal discussion about your plans.

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