SUPPORTCheltenhamAllSaints(chrisjonesOLD)1 ChrisJones

Grants FAQ

Upcoming changes to our grants programme

We apologise for the temporary interruption to our usual grant programmes. We are making some small tweaks to our three main grants programmes to refresh and align them with our incoming new strategy for 2023 to 2026. We are also having our existing grants database upgraded which involves rebuilding it. There will as a result be some interruption to our usual service. We hope to mitigate this as far as possible but we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. Happily, once in place these changes should make it easier for you to apply for funding for your church and for our assessing officers.

These include:

  • The names of our grants programmes to small, medium and large
  • The cost range of eligible projects into each programme
  • Your experience of the interface with our grants system
  • Your ability to manage multiple grants at once and submit documents to us

Unfortunately yes. There is no way for us to avoid this, however, rest assured our grants budget remains the same for 2023 as it was in 2022, and we hope to mitigate the interruptions as far as possible. You can expect:

  • Small grants (formerly Foundation) – for maintenance. Our first round in 2023 will be delayed from January until April. Deadlines and decisions will then be every 2 months up to October, and again from February 2024
  • Medium grants (formerly Medium) – for project development and medium size repairs. We hope to have a new application form and guidance note open by March with a deadline in time to make a decision in July.
  • Large grants (formerly Cornerstone) – for large repair projects and facilities projects. We hope to have a new application form and guidance note open by March with a deadline in time to make a decision in July.

 Our new Cloud based grants application system will include a new application form which will be simpler to complete. You will be able to track all your applications in one place instead of having to manage each application separately.

There should be no change to our overall grant funding in 2023, which is expected to be broadly similar to recent years. However, the Medium (formerly Gateway) grant funding will be distributed over two rounds of grants awards, rather than the usual three, and Small grants (formerly Foundation) across 4 rounds.

Foundation grants will be renamed to Small grants. These will continue to provide funding of up to £5,000 but the maximum project costs will increase from £10,000 to £20,000 making it possible for more projects to be eligible for funding and quicker decisions.

For more info please see Small grants.

Gateway grants will be renamed to Medium grants. These will continue to provide grants of up to £10,000, but the project costs will now be between £20,000 and £80,000 for repair works. Projects of under £20,000 will instead be eligible for our Small (formerly Foundation) grants which have a quicker response time, and those above £80,000 will be considered for our Large (formerly Cornerstone) grants so have potential to be awarded a larger grant award. 

For more info please see Medium grants.

Cornerstone grants will be renamed to Large grants and will continue to provide grants of up to £50,000 (note that grants of £40,000 to £50,000 are extremely limited and reserved for cases which demonstrate a very high case for investment, the average grant is less than this). Eligible projects will still include toilet and kitchen projects costing more than £30,000. The essential repair projects will be those costing upwards of £80,000 going forward.

For more info please see Large grants.

Before applying

The National Churches Trust accepts applications for listed and unlisted churches, chapels and meeting houses, as long as they are open for regular public worship (i.e. more than six services a year) and are located within England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The building must have been built as a place of worship, and be more than 30 years old.

In the case of buildings that have been closed to the public, there must be plans to reopen the building for public worship and a congregation waiting to use the building. Congregations can be of any Christian denomination and must be the owners or have the right to carry out the work. If the place of worship is independent we expect it to be a registered charity.

We do not fund the building of new places of worship or buildings that were not originally built as a place of worship, and from 2019 these buildings should not be less than 30 years of age. Neither will we consider applications from buildings that have been converted into places of worship, eg; shops, offices or houses, and we do not currently offer grants to chapels within hospitals, hospices, schools or prisons or other such institutions.

We cannot fund works to buildings separate from the main place of worship, including separate church halls. We can consider applications for halls that are attached to the church building, or extensions to the church building.

Yes it does.

Yes! Our priority areas are currently Northern Ireland, Wales, and North-East England. These areas are not to the exclusion of other applications.

You could start your search through our Specialist Skills Directory. This is a partnership initiative aimed specifically at companies who have a particular involvement in the work of restoring the fabric of many of the UK’s churches, chapels and meeting houses. Please note that these organisations have paid to be listed and their listing does not imply endorsement or approval by the National Churches Trust – you should seek professional advice before engaging any contractors on a project.

Projects must be led by a suitably qualified professional, usually a professionally qualified architect (listed on the Register of Architects) or a chartered building surveyor (MRICS or FRICS). Where the building is listed, the professional MUST also belong to one of these conservation accreditation schemes: 

AABC Register : The Register of Architects Accredited in Building Conservation can be found here. Architects should be listed at category A.

RIBA : Royal Institute of British Architects. Their register can be found here. Architects should be listed as Specialist Conservation Architect.

RIAS : The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland has a register here. Architects should be listed as Advanced.

RICS : Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. Their register can be found here.

CIAT : The Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists listed here, should be listed at Accredited Conservationist level.

Yes. Please submit an application detailing the total cost, with a breakdown of costs allocated to individual works within the whole project. We will however only look at items that we consider eligible. If a significant portion of the costs are ineligible, or ineligible costs just bring the project over the eligibility threshold, we may reject the application, or score the case for investment lower.

We prefer to see your full project cost rather than only those costs that are eligible. If work is phased submit the costs and income for that phase but invoice the costs for all phases too, somewhere in the application. 

The deadline for each programme is featured on the relevant page of our website. We will not be flexible with deadline dates so be sure to meet the advertised date.

In terms of when in your project should you apply - we expect applicants to all of our programmes to have 50% of their funding in place at the point of application. Applicants to our Cornerstone Grant Programme must have permission from their governing body (eg; Faculty signed by the Chancellor) in place, and planning permission if required.

We do not usually fund projects where work has already begun. It is possible that your work may start on site after you have submitted an application to us, however we cannot guarantee that your application to us will be successful and the Grants Committee will wish to understand how you could commence the project without full knowledge of the funding situation.

The project costs should meet one of our eligibility criteria, eg; the repair elements must be over the £100,000, or the kitchen/toilets must be over £30,000. The Committee will prioritise any repair works that are needed. Projects may include other items, but our funds will focus on the Committee's priorities.

If your project is phased, submit one phase to us at a time, referencing the other phases that will be happening. Subsequent phases may be eligible to apply to us again for funding.

No. We require permissions to be in place at the point of application. For Anglican parishes this will be the signed Faculty certificate from the Chancellor, including the schedule of work, not the DAC recommendation. Local Planning Authority permission should also be in place if it is required.

Yes. We will accept applications for each new phase of works or a new project. However we will not fund the exact same project twice. Equally if you were awarded a grant to address repairs in the past and you now appear to be applying to rectify the same problem we will wish to know that maintenance has been undertaken and that the new project is not the result of negligence.

The exception to this is churches that are eligible for Wolfson Fabric Repair Grants which we allocate through our Cornerstone and Gateway programmes. The Wolfson Foundation will not allocate funds to a church more than once in 5 years.

No. Due to the demand on our applications your application will be considered ineligible at its first assessment by staff if you have not got 50% of the costs in place. This is one of the reasons we suggest applicants approach a major grant funder for large projects. Also, if it is a very big project, consider whether the works could be phased to make fundraising more manageable and to address urgent works first. The case for funding will often be better if you wait for the next deadline. In the meantime please contact our grants team to request further information about other sources of funding and methods of fundraising to help you meet the 50% requirement.

When applying

Our Grant Programmes require an online application form to be completed - accessed via the relevant grants page on the website. Please note each form requires separate registration and login details.

We ask applicants to state what size grant they would ideally like. Be sure to check the guidance note of the programme you are applying to, to understand what the boundaries of the grant are as we won't award beyond the upper limit, and we will never award a grant that is larger than 50% of the project costs. If the cost of works subsequently comes in at less than predicted, we may reduce our grant award. If you request the upper limit, be sure to clearly express the case for investment.

Please check the relevant guidance note to check what additional documentation we expect to receive with your application. These documents can be uploaded to the online application form, or emailed to grants@nationalchurchestrust.org. Any documentation not received with the application should be sent within 5 or 10 working days of the application being submitted to us (depending on the programme). Accounts should be audited. Any photos being submitted must be clear jpegs.

First ensure that you have tried selecting the right file by clicking 'browse', selecting the correct file, and 'upload' - green text should appear to say the upload was successful. If you are still having problems, or your file size is too great, simply email the documents to us at grants@nationalchurchestrust.org being sure to include the name and location of the place of worship in the title of the email.

Please ensure you send missing documents to us within 5 or 10 working days (depends on the programme - see guidance notes).

Please check that you are trying to access the correct form and one that you have previously registered for. Each form requires separate registration. If you are still having problems, and have tried clicking the 'forgotten password' link, please check your junk mailbox for an automatic email. If problems persist, please contact the office for help.

Please use the most accurate estimate that you can for the planned phase of works, as well as the project start date. Tell us if costs are estimates or based on tenders. Project costs should include VAT and fees (remember if yours is a listed building VAT can be reclaimed after payment, through the LPWGS scheme) and should be for the whole phase of work. We should be able to identify within your figures what is eligible for this.

We often check the project’s costs with the professional overseeing the work. If your project cost is different to that in your NLHF letter please explain why – you may have decided to undertake some additional works or there may have been some changes to the costings. We do not include volunteer time as project income unless it is also within the project costs.

It is helpful for us when talking to potential funders to understand how places of worship are helping or aiming to help the wider community. We also wish to understand how projects align with the aims of our current strategy. It is essential that we understand how projects are planned and what difference they may make in terms of people using and benefitting from the building.

We need to know what the impacts of the grants we award are for buildings, their users and communities. We are also expected to report on this to the Charity Commission, as well as to our own funders. A well planned project should be looking to improve the whole sustainability of the building to help support the church into the future.

At its most simple this can be done by refreshing leaflets about the buildings, or holding some events to encourage visitors.

Within most of our applications we ask how many people currently use the building. This should be any footfall figure you have. For additional information on calculating footfall refer to the 'footfall' tab on the Parish Resources site here.

We also ask about the number of new users you expect as a result of the project, i.e. new people coming into and using the building. This should be what you anticipate within the first 12 months after the project has completed and is likely to be an estimate. It should build on your existing footfall, but should not include your existing footfall figures. You may have worked out some estimates as part of your project planning. In post grant monitoring we may ask you how many new users you have had. If you don’t already have a means of logging visitors we recommend you consider a visitors book or even an automatic door counter.

We also ask about the number of new uses you expect as a result of the project, i.e. activities that have been identified at this stage to follow the completion of your project, for instance a children's group that will meet in the church once the building is repaired, a lecture series etc. We should be able to gauge some of these uses from your other answers. Consider these within a 12 month period.

We want to ensure best value for money - for you and for us.

We look at the circumstances of each individual case and the amount of money concerned. We request an audited copy of your Annual Accounts as well as the accounts for any Friends’ organisations and we do look through these. If there are unrestricted funds after meeting running costs that are not available or that cannot be used for this project, please explain what they are earmarked for or why they cannot be used within your application. We do not expect applicants to spend every resource on a project before we will consider awarding a grant.

 

After applying

The time it takes to receive a decision varies throughout the year and between the different programmes, but it could be up to 6 months, and longer if you were to submit a Cornerstone application immediately after a preceeding deadline. Our Grants Committee currently meets three times a year. Decisions will be posted to applicants within two weeks of a committee date - please be patient! In the meantime we encourage you to apply for as many grants as possible as well as continuing to fundraise locally. Do not wait for the outcome of our grant before applying to other bodies for help. For further advice see our list of major grant funders. We also have a list of external search tools for finding grants.

Our Grants Committee is made up of NCT Trustees and heritage and church professionals, see here.

 

An initial assessment is undertaken by a staff member. Applications must have all documentation with them and meet the eligibility criteria. Due to the volume of applications we receive we cannot chase applicants for missing items. Applications are scored against criteria listed in the grant programme guidance document (see each individual grants page for the relevant document). 

The scoring takes into account the need for the work, our case for investment, risk management and the significance of the building, including whether it is within a priority area, if the building is in use beyond worship, is at risk etc. The Grants Committee makes the final decision at meetings three times a year. Urgent and essential works, take priority.

We cannot guarantee any applicant will be successful. Our success rate for the Cornerstone Programme is around 1 in 4 applications, due to demand. To help give your application the best chance of success be sure to check the eligibility criteria, ensure all documents requested are supplied, and consider the criteria in the guidance notes when drafting your application form.

We list the terms and conditions of our grant offers in each of the grant programme guidance documents. In addition we will seek feedback from your project a year after project completion. Failure to submit feedback will be considered in any future applications. Conditions include: registration on MaintenanceBooker, submission of an entry to our churches map and to be open 100 days a year beyond worship.

If your application is refused you will be sent a letter outlining the issues. If you believe you have addressed these areas, or the costs or details of the project have changed substantially, then you can resubmit a new application to us via the online form. We expect resubmissions to complete a whole new application form with attachments, but information can be copied and pasted from an earlier application where relevant.

Do not presume prior knowledge of the application. You should be able to access your previous application when you enter your login details into the application form.

We advise applicants to ensure that sufficient contingency is in place at the start of a project to assist with any unforeseen rise in costs. We may consider helping if costs have risen dramatically however we will need you to submit a new application and we cannot make a decision between grant meetings. In most cases the Committee is likely to feel it has already made its maximum available contribution.

Please be sure to sign and return the acceptance form to us (within 30 days) when you are offered a grant, having read and understood the terms and conditions of the award - these can be reviewed within the guidance documents to each grants programme in advance of applying, though are subject to change.

Our payment terms vary between programmes so please check the offer letter, acceptance form and payment claim form for detail. Usually, we can pay a grant of over £10,000 once you have spent in excess of the grant award made to you on relevant works and within the offer period of your grant (one or two years), smaller grants usually need to submit invoices that show they are twice the size of the grant award (we won't fund more than 50% of the project cost). 

You will need to submit bank payment details (this must be a copy of a paying-in slip for the place of worship's account) if not already provided, an architect's certificate showing the value spent to date, the maintenance plan, and a copy of the permissions issued for the work e.g. Faculty. Some of these we may have on file from the application stage. Documents can be emailed to us at grants@nationalchurchestrust.org. Grantees also need to submit a completed grant payment claim form (please let us know if you can't find your original copy).

 

Decisions on Cornerstone and Gateway grants can only be made by our Grants Committee at one of its meetings which take place three times a year. Foundation and Preventative Maintenance Micro Grants (the latter are only avalabile in conjunction with services booked via MaintenanceBooker), on a rolling basis.

We are sorry we are unable to award every eligible and deserving applicant a grant. We try to explain the areas where an application was weaker against our scoring criteria, but ultimately our staff and Grants Committee have to make many difficult decisions in each round as our limited funds are unable to support every deserving case. Unfortunately we cannot change a decision made by the Committee. However, if there is a change to the project cost or income, you may be able to reapply.

Advice on funding

Details of our own grants programmes are available within the grants section. Please explore our guide for details of other organisations that may be able to help towards the cost of your project.

We are only one of a number of organisations that offer financial support to church buildings. You will find further funding bodies here, also see advice here.

As long as you already have 50% funding secured through fundraising initiatives and grant offers, or from reserves, then you can apply to us. However, if it is a major grant then the decision is likely to substantially alter your shortfall. It would therefore be better to await their outcome. Please send us an update if any further funding awards are received after submitting your application to us. We cannot consider gifts in kind as project income. Volunteer time can only be included if it is also included in the project costs.

Yes, as long as you have 50% of the funds confirmed and in place.

The Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme (LPWGS) is a government-funded scheme which allows listed places of worship to claim back all or part of the actual amount spent on VAT on eligible works, including both repairs and modernisation. It is important that all listed places of worship check that they are eligible for the scheme as part of any project they are undertaking, as it can provide a significant saving to overall costs.

When we look at costings for projects, we include the potential reclaim of VAT through the scheme within the funding income for listed buildings. Unless we are informed otherwise we will automatically assume that the full 20% can be reclaimed. Churches can claim their VAT from the scheme once invoices total above £1,000 (excl. VAT), and must be made within 12 months of the invoice date.

Listed places of worship may also submit one claim in respect of works with a value of less than £1,000, but more than £500 (excluding the VAT paid) in any 12 month period. Further information can be found on the LPWGS website.

Local Church Trusts

The Local Churches Trusts are a group of independent charities providing locally specific support and advice to places of worship in the counties and regions of the United Kingdom, often on a county basis. Each has their own remit but they are generally able to provide funding, support and advice for building projects. You can find details on our list of trusts.

We work closely with the national network of churches trusts to combine their local knowledge and understanding of churches with our national approach to support and information provision. 

The Local Churches Trusts vary in the support they offer. However, there are several themes common to the majority of the network. The majority of trusts provide direct grant giving, largely for structural repairs, but also in some cases for the installation of facilities to enable wider community usage. This national network holds substantial local knowledge of other sources of support, advice and funding which may be unique to a local region, so check the list for more details.

The Local Churches Trusts are all independently-founded organisations and unfortunately they don’t exist everywhere. Please look at our advice on fundraising here for ideas of other sources of funding.