Community audits and other fundraising matters
At the recent Institute of Fundraising National Convention, one of the plenary speakers was Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, one of Britain’s most iconic Paralympic athletes. Born with Spina Bifida, she has competed in five Paralympic Games, winning 11 Gold Medals, and has won the London Wheelchair Marathon six times.
Tanni, who is acknowledged as one of the most gifted and courageous sportswomen of her generation, shared her inspirational life story and told of the challenges she had encountered through her various careers. She explained that she had needed to make some very tough life choices at times: some had occurred because of her disability; others were related to matters that many of us will face through life, however, the support she received from colleagues, family, friends, and in Tanni’s case medical professionals, had kept her going through thick and thin.
This got me thinking about my own life and what we can do as individuals or part of our own church family and parish to support others, especially in the wider community.
Although I have only been with the London Diocesan Fund for a couple of months, I have been amazed and inspired by the amount and variety of work being undertaken by our parishes. It is these outreach activities that are so important when you suddenly find your church roof is about to collapse, or the church boilers have just blown up – it is a requirement from many funders (such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and Garfield Weston) that the church building is used by and for the local community throughout the week rather than just on a Sunday.
However, it is not always easy to know what the most pressing needs are in the local community or what we as the local church can offer. One of the best ways to approach this would be to carry out a Community Audit to help the parish better understand its congregation and neighbourhoods. Community Audits are also key to good Mission Action Plans which are integral to strategic planning and delivery of effective mission and ministry by parishes in the Diocese of London.
It is also important to realise that in order to respond effectively to local need, projects may need to be delivered in partnership with other organisations. It can be great to put on a monthly (or even weekly) coffee morning for local residents but what if the true need is for a community café to bring about real change in your area. One great example is at St Francis at the Engine Room in Tottenham where they run a pop-up café every Thursday in term time after school on the lawn outside the primary school. Volunteers and Father Andrew provide tea, cakes and juice for residents with games for the young people to enjoy.
Or maybe you discover that the high volume of older people who live in the neighbourhood would really appreciate a regular ‘Friday Night Out’ with a sit-down meal and cabaret. An extraordinary partnership between St Paul’s Church, West Hackney and Duckie, a not-for-profit company that designs and delivers community events and arts clubs across London and the South East of England for groups of people who are united by a common need or problem, has resulted in The Posh Club –a hugely successful, glamorous, weekly social club for folk over 60 who may be at risk of becoming isolated as they get older.
The real joy here is that both organisations really do work as partners with The Rev’d Niall Weir and a team of enthusiastic volunteers from St Paul’s Church and the local community actively supporting the delivery of each Posh Club event.
Even if your church building could accommodate these types of activities, you would need a huge amount of volunteers in your parish with LOTS of spare time, energy and commitment to continue to provide these. Working in partnership with organisations that are expert in providing these projects will help ensure sustainability and increased community cohesion.
And finally, my top tip for this month:
Many hands make light work – and so it is with fundraising. The first – and probably most valuable – lesson I learnt when I started my fundraising career is that one person, by themselves, cannot do it all! Spend time with people to find out what interests them and where their skill set lies – it could be planning events, research or writing letters. Squirrel the information away (in your head, mobile phone, tablet – it really doesn’t matter). Then, when you need someone with that particular skill, you’ll know who to ask!
Carol Ward is the Parish Fundraising Manager for the London Diocesan Fund and can be emailed or called on 020 7923 1264. For further help on fundraising, check out the fundraising pages or you can also follow us on twitter using the handle @fundmychurch.