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Eligibility for Heritage Lottery Fund or Big Lottery Fund grants

Big Lottery Funding

Follow the steps below and for more details information please find the necessary documents at the links provided. If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Webster.

Big Lottery has multiple funding streams. The following steps will help you to identify if the project is eligible for their ‘Reaching Communities Buildings’ funding.

  1. Is the church community (incumbent/PCC) comfortable with applying for lottery funding?
  2. Is the total cost of the project £100,000+?
  3. Is the project listed in a lower super output area? Enter a post code to check.
  4. If no, but you have a project that serves a deprived community that you feel could benefit from this funding, please contact them through the exceptions route, answering five simple questions. Full details are available.
  5. Do you understand your community needs?
  6. Do you think you are within two and a half years of the building project starting?

If you can answer yes to the questions above, then you should consider Big Lottery Funding – and the next step would be to give them a call BEFORE proceeding to stage one of the application. Call them on 0345 4 10 20 30.

They will fund for up to five years and will fund both capital and revenue costs associated with a project.

“We will only consider funding the purchase of property or construction of new buildings in exceptional circumstances where an applicant organisation doesn’t already own or have access to a building nearby. This is because we want to encourage communities to focus on revitalising existing community buildings where possible as this has a positive impact on the local environment. We aim to avoid adding to the existing stock of community buildings, particularly as many of these are not being maintained successfully and we want to prevent them from going into further decline. We can fund projects of a range of sizes through this strand. The scale and length of your project should be determined by what activity is needed to make effective and lasting change for those most in need that your project is targeting.”

The Big Lottery Fund will fund community activity by a church so long as it is providing services for the whole community. You will need to be able to make your case on the phone with them, so this should be done after some community audit work has been carried out.

If you are not eligible for this funding you may still be eligible for awards for all funding or for equipment costs from their reaching communities funding streams, or for development funding to prepare a project.

Further details and all application forms found at biglotteryfund.org.uk.

Big Lottery Fund Process

Reaching Communities buildings application process overview
Overview of the Reaching Communities buildings application process

It takes roughly 10 months to get to Stage Three and a further 10 months to be awarded a full grant. You must start your project within six months of receiving the full grant. Therefore you should begin your application when you anticipate you are two years away from the project starting.

Heritage Lottery Fund

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has several grant programmes that may be able to fund capital works to your church. Full details of the HLF’s programmes are available on their website. This guidance focuses on the Grants for Places of Worship (GPOW) and Heritage Grants HLF programmes, which are the most common sources of funding for churches.

Which programme is right for me?

The following steps will help you to decide whether your project might be eligible for the HLF, and which programme is right for you.

  1. Is the church community (incumbent/PCC) comfortable with applying for Lottery funding?
  2. Do you have a project that will promote the heritage of your building (including repair works and new construction)?
  3. Has the project not yet started? (The HLF will not fund projects that are ongoing.)
  4. Does your Archdeacon support the project?
  5. Is there local support for the project from the community outside the church?
  6. Is there capacity within the church (i.e. one or more people with the time and commitment) to put together an application and see the project through?
  7. Are you able to describe what’s important about your building, why you need HLF funding and what works you want to do clearly to someone outside the church?
  8. Are you able to contribute at least 5% of the cost of the project if the total cost is less than £1 million, or at least 10% of the cost of the project if the total cost is greater than £1 million, either from your own funds or through other funders?

Grants for Places of Worship

The following steps will help you to identify if your project is eligible for the Grants for Places of Worship HLF programme.

  1. Is the church building used for worship at least six times a year?
  2. Do you have a structural repair project for your church building? Structural repair projects include works to roofs and rainwater goods, and repairs associated with structural movement (such as subsidence).
  3. Is the repair project urgent within the next two years, as outlined in a recent condition report (such as your quinquennial inspection)?
  4. Can the project be completed within three years?
  5. Is the total cost of the project between £10,000 and £250,000?
  6. Is your building listed? Find out here. If you have trouble using this search engine, Vera Gkoufa, Church Buildings Adviser at the Diocese of London, may be able to help.
  7. Is your building on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register? Find out here. Again, Vera Gkoufa may be able to help with this.
  8. Are you able to demonstrate how the project will ensure that your building will be in better condition?
  9. Are you able to demonstrate how the project will ensure that more people and a wider range of people will have engaged with the heritage of your building?

If you can answer yes to the questions above, then you should consider HLF’s Grants for Places of Worship programme. The next step would be to register on the HLF’s website and complete a Project Enquiry form. You should do this BEFORE proceeding to stage one of the application.

The HLF will fund all ‘direct project costs’. These include:

  • professional fees
  • capital work
  • activities to engage people with heritage
  • evaluation, and
  • promotion.

In addition to urgent works of repair, the HLF will fund new capital works, such as toilets or kitchens, improvements to heating or electrical systems, other works to improve energy efficiency, and works to assist with the on-going maintenance of the place of worship, in order to help you to ensure that more people and a wider range of people engage with the heritage of your building. These works should cost no more than 15% of the total overall project costs.

The HLF will also fund activities and materials, including digital applications or outputs, to engage people with the heritage of your place of worship, such as new interpretation leaflets, websites or guidebooks, or holding talks or guided tours.

Overview of Grants for Places of Worship application process
Overview of the Grants for Places of Worship application process

To help you to establish exactly what repairs your place of worship will need, or whether the proposals for new facilities or improvements to the heating or lighting system are suitable, the HLF will contribute towards costs during your development phase, such as structural investigation, including access and opening-up work; specialist reports; conservation-based research, analysis and recording.

Please note that the HLF will NOT fund projects that promote the cause or beliefs of faith organisations. This means that any works with exclusively liturgical benefits will not be considered.

Further details can be found on HLF’s Grants for Places of Worship (England) page.

Grants for Places of Worship has four deadlines a year, and decisions take around four months. If you are successful in the first round, you will then have 12 months to submit the second-round application. Decisions on this round take three months. Please see the programme’s website for this year’s deadlines.

If you are not eligible for this funding, you may still be eligible for awards from one of the HLF’s other programmes.

Heritage Grants

The following steps will help you to identify if your project is eligible for the Grants for Places of Worship HLF programme.

  1. Do you have a project that will make improvements to heritage, people or communities? This may include repair works, new construction, or programmes.
  2. Can the project be completed within five years?
  3. Is the total cost of the project over £250,000?
  4. Are you able to demonstrate how the project will achieve at least one each of the HLF’s heritage, people and communities outcomes?

If you can answer yes to the questions above, then you should consider HLF’s Heritage Grants programme. The next step would be to register on the HLF’s website and complete a Project Enquiry form. You should do this BEFORE proceeding to stage one of the application.

The HLF will fund all ‘direct project costs’; these include

  • new staff posts to deliver the project
  • extra hours for existing staff to deliver the project
  • the cost of filling a post left empty by moving an existing member of staff into a post created for the project
  • payments/bursaries for trainees
  • professional fees
  • capital work
  • activities to engage people with heritage
  • evaluation
  • promotion and
  • extra costs for your organisation, such as a new phone, extra photocopying, new computers or extra rent.

Please note that the HLF will NOT fund projects that promote the cause or beliefs of faith organisations. This means that any works with exclusively liturgical benefits will not be considered.

Overview of Heritage Grants application process
Overview of Heritage Grants application process

Further details can be found on the Heritage Grants page.

For grant applications for less than £2 million, the Heritage Grants programme has four deadlines a year, and decisions take around four months. For grant applications for between £2 million and £5 million, there are six deadlines a year, and decisions take around three months. For grant applications for more £5 million, there is only one deadline a year, and decisions take around four months. If you are successful in the first round, you will then have 24 months to submit the second-round application. Decisions on this round take around four months. Please see the HLF’s website for this year’s deadlines.

If you are not eligible for this funding, you may still be eligible for awards from one of the HLF’s other programmes.


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