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St Gabriel's Warwick Square Pimlico

Friends’ group case studies

A number of friends’ groups have been formed in the Diocese of London. Find out how some of them were formed, how they raise money and what impact they have.

The Friends of Christ Church Spitalfields

The Friends of Christ Church Spitalfields was established in 1976 to fund and manage the complete restoration, internal and external, of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Grade I-listed Christ Church (1714-29), which was saved from near-dereliction and which finally re-opened in 2004.

The restoration of Christ Church was a £10million project carried out in phases. The Friends obtained generous grants from the HLF, English Heritage, the Monument Trust, the World Monuments Fund and are supported by many individuals from around the world. The charity has about 2,000 supporters worldwide. It has three part-time executives and 13 trustees.

The major phase of the restoration project, carried out in 2002-04, was highly acclaimed and was completed on time and on budget. The restoration received seven major awards including a Civic Trust Award and the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Conservation Award. The Friends’ current project is to raise funds for, and to manage, the restoration of the Richard Bridge organ built for and installed in Christ Church in 1735.

The Friends of St Gabriel’s, Pimlico

St Gabriel’s, Warwick Square is a magnificent mid-19th century Grade II* listed church in Pimlico, central London. Over the years, it has suffered predictable wear-and-tear. Even with generous grant support for the necessary repairs from various sources including the HLF, by 2009 it was clear that a new approach to fund-raising would be needed. A group of volunteers got together to form the Friends of St Gabriel’s. From the start, the aim was to promote St Gabriel’s as a community landmark to as wide a range of potential donors as possible.

Annual membership was priced at £10, and life membership was available for £1,000. Launched in September 2009, the Friends have since grown to include around 120 regular members. The key to success has been flexibility and imagination, and the recognition that while individual events may themselves raise only relatively small sums they are nevertheless important in building goodwill and community spirit.

Examples of Friends’ events include a successful programme of instrumental and choral concerts, talks by outside speakers, active participation in wider events like the annual London Garden Square open day and London Ride+Stride sponsored church tourism event, book and cake sales and a wine-tasting. The Friends have also agreed ticket price concessions for members from outside organisations who have hired the church for their own concerts. The aim has been to take as many opportunities as possible to raise awareness and encourage participation. To this end, a full-colour fund-raising prospectus was prepared, aimed at potential donors of larger sums.

In addition to membership fees and money raised at events, individual donations have ranged in size from a few pounds to £10,000. Including Gift Aid tax refunds, the Friends has raised a total of about £110,000 over three years and is making a major contribution to the renovation of the church. Our advice to other parishes would be – give it a try!

The Friends of St Peter, De Beauvoir Town

The Friends of De Peter De Beauvoir were set up in 2004 in response to a growing awareness that there were people in the wider local community who felt an attachment to the church building and the realisation that support would soon be needed for building projects – access works, landscaping the grounds and reordering the crypt. It was also a way of keeping in touch with members of the congregation who had moved away, as well as with extended families and friends of worshippers. The group’s primary purpose was to build relationships and develop opportunities for volunteering. We felt strongly that if relationships could be formed, fundraising would follow. The Friends of St Peter’s, above all, communicates the church’s calling to be open to others.

The idea took shape when a young marketing professional in the congregation offered to help. She co-ordinated a Harvest Moon Cabaret, drawing on local talent to launch the Friends. Around 60 local households signed up. Since then names have been added as people pick up membership leaflets in church or are invited to join by word of mouth. There are currently about 170 households on our database of friends and supporters. Increasingly people have got involved without signing up as Friends which has made it possible to engage people of other faiths, some of whom would prefer not to enrol officially as members.

In nine years Friends have contributed a great deal of volunteer effort to the building project, offering professional skills in surveying, planning, landscape architecture, graphic design, interior design, marketing and fundraising. Friends have also got involved in running St Peter’s winter night shelter. They have organised regular events: the Hackney Debate with BBC newsreader, George Alagiah; Christmas craft fairs; concerts and exhibitions. A number of Friends use the space for activities: an affordable acupuncture clinic, life-drawing classes, theatre rehearsals and Acoustic Sundays, a monthly showcase for young musicians.

Many Friends attend services at Christmas and Easter and some have become regular Sunday worshippers. A number of funerals and memorial services have taken place for Friends which have offered opportunities for deeper spiritual involvement from mourners. There is a potential to grow ministry in offering ‘non-religious’ funerals and ceremonies for other life events. To show that it is not just about financial support, it’s free to join the group. Benefits for members are simple: regular mailings about events, a seasonal newsletter and priority bookings for spaces to hire.

Image by John Salmon [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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