Message of imagination and opportunity at Diocesan Conference

Using imagination in times of change and treating challenges as opportunities were the messages from this year’s Diocesan Conference, held at Brecon Cathedral.

The speakers at this year’s event were Housing Justice Cymru’s Sharon Lee, Wendy Coombey from the Diocese of Hereford, who gave delegates tips on fundraising, and Elizabeth Parry, from Brecon’s St Mary’s Church, who spoke about the work which has gone into transforming the church.

In his opening remarks, Archbishop John said: “The recent Social Attitudes Survey indicated a continuing and radical decline in the affiliation to the institutional Churches and, indeed, a pretty radical decline in belief full stop.

“That we can worry about, unnecessarily panic about, but we can take it as a wake-up call which encourages us to develop new opportunities in the way in which we do our core business and that core business is, as our prayer put it at the beginning, going out and making disciples.

Archbishop John drew a parallel with the early Church which, he said, had a “very clear vision of what it had to do and adapted itself to the circumstances in which it found itself”.

You can watch Archbishop John’s opening and closing remarks – and Sharon Lee’s presentation – below.

Delegates also affirmed their commitment to Faith in Families, as it fights for its future.

The charity is losing its Communities First grant in March next year, which it relies on for around 80% of the funding for its three Swansea centres.

Archbishop John told the conference that “the work of Faith in Families finds itself, yet again, under significant threat.

“The risk is a number of our family centres might have to close. When we note that we’ve only recently been celebrating the £1m refurbishment of St Teilo’s Church into a family centre and worship space that would be highly regrettable.”

He called on the conference to pass a motion expressing its concerns and  “affirm its full support for the Faith in Families initiative, regrets the reduction in support from external partners which places that initiative in jeopardy, and urges those partners and others to work with us to explore possible alternatives to secure the initiative’s future”.

The motion was passed unanimously.

Elizabeth Parry told delegates about the changes which had happened at St Mary’s Church, which have made it a warm and welcoming place.

The town centre church – which houses a cafe and children’s play area – had been closed for 13 months while major repairs to its roof, and improvements including better disabled access, were carried out.

As well as fundraising by church members and the local community, the cost of the project was met by £95,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and grants from Cadw, Brecon Beacons National Park and other smaller bodies.

Wendy Coombey’s 10 tips for fundraisers gave delegates an insight into the process of applying for grants, and were:

1: Don’t Rush

Start planning early – funding applications can take a long time to research, write and submit.  You then have to rely on the timetable and committee regime of the funding body you are applying to.

2: Set your vision.

Spend time writing down your vision, including the following things:

What do you want to do? – be very clear what you want to do, with specific actions.  It helps to break it down into components.

Why do you want to do it? – what is the need? Use whatever stats you can to evidence the need – but the evidence funders really like is the evidence that comes from those who are going to be the beneficiaries of your work.

Some funders like to know how your project will fit in with local strategic plans, so it’s worth having a look at some of those and using some of that evidence in your application.

Who and how will people benefit?- so it helps to understand who will actually be the beneficiaries – is it just churchgoer, your congregation or is it the wider community?

Why is your project the best option? – you will need to demonstrate that your approach is the best way to achieve the desired outcome, and sometimes this will mean demonstrating that your approach offers the best value for money for a funder.

3: Carry out a range of different funding searches.

4: Research your funders again.

5: Answer the questions.

Read the application form through thoroughly.

Use the questions as a form of project development.

Write a rough draft – think through your answers.

Don’t cut corners.

6: Don’t make the funder work too hard.

Don’t use jargon only you understand.

Don’t use acronyms without an explanation of what they mean.

Don’t tell the funder to ‘refer to your previous answer’.

Don’t waffle, be clear and concise but with full explanations and answers.

Observe word counts and stick to them.

Only send the supporting documents that they ask for.

7: Make your project stand out.

8:  Make life easy for the funder.

Do not handwrite applications.

Submit everything they ask for – and get someone to check it.

Make sure the person who is the main contact knows the project inside out and is able to speak about it with confidence.

9: And make life easy for yourself.

Do not work right up to a funding deadline.

Make sure all of your documents are ready to be sent or uploaded in the format requested by the funder.

Keep all the paperwork up to date and read it very carefully.

10: Say thank you and invite them to the party.

Always thank a funder if they make you an offer.

Always invite them to any launch event.

Carry out the evaluation and reporting that you agree to provide.