Many churches in the Church of England were built hundreds of years ago and are now listed. The burden of maintaining them can be very heavy for small congregations and one way of spreading the load is to form a "Friends" organisation which helps to raise funds to maintain the fabric of a building. Often people who do not normally come to church will be prepared to support maintaining it as part of the infrastructure of a village so that it will still be there for future generations. There follows below a brief summary of the means of setting up such a scheme.
Formation of a "Friends’ Scheme"
PCC together with Incumbent and Churchwardens need to make a formal decision to create a "Friends’ Scheme".
Terms of reference
These are the objects of the Friends, and need to be clearly defined as part of the constitution.
The task of Friends is not to provide funds for general housekeeping bills e.g. heating and lighting, which should be borne by the worshipping community.
Membership of Friends
Can be open to anyone who is prepared to support the objects. They should be drawn from as wide a circle as possible.
Remember, if church members join they still have a responsibility to help fund the day to day costs of the parish through their regular giving.
Services to members
You will need to consider where your members are coming from. They could be :-
People living outside the area, but with local connections
Visitors who wish to support you for whatever reason
If they are local you can hold events both for fund raising and to inform, but if they are from further afield you will need to keep them up to date, perhaps through a Newsletter once or twice a year.
The activities of Friends
These should be organised by members of the Friends, and so you will need to find enthusiastic people prepared to take on the commitment. Ideally some of those involved will be non-church members who move in different circles, either through business or socially.
Friends should be in a position to widen the circle of people who contribute to the church.
Types of Schemes
There are three basic options:-
A Sub-committee of the PCC
An independent organisation
A perpetual Fabric Fund
Not strictly a "Friends’ Scheme", but worth considering. A Trust is set up for an individual church building. Capital is raised which is invested with the CBF, and only income is available to spend on the building. There is also a provision for 20% of the capital to be borrowed and paid back over a set period.
Do not be tempted to take short cuts. An informal scheme could breach charity law, could be open to fraud, and PCC could lose representation.
For further guidance please contact the Parish Finance Adviser at Peninsular House on 023 9289 9655.
Published by Parish Resources Adviser, Diocese of Portsmouth 05/04