Epistle to certain Christians seeking funds

I was asked to comment on a paper prepared by a Church group seeking funding for an initiative on a deprived estate.  This is an edited version of my critique, which the client described as a “helpful reality check”.

What’s the problem ?

The paper brings together two themes:

  • Meeting the need of the Church to deal with increasing disengagement
  • Meeting the need of local children for personal/social/emotional/spiritual growth – however expressed

Putting them together may make sense to the authors, but creates major and possibly insurmountable problems for attracting significant, sustained funding for the whole package.

I would have thought that meeting the need of the Church to deal with increasing disengagement is likely to be fundable only from private donation or from trusts whose objects permit them to fund evangelical work. This is not an area in which I have any expertise.

You are right to observe that the report is written in Churchy language. But in-groups develop habits of language – and behaviour – which are very off putting to outsiders, and limit perceptions and thought. I wonder if you will get closer to the transformation you seek through a greater self awareness of how others perceive the church, or indeed understanding of how others see the problems in front of them. I did feel that the document failed to display insight into the lives of people in the area, and at times came across as lacking humility and charity. Motes and Beams came to mind.

 Meeting the need of local children for personal/social/emotional/spiritual growth

Most funders would want to see evidence of engagement with other agencies who share this aspiration, to find cost effective ways of working, make best use of resources etc. The paper talks of partnership and consultation but this seems to be mainly restricted to people connected to the Church. The paper provides no description of what the other parts of the jigsaw are and how the recommended work is supposed to fit in.  This may be because it is blindingly obvious but it reads like they don’t actually know.

It would be important to show how residents of the estate could have a more active role in shaping and delivering the work of the project.

The Mentoring recommendation seems focussed on addressing the blighting of aspiration and attainment in teens. Though it would be helpful to use the relationships with the local CofE primary school, the real challenges come in secondary schools, and on this the paper is silent. What are they doing now that is right, or wrong; what aren’t they doing/can’t they do ?

The paper show no evidence of any engagement with any of the local secondary schools, but to be effective the project and school would need mutual trust.

It is not clear how the model of mentoring post would work. Funders will want some indication of how many children mentored for how long each year…how selected…how manage the cumulating caseload…what are the criteria and measures of success/improvement ? It may be helpful to get experience of transitional mentors from elsewhere.

And could the Church’s own high performing secondary schools contribute – advice, expertise, mentoring ?

A development process

To get significant and sustained funding for statutory sources and major trusts I’d recommend a partnership development process that looks something like this. It may seem a lot but you are talking about committing £150K-£250K over 3 or more years.

 1. Work with key non-Church partners to develop a shared vision of what you are trying to achieve that all the partners will support. Building mutual trust at the earliest stage is critical.

2. Establish the governance and accountability

3. Clearly identify the need in terms of scale/scope, analysis of the problem and existing activity in the field (Use insights from other agencies, profiling work done by Childrens’ Services, and the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment.

4. Set out the Objectives that are the steps to realising the shared vision. These should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time Limited.

5. Describe the intervention(s) that will achieve the objectives– how will it work – what’s the chain of cause and effect; key assumptions, risks, how will you know its working or not

6. Describe the resources needed / budget

7. Set a funding strategy

All stages signed off and monitored by Governing group.

I do hope this view – from outside the Church – is helpful. Very happy to have a conversation to clarify any of the above.

Best wishes

John

12.00

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