A new approach to funding places of worship

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You can find out about the changes to our funding for places of worship by reading my blog post. However we thought that it might be useful to answer some of the questions that applicants might have in an FAQ-style post.

Hopefully you can find the answers to your questions below, but if not, please add any further queries in the comments and we'll get back to you.


Are places of worship still important to HLF?

Absolutely! HLF is committed to supporting good projects that help to ensure the long term sustainability of places of worship. Places of worship include some of the UK’s most significant buildings and we have a part to play to ensure that these buildings are safeguarded so that future generations can also enjoy their rich heritage.

Is HLF reducing its financial support for places of worship?

This year we will spend a guaranteed £20m minimum on places of worship across the UK and the total figure is likely to be far more than this.  If places of worship continue to apply for National Lottery funding at similar levels to previous years we fully expect to spend equivalent amounts in subsequent years, in proportion to our total grants budget. We also hope that congregations will take advantage of the more flexible nature of our open programmes to access larger pots of money than previously available through the GPOW programme, where awards were capped at £250,000.

Why is HLF changing its approach to how it supports places of worship?

Our policy decisions are driven by the need to deliver value for National Lottery players and to ensure that National Lottery funding delivers tangible benefits for people and communities, as well as making heritage fit for the future. By reducing complexity we will make our portfolio easier for applicants to understand and navigate. And we believe that the new arrangements offer greater flexibility for congregations to put in place measures that will help them to become truly sustainable. Channelling the smaller scale capital projects through Our Heritage will also simplify the approach for applicants, making it easier for those with limited capacity to apply for HLF funding.

Why are you making this change now?

We constantly look at how we support heritage projects and how we design our programmes to be accessible, flexible and easy to understand.  We know that sometimes people applying for funding for their place of worship can find the application process onerous – something the sector has raised with us. Also, by making this change now, before we move into the delivery of HLF’s next strategic framework in 2019, we can ensure that we have sufficient resources to provide congregations with the support that they will need during the transition period as the GPOW programme comes to an end.

Will the partnership working between HLF and Historic Environment Scotland on funding for places of worship in Scotland continue?

Yes. People caring for places of worship in Scotland will still be able to access funding from both organisations through a single application form and process: either through Our Heritage or Heritage Grants depending on the scale of grant request. 

What can I include in my Our Heritage or Heritage Grant application?

Our open programmes are genuinely open – applicants can ask for whatever they feel that they most need to deliver an effective and engaging project that meets their needs. We recognise that for many applicants the focus of the project will still be addressing significant fabric repair needs but there are many other elements that can be included. From our experience of previous successful Our Heritage and Heritage Grant projects we would suggest that applicants might wish to consider including some of the following items in their project, bearing in mind that this list is neither exclusive nor mandatory!

  • Capital repair works – conservation, planned repairs, urgent repairs
  • New facilities – WCs, serveries and repairs / upgrades to services (heating, lighting and electrics)
  • Activities to increase engagement
  • Capacity building – increasing the skills within the congregation e.g. leadership, governance, community engagement, marketing & tourism, managing on-going maintenance etc.
  • Professional support – business & financial management, project management, fundraising, engagement & education etc.

Are the amounts that can be spent on capital repair works and activities fixed in the open programmes?

No. In our GPOW programme guidance we stated that any new works should cost no more than 15% of the total overall project costs. This restriction does not apply to Our Heritage or Heritage Grants applications. We always encourage applicants to apply for what they need whether this is capital works to tackle much needed fabric repairs or work to support learning and outreach activities. The ‘help notes’ in the application guidance (Our Heritage and Heritage Grants) give further detail on the things that we can fund.

What support will HLF provide knowing that many applicants are volunteers and have limited capacity to deliver projects?

Our new approach provides an opportunity to rethink how we present our guidance and we will be working hard to find appropriate ways to help support applicants during the transition period. The following list summarises some of measures we will take but we would very much welcome your ideas about other resources that we could provide or other measures that we could take.

  • Development Teams will continue to provide pre-application advice to people who are considering applying to the Our Heritage and Heritage Grants programmes.
  • We will produce a collection of ‘good practice’ resources for applicants, which will include case studies, links to existing successful projects and detailed application ‘help notes’.
  • We will use our Online Community to provide additional support and will actively signpost other helpful resources and sources of good advice. [We are aware that resources need to also be accessible for those who are less comfortable with IT or have a lack of online access.]
  • We will work with denominational bodies and national groups, such as ChurchCare, the National Churches Trust and the Places of Worship Support Officers, to make sure that all applicants can access the information and resources they need.
  • We will ensure that applicants to the Our Heritage programme are aware of the opportunity to make use of a mentor, paid for through their project grant.
  • We will talk to denominational bodies and other sector groups about the potential of developing HLF-funded projects to build capacity in their own members through our Resilient Heritage programme.
  • We will develop and deliver tailored training sessions for denominational bodies and applicants at national and regional levels to ensure that everyone understands the opportunities offered through our open programmes and is empowered to develop strong applications for funding.
View Sara Crofts's profile Sara Crofts Apr 5 2017 - 12:24pm
  1. Dear Sara,

    I'm really confused?! The guidelines for Our Heritage say that projects are likely to be unsuccessful if they are “promoting the cause or beliefs of political and faith organisations”.

    Under GPOW, churches were treated as active places of worship (and subsequently places where the cause and belief of a faith organisation was promoted). Does that mean that under Our Heritage, we should downplay or omit any mention of sacred activities?

    My church is obviously primarily a place of worship although it is used for a number of other activities. The Our Heritage stream seems to suggest that an application to HLF needs to focus on secular activities but your post above suggests that HLF recognise that churches have congregations which are a living worshipping community.

    Sorry if I've misunderstood but the guidelines seem to be saying something different from the press releases we've been given.




  2. View Phillip Johnson's profile Phillip Johnson
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 1 month ago
  3. Hello Philip

    Thanks for your question. The statement that we are unlikely to fund projects that promote religious causes or beliefs is actually true of all of our funding programmes and is common across all of our guidance, including GPOW.

    GPOW projects allowed a focus on safeguarding the physical heritage of places of worship whilst the activities that we required as part of these projects were intended to introduce more people to the heritage of these fantastic buildings, so they were not about promoting faith, though of course the projects also benefitted the worshipping community at the same time. This will still be the case with projects that are funded through Our Heritage and Heritage Grants.

    Hope that helps!


  4. View Sara Crofts's profile Sara Crofts
    Offline | Last seen: 2 months 3 weeks ago
  5. Great- thanks.

    I've had a number of conversations with people over the last week who think that whilst in an GPOW application it was okay to talk about the worshipping community, under OH and HG you have to downplay the sacred use of the building (or even not mention it) and highlight only secular uses. A number of churches are uncomfortable about doing this as it feels like they're denying their fundamental rationale for being there (which obviously is the promotion of religion) or that they're encouraged to pretend that they're a tourist attraction instead.

    I think its nervousness about the sudden closure of GPOW which in its title acknowledged that we were places of worship primarily as opposed to the other schemes which are secular heritage focused. Would it be possible to create a seperate guidance for churches on how to frame applications that would allay these fears?



  6. View Phillip Johnson's profile Phillip Johnson
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 1 month ago
  7. in reply to

    Hello again Philip

    Yes, we quite understand that change always brings with it some feelings of uncertainty but the online community is a good place to dispel myths and answer any general concerns. We also intend to write 'help notes' or something similar that will sit alongside the existing generic Our Heritage and Heritage Grants guidance so that people can more easily relate it to their own experience. I would also hope that grantees who have successfully secured HLF funding will share their experiences via the online community too.


  8. View Sara Crofts's profile Sara Crofts
    Offline | Last seen: 2 months 3 weeks ago
  9. Dear Sara,

    I have a question following on from the announcement that the GPOW fund will close after the August application deadline.

    We are in the process of compiling an application to GPOW for work to our Tower and Clock. If we submit a first round application and it is rejected, will we be able to re-submit after attempting to improve it or not - if GPOW has closed?

    Grateful for any advice,

    Nick Lloyd

    Churchwarden, St. Bartholomew's Church, Sydenham SE26

  10. View NICK LLOYD's profile NICK LLOYD
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 5 months ago
  11. in reply to

    Hello Nick

    The August/September deadlines are absolute and so anyone who is unsuccessful in the last round of GPOW decision-making will have to rework their application as either an Our Heritage or Heritage Grants application instead. This shouldn't be too tricky as the application forms are very similar but you will need to read the programme guidance as the requirements in terms of outcomes are slightly different.

    Good luck!


  12. View Sara Crofts's profile Sara Crofts
    Offline | Last seen: 2 months 3 weeks ago
  13. Dear Sara

    Following Nick's post above, and given that HLF has indicated it will look sympathetically on less polished applications, we decided to apply for the May deadline. However, I notice that decisions for the May application are not made until September. Does that mean by applying in May we will preclude ourselves from having another go in August?

    We had been advised to break what is to be a major restoration project into a series of smaller projects and have been preparing the first of them for application to LPoW. We cannot reduce the current application to below £100,000 so our only alternative for the future will be the big Heritage fund.

  14. View Mrs Daly's profile Mrs Daly
    Offline | Last seen: 4 months 3 weeks ago
  15. in reply to

    Dear Mrs. Daly,

    The Grants for Places of Worship (GPOW) programme has a three month assessment period, this means that a decision will not have been made on your application before the deadline for the following (final) round of applications has passed.

    If you should be unsuccessful in your application to GPOW and you require a grant of more than £100,000 then Heritage Grants would be the best option for a reapplication.

    Many thanks,


  16. View Adam Tyson's profile Adam Tyson
    Offline | Last seen: 3 months 1 week ago
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