Friends’ Schemes

A Friends’ Scheme for your Church

With the increasing cost of repairing and maintaining our historic churches, many parishes have established a Friends’ scheme. Such a scheme can enable a wider group of people to share the challenge of ensuring that their parish church building is in a reasonable state to hand over to the next generation.

Many people have a great deal of good will towards their church building, especially in rural areas, and although they may not wish to contribute to the religious aspects of the church they may be willing to support part of their heritage. A Friends’ Scheme is one way in which a parish church can encourage help of this kind from a wider community.

Click here to our Guide: Developing a Friends’ Scheme for a Parish Church

Two Types of Friends’ Schemes

There are two different ways of setting up a Friends’ scheme, which must have its own Terms of Reference:

  1. The scheme is set up under the aegis of the PCC and is controlled by its officers. The PCC establishes a sub-committee which sets out its terms of reference, the objective being to raise money for PCC funds, It enjoys the existing charitable status of the PCC. A Friends’ Committee organizes the membership, services for members and events and fundraising.
  2. An independent organization is established with its own charitable status, constitution, officers and funds which exists to help to maintain the church building and raises funds for that purpose. Some parishes which have adopted this model have excluded PCC members from serving on their Friends’ Committee.

There are pros and cons with each design. Our guidance below explains that there are pros and cons with each option. If you choose to establish an independent charity, there is a sample constitution provided below.

Click here to view a sample constitution for an independent Friends Scheme

What Additional Funds can this Generate?

This is dependent on the level of active membership, generosity of members and the fund raising activities of the scheme. One scheme has 80 active members generating some £2,000 per annum, mostly from subscriptions. Another scheme has 50 members and generates some £3,000 per annum although approximately two thirds of this comes from fund raising events where the Friends’ scheme has taken over the lead role from the PCC.

Typical Membership Profile

In general only a minority of Members (10 – 15%) will be active worshippers in the church. In one case, where the church has some particularly significant architectural features 80% of the membership is from outside the parish, whereas in another some 15% are from outside the parish, the balance being parishioners who are not active churchgoers.

What do Members receive from the Scheme?

At time of joining, members should receive a gift of some type; eg bookmark, a pamphlet on the church etc. Communication is important, especially what is happening in the church and what the funds are being used for. This is achieved by a Newsletter (at least 6 monthly) and invitations to Friends’ events (eg Music Event, Patronal Festival followed by dinner, tea on Church Meadow, Fireworks evening etc). Need to create that warm feeling of actively contributing to a valuable part of their heritage. There may be a website supplementing the Newsletter.

Do and Don’t’s – Advice from Other Friends’ Scheme

DO Get advice from the Stewardship Department before starting
DO Have the “great and good” as Honorary Presidents & Patrons
DO Send a personal note of thanks to each member / donor
DO Identify what the funds are to be used for (and equally not used for)

DO NOT Underestimate the workload in setting up and running a Friends’ Scheme
DO NOT Think that a Friend’s scheme is just another PCC task to organize

DO NOT have the Friends’ scheme apply to grants / funds for funding; that is done in the name of the PCC; equally all funds paid to contractors are done so by the PCC