Friends’ Schemes

A Friends’ Scheme can engage the wider community who may wish to support the life of the Church building.

The average annual spend on church repairs in the Diocese of Norwich was £9,550 per parish in 2013 (£9,168 per parish in 2012). For all parishes, this represents a large strain on parish funds and whilst some of this can sometimes be met by grant funding, grants may not always be available.

In order to ease the burden, many parishes have explored the idea of setting up a Friends’ Scheme, mainly as a way to engage the wider community who may wish to support the life of the church building, especially those who do not regularly worship there.

This document briefly summarises the process of setting up a Friends’ Scheme and the considerations which should be taken into account when doing so.

Types of Schemes

There are two types of scheme which the PCC may choose to set up, being:

1. A scheme set up under the PCC’s authority

In effect, this is a sub-committee of the PCC and as such, any financial information must be incorporated into the PCC’s accounts. The PCC treasurer should be one of the signatories as they have a responsibility to ensure that they have control over funds held by the PCC.

It is the simplest scheme to establish and operate, and as such is the recommended option for most parishes. The committee organises the events, its own membership list and it reports to the PCC.

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Under full authority of the PCCMay not attract a wider membership, particularly leadership, if perceived as a subcommittee
Charity status as part of the PCCOrganised by existing church members
Tax efficient donations and subscriptions through Gift AidOfficers must be on the electoral roll
No separate constitution, AGM etc. requiredHas no executive powers
Can use CBF Investment Fund
Some functions can be delegated by the PCC as it is a sub-committee
Its events and personnel may be covered by the PCC’s insurance

 

2. An independent organisation with its own charitable status and its own constitution

This is more complicated than being a scheme under the authority of the PCC as it would lose some of the benefits of being part of the PCC. It would also need to be registered as a separate charity with the Charity Commission and there is also a lack of control over funds. There should be provision for ex-officio members to ensure some element of PCC representation.

AdvantagesDisadvantages
May attract wider community supportLength of time to establish
Seen as distinct from the religious activity of the churchRequires its own constitution, AGM, bank accounts and officers
Possibly easier to find a ‘patron’Not legal unless registered as a charity under the Charities Act 2011 which needs the formal documentation of the Charity Commissioners
Organisation does not fall on the church membersRequires all the reporting and accounting procedures dictated by the Charities S.O.R.P and the submission of accounts
Tax efficient donations through Gift AidThe committee are the trustees and must take on the responsibilities of trusteeship
Will need to separately insure its activities
May fall out of the control of the PCC in respect of its activities
Is divorced from the core purpose of the building

 

Getting Started

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) makes a formal decision to establish a Friends’ Scheme. They will do this after making sure that they will be able to attract new people to it who have a real contribution to offer. It mustn’t be the same people who are already responsible for most of the life of the Church – though some may wish to join.

Events organised by the Friends should not be an additional burden on the church family, and care needs to exercised that there is no expectation raised that the priest and his/her family are expected to attend absolutely everything that goes on.

Aims & Objectives

These need to be made very clear at the outset and enshrined in the founding documents, be they a terms of reference, if remaining under PCC control or a constitution, if this is to be setup as a separate charity.

Whatever founding document is used, it must be clear that the Church exists for the practice and advancement of the Christian religion. There are some different options for setting up the Friends’ Scheme, but whichever scheme is chosen, the care, maintenance, repair and insurance of the church remains the responsibility of the PCC and all work done to the church is still subject to faculty jurisdiction.

The task of Friends is not to provide funds for general housekeeping as these remain the responsibility of the worshipping community. Members of the worshipping community may wish to join the Friends but their primary contribution to the work of the church should be through regular giving to general funds to contribute to the day to day costs of the parish.

A wider role beyond funding should also be considered for a Friends’ Scheme, particularly where the church is a heritage site. This should include promoting knowledge and understanding of the church and its role in the Christian faith and the development of the community around it. Friends might become involved in guiding and interpretive work for visitors, and in publicity in attracting tourists to visit the church.

Whatever their precise role the Friends must be capable of drawing in additional people and support than might otherwise be the available. If they do not, or cannot, there is little reason for their existence.

Potential Friends

Decide the kind of people that you will target to become Friends. This may include for example:

  • Relations of residents who have moved away – adult children whose parents are part of the church family, for example
  • One time members of the church family who have moved away
  • Individuals of standing in the community
  • Members of local societies with an interest in history
  • Local residents living near the church or in the parish
  • Visitors to the church
  • Organisations linked to any person or interest connected with the church
  • Local businesses

Further Information

More detailed notes on Friends’ Schemes can be found on the Parish Resources website.