Almost £500,000 in repair and conservation grants have been awarded to churches across Norfolk. In the chairman’s report to the 44th annual meeting of the Norfolk Churches Trust, Peter Sheppard said that a further increase in membership had boosted funds.
While £171,825 of grants had been made in the last year to 41 churches, the trust had also paid £135,589 to 37 churches.
Mr Sheppard told the 19 members “attending” the virtual meeting on Wednesday, September 9 that many churches had not been able to carry out repair programmes because of postponed and cancelled fundraising events. As a result, some £292,953 in grants, which had been awarded, had not yet been paid over to churches. In the past five years, the trust has been able to award around £500,000 in grants to Norfolk churches and places of worship.
Membership, as previously reported in the EDP, had risen from 1,483 in March 2019 to 1,541 – an increase of four per cent. New efforts to boost membership and especially to encourage supporters under 30, are planned. Mr Sheppard said that the trustees want to have a reduced annual rate subscription for under 30s.
A further priority is to make it as easy as possible to join the trust with online subscription and payment through a revitalised website, he added.
David Missen, treasurer, said that the trust’s finances remained strong but that Covid-19 had forced cancellation of many key fundraising events – for example the Stately Car Boot sale now planned for May 2021. He suggested that the future level of grants may have to be trimmed, possibly by half to between £50,000 to £60,000.
The Trust had seen an increase in membership income from £37,000 to £41,185 and a number of legacies had contributed £35,000 – an increase from £5,000 in the previous year.
Mr Sheppard said that the forthcoming Norfolk Bike Ride, which takes place on Saturday, September 12, was probably the trust’s only major fundraising event. Last year, it raised more than £94,000. Over the past 35 years, the “Bike, Drive and Ride” event had raised more than £2.6m.
Bike Ride organiser Charlie Inglis said that on-line entry had encouraged many to support the event. He urged as many people as possible to take part and raise funds for the trust and also for their church.
General the Lord Dannatt, president, who presided, welcomed members and thanked supporters for their efforts over the year. He thanked the 120 members for sending their postal votes.