Grants for Repairing Old Churches

by Taylor Echolls

There are many different options for funding church renovation and repair. Organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation distribute federal money among the states for disbursement to projects that will improve or repair a building of historic significance. Churches dating from the American colonial period to the 20th Century have been awarded grants for repair due to historical significance. There are also grants available for church repair from private organizations and religious institutions.

Government Grants

The National Parks Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are two federal programs that allocate money to states for the preservation and repair of historic buildings. Generally, individuals cannot apply directly to the federal government, as the funds are administered by state and local agencies. There are also state historic preservation offices throughout the country that offer grants for repairs to historic churches. Both federal and state grants may require the church to match the granted funds with their own fundraising.

Federal Grants

If a church is of "historical significance," then it may qualify for a federal grant from the National Parks Service under the "Save America's Treasures" program. Prior to 2003, it was illegal to use "federal funds for the restoration of historically significant religious buildings that were also used for religious purposes," according to law scholar Christen Sproule. Once this decision was reversed, the Old North Church in Boston -- the location of Paul Revere's signal lanterns during the American Revolution -- became the first church to receive a federal grant for repairs.

Other Grants

A church needs a non-profit 501(c)(3) designation by the IRS to qualify as a charitable organization and be eligible for most federal and state grants. But there are non-governmental grants available from parent religious organizations to their churches around the country that carry fewer restrictions than their federal counterparts. The United Methodist Church, for example, helps Methodist churches in grant assistance and small donations for repairs to make a building "more accessible by removing architectural barriers."

Applications for Repair

As long as government grants are used for church repairs and not the promotion of religion, a well-written grant has a good chance of being funded, but an application should still cover all the bases. Evidence of any historical significance should be included in the application, along with a proposal for the repair. Including letters of support from town or city officials and listing neighborhood groups that utilize church facilities can also improve a grant application's chances.

About the Author

Taylor Echolls is an award-winning writer whose expertise includes health, environmental and LGBT journalism. He has written for the "Valley Citizen" newspaper, where his work won first- and second-place awards in sports and outdoor features from the Idaho Press Club. Echolls holds a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College.

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