How Two Churches Found Grants for Ministry
Church leaders discuss ins and outs of grants.
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Two church leaders shared how their churches received outside funding to help with their respective ministry efforts.

Park Avenue United Methodist Church

Park Avenue United Methodist Church in South Minneapolis has received grant funding for decades through a separate nonprofit attached to the church called Park Avenue Youth and Family Services (PAYFS, formerly known as the Park Avenue Foundation). Many churches around the country have developed separate nonprofits in order to attract new funders, partners, and volunteers into their ministries.

Throughout the years, PAYFS has secured foundation, corporate, and government grants for a wide variety of programs, including a computer learning center, a summer program for youth, health and legal clinics, and most recently Tronix, a science enrichment program that works with community partners to reach middle-school students in 22 public schools. Tronix is funded by a number of science and technology companies in the Minneapolis area that are particularly interested in science education as a way to create a strong and capable future workforce.

Grants are valuable to PAYFS because they often provide a larger "chunk" of money all at once, which other types of donors can't provide.

But grants pose challenges, too.

Tessa Trepp, director of PAYFS, says grants also bring administrative burdens.

"It's a strong point of integrity for us to be able to meet all the standards of the funder and do what we said we would do," she says. "We have to be honest and accurate in what we report, but it can be challenging to collect data on the impact of our programs."

Building relationships with secular funders also poses challenges.

"It's very hard to get grant funding for anything that is evangelistic. Many funders want to know specifically how we will serve people of other faiths," Trepp says. "One strategy I have used recently: I asked a funder to pay for our field trip buses and let them know that I had other funding for the spiritual component of our program."

Trepp says people in the Park Avenue congregation often email information regarding grant opportunities to her, making them one of her best sources of information. She also researches local business journals to identify companies that are doing particularly well.

While grants can meet resource needs, Trepp advises congregations to " … make sure you don't get pulled off mission by grant opportunities," she says. "If they say you have to do things on Tuesdays, you might start doing it in order to get funding, even if it doesn't fit your mission and plan."

November 6, 2009

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