Frequently Asked Questions About the Philadelphia Regional Fund for Sacred Places

Q. What is the Philadelphia Regional Fund for Sacred Places?

The Fund provides a major source of dedicated capital funding for historic, community-serving sacred places in the five county Philadelphia region – Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. An initial grant pool of $750,000 was awarded to twelve (12) congregations in the region in May 2006. The grant awards were in the range of $25,000 to $100,000. This grant pool was in addition to seven (7) recipients of partnership grants between the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission’s Keystone Grant Program and Partners for Sacred Places in 2005-6.

The grants are supplemented by training and technical assistance, to help position congregations and meetings to meet urgent repair and renovation challenges that threaten their properties. It is anticipated that over time, the Fund will assist the capital campaigns of a critical mass of thirty to forty of the region’s most important historic sacred places.

Q. Where does the funding coming from?

The grant fund was started with a $1 million lead gift in the form of a challenge grant from the William Penn Foundation and was matched by donors and funders from the public and private sectors, including state government, philanthropy, religious organizations, individuals and businesses. The grant program is anticipated to grow to $5,000,000 by 2010.

Q. What are the requirements for a grant?

There are four major categories for a religious property to be considered for the Fund:

  • Historical and Architectural Significance – The property must have unique historical and cultural significance on a regional or national level and be eligible for listing in the National Register. It must have been originally built as a house of worship and used as one currently.
  • Urgent Repair Needs – The building must have urgent repair issues, such as need for a new roof or to replace outdated mechanical systems that could be considered a fire hazard.
  • Congregational Capacity – The sacred places must house an active congregation or meeting of which the members are able to undertake a capital campaign to match our funding within two years of a grant being given.
  • Community Programming and Partnerships – The congregation or meeting must host and support active community outreach and programming that is non-discriminatory.

For more information on the requirements of the grant program, look at the Program Guidelines on our web site.

Q. Does the funding cover handicap accessibility?

We will fund handicap accessibility projects only if it is to increase and improve community usage of the property as long as more urgent structural repairs are also being addressed in the project planning. All of the work must be designed with sensitivity to the historical integrity of the building.

Q. What projects will not receive funding?

Work that is non-essential such as construction of new facilities, interior upgrades that could be considered maintenance, and streetscape improvements. Also, the building will not be considered for funding if it has had a number of alterations over time that have impacted the historic character. The loss of historical features can occur with the installation of vinyl windows or siding, insensitive additions, and other forms of “remodeling”, that cause the building to be ineligible for listing in National Register. Work performed under the grant must be sensitive to the historical character of the building.

Q. If our congregation or meeting would like to apply for a grant, what should we do? How does the grant program work?

  • First, fill out the Do We Qualify? Form.
    The self-evaluation form is available from the web site here titled, “Do We Qualify for the Philadelphia Regional Fund for Sacred Places?”. Answer the questions as best you can. Please include recent pictures if possible and briefly describe the history of the building, types of outreach and community service the congregation supports, estimated of costs for urgent repair issues (if known), and the size of the congregation. Feel free to call Molly Lester to ask specific questions about the grant program.
  • Second, Partners staff will call you.
    After the Do We Qualify? form is received and reviewed at our office, we will contact you to discuss the grant program and other services offered by Partners. Partners staff will schedule a site visit to view your building and talk to members about our programs and publications. This site visit helps to determine initial eligibility for our grant program and training.
  • Third, go through Partners’ New Dollars/New Partners training program.
    We then create a list of fifteen to twenty congregations and meetings to invite to our New Dollars/New Partners training program. The invitation list is a denominationally and geographically diverse cross-section of properties in the region. The training program currently occurs once a year. Completion of training is a pre-requisite for being considered for a grant. The training has grown from a pilot project in Northwest Philadelphia in 2003 to a successful, nation-wide program with over 100 congregation graduates! For more information, view our web page on the New Dollars program.

After the completion of training, congregations will be invited to formally apply to the Philadelphia Regional Fund for Sacred Places.

Q. Does the training really help? Why do you require it for the grant program?

In order to answer the question of does the training benefit the participants, Partners used an evaluation firm–the TCC Group–to assess the outcomes of New Dollars training. The executive summary of their findings are located here. Since our grants are just a portion of the overall funds required for a successful project, we firmly believe that our training is necessary for congregations to increase their capacity for fundraising and community connections.

Q. How does the grant process work; how are the grant awards decided and how are they paid?

After the training is completed, applications are available to the graduated congregations in the winter and they are given three months to complete them. A grant review committee consisting of professionals that represent the fields of preservation, architecture, philanthropy, religion, academia, and community development will review the applications and assist Partners staff in making award decisions. Partners staff will make recommendations and comments on the congregations applying to the program. All of the grants are paid on a reimbursement basis with a 2:1 match required by the congregation. However, we will give preference to funding congregations that will need our grant in order to leverage additional sources.

Q. We are applying for a Keystone grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Can we use this grant to match the other?

A two-year commitment from PHMC means that Partners will be administering Keystone grants. A recipient from our grant program can not also receive a Keystone grant in the same funding period. So a congregation can not use the two grants to match one another.