Frequently Asked Questions

Read answers to some of the most common questions related to funding, eligibility, the application process, and more.
First Baptist Church of Asheville by Courtney Hall

General Questions About the National Fund for Sacred Places Program

Are grants available for only the worship space?

No. Grant funds can also support repairs and restoration of other buildings owned by your congregation (such as a parish hall or kitchen and dining room that is part of the historic ensemble), if they house activities that are integral to the congregation’s community services and outreach.

Can grant funds be used for worship-related building elements?

The National Fund is designed to preserve historic sacred spaces as community assets; therefore, project components meant only to enhance worship are not eligible for funding (i.e. altars, organs, sound equipment, etc.). Please see the Guidelines and Eligibility section for more details on eligible and ineligible projects.

Does my historic sacred place need to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places or designated as a local landmark in order to apply for the National Fund?
No. The National Fund does not require properties to be formally listed or designated as historic in order to apply. However, the property must have architectural, cultural, or historic value that is of regional or national significance. We do not ask for any official documentation of significance, but a special emphasis will be placed on sites that have had a prominent physical and/or historical place in their community. If you are interested in learning whether your historic sacred place is listed or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, contact your State Historic Preservation Office.
Is the National Fund open to applicants of all faith traditions?

Yes, we welcome applications from all faith traditions, and have funded projects representing 22 different denominations since the program’s inception in 2016. However, we currently have a limited ability to accept non-Christian faith groups into the National Fund program. We are working to broaden our funding sources to allow more non-Christian faith groups to participate in the program.

What does it mean to be a “closely affiliated nonprofit organization” that would be eligible to apply for a National Fund grant?

“Closely affiliated nonprofit organizations” are eligible to apply for National Fund grants on behalf of and in collaboration with a congregation that meets all the other eligibility criteria. We typically define a “closely affiliated nonprofit organization” as a separate nonprofit organization tasked with maintaining and managing the historic facility and/or serving as the fiscal agent to receive grants and other funds for building-related costs, such as a “Friends Group” or associated preservation trust. If you are closely affiliated in some other way, please explain that in your application, and be sure to work in collaboration with the congregation as you prepare the application.

What types of projects will qualify for a National Fund grant?

The National Fund evaluates projects on a case-by-case basis and emphasizes projects that enhance the community usage of a historic sacred place. All projects must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Qualifying projects might include, but would not be limited to: exterior and interior repairs and painting; HVAC, ventilation, and electrical repairs and replacements; space reconfiguration; stained glass repair; ADA compliance (restrooms, bathrooms, ramps); security and lighting upgrades; fire security and suppression systems; and bell tower or steeple stabilization. Ineligible projects include furniture repair, demolition, and audio-visual upgrades. For more information regarding eligible work, please consult the Guidelines and Eligibility section. Please also review profiles of program participants to get a better idea of the types of projects the National Fund has supported in the past.

Why does the National Fund require applicants to raise matching funds?

The National Fund is more than just a grant—it is a program providing wrap-around technical assistance and training to congregations. By requiring congregations to raise matching funds and providing training and technical assistance to help them learn how to do this, participants in the National Fund program will be better positioned for long-term success with ongoing stewardship of their historic sacred spaces. Congregations that have completed their National Fund projects have shared that the program helped them develop fundraising skills and build connections that they can leverage for future programs or capital campaigns.

If my congregation previously submitted a Letter of Intent (LOI) or application but was not invited to participate in the National Fund, can I apply again?

Absolutely. If your congregation is not selected, you are more than welcome to submit a Letter of Intent for the following grant cycle.

Are National Fund grants available every year?

The National Fund for Sacred Places has offered one grant cycle every year since the program’s inception in 2016. Current program funding will be expended in 2023. At this time, the final grant cycle will begin in January 2023. Continuation of the program beyond 2023 will be dependent upon funding availability.

Questions About the LOI & Application Process

Do we need to hire a professional grant writer to apply to the National Fund for Sacred Places?

No. While applicants are permitted to use a professional grant writer, we encourage the leader(s) and member(s) of the congregation and/or individual(s) who know the church well to fill out all application materials and work collaboratively as a team. The National Fund cannot cover fees associated with grant writing.

Can we apply for both the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and the National Fund for Sacred Places?

Yes. Qualifying applicants can apply to both the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and the National Fund, as well as any other grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. More information about the National Trust’s other grant programs is available on Preservation Leadership Forum. Money received from the Action Fund or any other National Trust grant, however, cannot count toward the required match for the National Fund grant.

Am I required to complete a building condition assessment, a cost estimate, or other planning documents prior to applying to the National Fund for Sacred Places?
No, these types of documents are not required to submit an LOI (although you should submit these documents with your LOI if you have them). As we review LOIs, National Fund staff will be looking to see if your congregation understands your building and has a sense of which capital projects you are going to prioritize. Congregations that are admitted to the National Fund program will be required to submit more advanced project planning documents at a later date and will be provided technical assistance and support by staff in advance of this later program milestone.
Can the National Fund for Sacred Places fund a building condition assessment or other planning document?

Sometimes. If you are accepted into the National Fund program, your congregation will be eligible for a $5,000 Planning Grant that you may use toward completing these planning steps. If you are looking for assistance completing building planning or assessments prior to admission into the National Fund program, there may be other grants available elsewhere, such as the National Trust’s Preservation Funds.

Can a single National Fund grant be divided across multiple related sacred places?
No, each site must apply independently. For example, if one community or parish would like to propose a project that includes multiple churches, it must submit a separate LOI for each eligible site.

Questions About Capital Projects Supported By the National Fund For Sacred Places

Where can we find a copy of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation?

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation can be found on the National Park Service website under Technical Preservation Services. Please be sure to review these standards. The National Fund requires that projects adhere to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. We encourage applicants to work with architects and contractors that have experience with preservation projects to ensure the standards are met.

Does the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) bid process suffice, or do you have bid process requirements specific to your matching grant?

The AIA bid process will suffice. At least three competitive bids/quotes must be obtained for any procurement of services that exceeds $50,000. In exceptional circumstances where obtaining three competitive bids is unreasonably difficult or if the congregation has a preferred contractor that it has a history with, the congregation may submit written rationale for considering a no-bid contract. This provision applies only to portions of the project supported by National Fund program grant funds.

Can a National Fund grant support a portion of a larger capital project?

Absolutely. It is not uncommon that the National Fund grant is one small piece of a larger capital project. For instance, a congregation may be embarking upon on a multi-phase capital project of $2 million. A National Fund grant of $250,000, plus the required match of $500,000, may support a scope of work totaling $750,000 as a discrete phase of this larger multi-phase project. If you are admitted into the National Fund program, we will work with your congregation and your architect to review your construction documents. You may not need to separate out the National Fund work in your construction documents, but you will need to submit a description of the scope of work the National Fund would cover in the LOI, Application, and (if accepted into the program) Capital Grant Submission. 

Can a grant from the National Fund go toward projects that are already in process and not yet completed?

No. Work that has been started or completed prior to acceptance into the National Fund program or prior to the completion of the Capital Grant Submission (if accepted into the program) is not eligible for the National Fund. If accepted into the National Fund program, do not begin construction on any work that you hope to use National Fund grant monies to support before receiving formal authorization from staff. More information is available in the Guidelines and Eligibility section.

Can funds raised before acceptance into the National Fund program count toward the required program match?

No. Only funds raised after a congregation has been notified of its acceptance into the National Fund program are eligible for matching funds. You may begin having informal conversations with potential donors prior to being accepted into the National Fund program, but any pledges or donations accepted prior to official acceptance into the National Fund program cannot be counted toward your required match. Please see the Guidelines and Eligibility for types of acceptable matching funds. Please note, bridge or construction loans and reserve funds of the congregation will not count as matching funds.

Miscellaneous Questions

How does the National Fund define “historic”?

Generally, “historic” means properties at least 50 years of age. The National Fund has a flexible definition of “historic,” but you can find a more formal definition on the webpage of the National Register of Historic Places. Make your case for why your property is historic!

How do you define "stable congregation," considering the challenges presented by COVID-19?

We understand that the pandemic has been very challenging for many congregations across the country. We are interested in whether you have maintained an active congregation despite shutdowns and other challenges (whether that meant holding services over Zoom, on Facebook, etc.), are continuing your ministry or have even expanded your community services to support those affected by the pandemic, continue to have established and active pastoral and lay leadership, etc. Explain to us how you are navigating through the pandemic.

Can a grant from the National Fund go toward projects that are already in process and not yet completed?

No. Work that has been started or completed prior to acceptance into the National Fund program or prior to the completion of the Capital Grant Submission (if accepted into the program) is not eligible for the National Fund. If accepted into the National Fund program, do not begin construction on any work that you hope to use National Fund grant monies to support before receiving formal authorization from staff. More information is available in the Guidelines and Eligibility section.

Can funds raised before acceptance into the National Fund program count toward the required program match?

No. Only funds raised after a congregation has been notified of its acceptance into the National Fund program are eligible for matching funds. You may begin having informal conversations with potential donors prior to being accepted into the National Fund program, but any pledges or donations accepted prior to official acceptance into the National Fund program cannot be counted toward your required match. Please see the Guidelines and Eligibility for types of acceptable matching funds. Please note, bridge or construction loans and reserve funds of the congregation will not count as matching funds.