Our team assesses applicants according to five core criteria to determine how well they fit our funding priorities, while building a diverse participant group. Here’s what makes a congregation stand out as an ideal candidate for the program:



For the sake of continuity, we use the term “congregation” to refer to the worshipping body or faith community of any religion including those that do not identify with this term (such as mosques/masjid). The National Fund accepts applications from any faith tradition and seeks to provide inclusive programming and resources across religions.



Telling Stories About the Impact of American Religion

Buildings owned and occupied by an active congregation telling a unique story about its contribution to the landscape of American religion across history

Being listed as a National Historic Landmark or on the National Register of Historic Places is a benchmark to know whether or not a congregation’s building qualifies for support from our program. A building must at least be eligible for one of these designations to receive support from the National Fund.





We are looking for applicants who are able to demonstrate how the building and/or the congregation contributes to a national religious story in at least one of two ways:

  1. Unique national architectural, historical or cultural significance; or
  2. A compelling story telling how congregations like it have shaped American religion and culture in significant ways.

How an applicant responds to the following questions is an important factor in the evaluation of a congregation’s contribution:

Who designed the building? Was the building designed by an architect? How does it rank in the body of that architect’s work? What style is the building?

Who physically built the facility? What was the role of members and local craftspeople? What was the source of building materials?

Did the selection of building style have theological/religious significance?

How does the building uniquely contribute to the rich legacy of religious architecture nationally?

How does your congregation’s history relate to themes in American history and American religious history?

Who founded the congregation? How did they relate to the community? 

How did the congregation respond to key events in local or national history?

How has your building or complex of buildings served as a symbol of your community’s heritage?


The Basilica of Saint Josaphat, a 2016-17 National Fund grantee, is a shining example. It was founded by Polish immigrants who would shape the cultural fabric of the city for decades to come. Read about the campaign to preserve the architectural grandeur of the Basilica: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


Broad Bay Church is a quintessential small town church familiar to the landscape of many New England communities. The church building, with its iconic white clapboard building and steeple tower, still serves as a vital hub of community activity for the town of Waldoboro, Maine. Read more about Broad Bay’s participation in the National Fund in the Penobscot Bay Pilot.


Congregations with innovative programs that serve members and the broader community

Partners for Sacred Places has long advocated the value of congregations to the common good of their communities, most notably with a landmark national study in 1998 titled Sacred Places at Risk, and expanded research published in 2016 on the economic “halo” effect of sacred places.

Ideal candidates for the National Fund are not just historic landmarks, but are actively engaged with their community through collaborative partnerships and opening their doors to share space as much as possible. Partners recommends Asset-Based Community Development and similar strategies that cultivate connections within the community, mobilize the capacities of local individuals, associations, and institutions and empower community residents to become leaders. Grantees will have access to use Partners’ unique Public Value Tool as one way to measure their community impact.


We are looking for congregations with long-standing and multi-faceted impact in local neighborhoods and communities.

What is the congregation’s most impactful program?

What spaces are shared for use by organizations and other stakeholders?

How does the congregation partner with other organizations to serve the common good of the community?

Partners’ Arts in Sacred Places program works with both the artists and congregations to negotiate sustainable, mutually-beneficial partnerships to share space and other resources.


The Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD) is at the center of a large and growing movement that considers local assets as the primary building blocks of sustainable community development.


Urban Grace in Tacoma, Washington, opens their multi-story facility for use by an array of arts and community groups everyday of the week. This 2016-17 National Fund grantee models the robust approach to space-sharing we are looking for. Read about Urban Grace’s participation in the National Fund at The News Tribune.

Another grantee, Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas, partners with an array of in-house organizations and programs to support its ministry through educational and other social services. This partnership spans nearly a century of neighborhood impact.


Urgent repair needs that require financial support beyond the internal capacity of the congregation

All projects must respect the historic character and materials of the building(s) and adhere to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.


Elements of any project funded by capital grants from the National Fund, and related matching funds, must also comply with these Guidelines and Eligibility Requirements. National Fund candidates will have completed or be prepared to complete several key project planning steps. In many cases congregations will have already completed the following steps at the time of application, but in some cases these steps can be completed through the course of the program:

Understand the value of and role than an architect plays in successful restoration and building projects (see pp. 11-15 in this issue of Common Bond)

Identify an architect with experience in historic preservation to oversee the project (see “How to Interview an Architect” on p. 13)

Obtain a professional building condition assessment (read more here; or review a sample) or historic structures report

Identify the scope of work to be completed with current campaign (see “From Survey to Scope” on p. 12).

For over 25 years Partners for Sacred Places has developed one of the largest collections of resources in the country on maintaining historic religious facilities.


For over 75 years the National Trust for Historic Preservation has supported countless projects across the country with grants and technical support.



The capacity to leverage this grant to raise matching funds, and the experience, energy and opportunity to complete a significant capital fundraising campaign

We recognize that congregations will have a wide range of previous experiences with capital campaigns. For some, this may be a once in a generation experience, while others mount significant campaigns every decade. Yet others may not have raised substantial funds to care for the facility since it was first built long ago. The National Fund is designed to accommodate this range of experiences.

There are several practical steps and considerations that can best position a congregation to participate in the National Fund.

Has a feasibility study been conducted to determine the fundraising capacity of the congregation?

Will the congregation be hiring a consultant to shepherd the campaign experience (if so, check out this helpful webinar on finding the right consultant for your situation)?  


All grantees must be able to raise matching funds within the National Fund program timeframe.



Congregations with strong clergy and lay leadership, financial health, and the energy and support for a vibrant future

The most effective and sustaining way for sacred places to be meaningfully preserved into the future is ensuring that they continue to house thriving congregations or communities of faith. For this reason, and for the well-being of the communities they serve, ideal National Fund candidates are stable and thriving congregations with a vision for their future vitality.

Applicants will be assessed for financial and membership capacity. But what we are really looking for is congregations with measurable vitality for ministry.

Is the senior clergy person established in tenure, trusted and capable to lead through change?

How has the congregation navigated conflict and trauma?

Is there evidence of judicatory support for the current project and the future life of the congregation?

We are looking for congregations who can respond with thoughtfulness and clarity about their own health and capacity.

New Dollars New Partners is a multifaceted training program for historic congregations to cultivate best practices for stewardship of their facilities and lay plans for capital fundraising.


In 2010 the United Methodist Church published a comprehensive report establishing metrics for evaluating congregational vitality, leading to new tools for evaluation and discernment about congregational effectiveness.


Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a 2016-17 National Fund participant in Chicago, clearly frames how the health and spiritual vitality of the congregation relates to stewardship of building resources. Learn more about their campaign to restore the oldest African American church in Chicago.

Restoration has three components… One is restoring the relationship of the people to the God they serve… The second is restoring the relationship of the church to the community. And then of course that third component is restoring the facilities and the facilities around us.

Pastor James Moody


In addition to all of the individual factors, we will select a diverse group of congregations to participate in the National Fund as a “class” each year

We are looking for a wide range of participation in the program every year, seeking congregations from an array of:

  • denominational affiliations and religious traditions
  • geographic regions
  • economic strata and racial and cultural identity
  • rural, small town, suburban, and urban sacred places

This diversity helps achieve the program goal of elevating compelling and unique stories of American religious experience in many forms. And it positions the National Fund and grantees to leverage regional funding, both public and private, to support these capital projects.

The 44 awardees in the first three program years of the National Fund represent:

20 different Christian denominations/traditions and

1 Reform Jewish congregation

29 states

7 small town/rural congregations

10 small cities

23 urban centers

About one third congregations of color and racially integrated congregations

We especially encourage submissions from the following states in which we have not yet funded projects:

  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming