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Building in Good Faith - Green Building Resource for Religious Institutions

Fundraising Green Dollars: Making the Case for Building Green - 2

Grant Funding and Low-Interest Loans for Green Building

Many people ask GreenFaith to help them identify grant sources - whether through government programs or private foundations - that support green building efforts. We have attached a list of web-based resources to assist you with your search for this kind of funding. In our experience, it is very difficult for an individual house of worship to win this kind of support. We have not seen examples of government programs or private foundations supporting green buildings at houses of worship, unless there is a personal connection between the private foundation and the house of worship. Based on this experience, we do not recommend that fundraising committees spend a large amount of time conducting such searches.

On the other hand, an increasing number of governmental agencies and foundations do provide support for "green" affordable housing development. If your project is a faith-based affordable housing project, we recommend that you contact your state's affordable housing finance agency to ask if they have funds set aside for green building or LEED-certified projects.

Another potential source of support is the capital loan funds administered by many religious denominations. Many denominations have such loan funds, which they make available to member congregations, parishes or agencies at below-market interest rates. If your institution will incur debt for your building or renovation project, it's worth checking with your denomination's headquarters to see if this kind of fund exists and to see if it might be a suitable source of financing for your project. Remember - a below-market interest rate can save your institution thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Educating and Engaging your Community

An indispensible element for success in your fundraising efforts is getting your entire community involved, engaged and enthusiastic. Donors give within a context. They want to contribute to something valued by their community. Major donors are often more willing to participate with significant gifts when they are aware that many people are helping in their own ways.

Be sure to include potential major donors in the educational process and planning dialogue, as appropriate. People are more disposed to give money when they have already been asked to give their advice. We know from experience that a large majority of people become excited about green building when they learn some details about it. Educate these potential major supporters about green building, and include them in conversations about how to integrate green features into your project - it is an important part of gaining their support.

Also, gaining smaller-scale, initial, non-financial expressions of support for your commitment to green building can help build momentum for your fundraising efforts. For instance, you could ask the governing board of your institution to adopt a resolution in support of efforts to explore a green building project. You could conduct a survey of your members to provide the opportunity for them to voice their support for green building. You could arrange a forum where a local LEED-certified architect provided and overview of green building. Each of these efforts, along with many others, can help engage the members of your community and help build support for your fundraising efforts.

Understand the Potential of your Major Donors

Consider undertaking a feasibility study of your potential major donors. This typically involves hiring a fundraising consultant to visit a representative sample of your potential major donors in order to make the "case" regarding your project and get their reactions to that case. The consultant will ask a number of questions about your case, such as, "Is it on target? Does it meet the needs of your organization?" The consultant also asks these potential donors to indicate, if they can, at what financial level they might be inclined to support your project. A feasibility study, while not a "crystal ball," can help you understand whether you have the chance to succeed in your fundraising to the level required for your project…before you have made your major commitments.

In the case of a green building project, a feasibility study also allows you, through your consultant, to make the initial "green" case and get sense of donor response to "giving green." If you use a consultant, make sure that he or she understands the green aspects of your project, and can integrate them into the interviewing process.

Also, make sure that your consultant understands different ways that the environmental aspects of your project can be packaged to create giving opportunities for donors - e.g. flooring from sustainable timber or bamboo, energy-efficient lighting, etc. Framing opportunities for gifts in this way can create interesting opportunities for donors.

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