The Church Urban Fund (CUF) was set up in 1987 following a recommendation in Faith in the City.
Its role is to support grassroots, faith-based social action in the most deprived neighbourhoods in England. CUF works with local churches to tackle poverty and has awarded over 5,000 grants since its inception totalling £65 million. There is a Diocesan Link Officer in every diocese, who is the first point of contact for information and support, working with CUF to advise and support the grant-making process.The CUF Mustard Seed Grant programme currently aims ‘to provide grants of up to £5,000 to enable churches and faith-based organisations to engage in social action, by supporting them to initiate or develop community work’.
Projects, which must have charitable purposes, must either be targeting areas within the 10% most deprived in England or an ‘intrinsically disadvantaged’ group, such as the homeless, people with drug and alcohol problems or refugees and asylum seekers. Although projects do not need to be Anglican ones, there should be a strong link with a faith group. Church involvement can range from ownership to active support, including promotion, fundraising and/or volunteering by the local church community, but it needs to be more than simply being the landlord or having a church member on the management committee. The Grant Criteria and Guidance document states very clearly what the Fund will and will not support.
CUF also provides resources to support the projects it funds through training, workshops and conferences. There are monthly newsletters. Xchange supplies information about resources, funding, training and networks to support community and youth workers, project leaders and volunteers. Together gives news and updates about CUF’s work. The CUF website gives project examples and case studies as well as templates, toolkits, guidance and research reports. An example is the Churches Community Value Toolkit for Church of England Parishes (June 2006) (with versions for Baptist and Methodist churches). Its purpose is to help churches articulate ways in which they contribute to their local community and estimate the financial value of this contribution. Using the toolkit can:
· enable churches to set a baseline so that they can measure change over time.
· provide evidence in support of grant applications.
· provide information to inform discussions with local statutory and voluntary sector organisations in order to raise the
profile of the church, underline its credibility as a partner and increase the likelihood of influencing local policies and practices.
CUF is now working with several dioceses to develop ‘CUF Locals’, that is, joint ventures to support existing networks of activists to work on locally defined priorities. Once these organisations are formed, CUF can supply funds for a community worker to facilitate the work, build collaboration, recruit new activists and get new projects off the ground. Transformation Cornwall is one example.
Currently a major CUF project is Near Neighbours. Its objectives are to aid social interaction by helping people from different faiths get to know and understand each other better and to support social action by encouraging people of different faiths or no faith to collaborate in initiatives that improve their local neighbourhood. Funded by the government, Near Neighbours is operating in four key diverse and multi-faith areas: the north of England (Bradford, Burnley and Oldham); Leicester; parts of London, and parts of Birmingham. It is providing four types of support:
· Helping the four Centres already working in multi-faith areas.
· Creating a Near Neighbours Fund to help get good local ideas about different groups of people working together off the ground.
· Assisting other inter-faith organisations to extend their work.
· Assisting in work at a neighbourhood level.