About Us

The National Fund for Sacred Places was established in 2016 to support vibrant congregations in historic sacred places to advance the common good.

Old Pine Street Church by Jason Ferris

Our Story

The 100,000+ historic houses of worship across America contribute significant value to their communities, and their historic and cultural significance are essential parts of our national heritage. Sacred places function as hubs for social service programs, provide essential spaces for community gatherings and social justice activities, and host a variety of arts programming, all frequently at low or no cost.

Although many historic sacred places are considered icons of stability in their communities, today congregations of every faith face challenges in stewarding their aging and architecturally complex facilities, often requiring increasingly diverse streams of funding to be sustained as centers of community life in the 21st century.

Please note: The term “congregation” is used 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.

 

Our Mission

The National Fund for Sacred Places was established in 2016 to provide technical and financial support for congregations, building their capacity and increasing the stability of these critical yet disappearing historic community centers. A collaborative program of Partners for Sacred Places and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Fund is supported by $20 million from the Indiana-based Lilly Endowment Inc. The Gerry Charitable Trust provided additional support in 2019.

Our Vision

Now in its sixth year, the National Fund has awarded over $9 million to 81 community-serving congregations representing 23 faith traditions in 35 states and the District of Columbia. So far, this grantmaking has resulted in over $3 leveraged for every grant dollar invested in participating congregations. The National Fund administers monies through planning grants, wrap-around training and technical assistance, and matching capital grants ranging from $50,000 to $250,000.

 

What We Offer

The National Fund for Sacred Places provides much more than financial support. The program is designed to help congregations successfully navigate the capital project process through training, technical assistance, planning support, and matching capital grants.

St. Joseph Shrine by Teresa Chisholm

Staff Bios

The National Fund for Sacred Places is a program of Partners for Sacred Places in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The National Fund is guided by an Advisory Committee, bringing together faith leaders, architects, and philanthropists from across the country to inform the grant-making process.

Partners for Sacred Places

Partners for Sacred Places helps congregations and others with a stake in older religious properties make the most of them as civic assets in ways that benefit people of all faiths and of no faith. We are national, nonsectarian, and not-for-profit.

A. Robert Jaeger

President

Bob co-founded Partners for Sacred Places in 1989. Previously, he worked with the Philadelphia Historic Preservation Corporation as senior vice president for the Historic Religious Properties Program. He is the co-author of Sacred Places at Risk (1998) and Strategies for Stewardship and Active Use of Older and Historic Religious Properties (1996), author of Sacred Places in Transition (1994), and editor (from 1985 to 1989) of Inspired, a bi-monthly magazine with news and technical articles on religious property preservation. Bob holds a master’s degree in preservation planning from Cornell University and an MBA from the University of Michigan.

Gianfranco Grande

Executive Vice President

Gianfranco brings over 25 years of experience in management of nonprofit organizations and capital campaign fundraising to his role as Executive Vice President of Partners for Sacred Places. Educated at the Vatican Seminary, Gianfranco has worked with more than 1,000 community-serving urban congregations and built strategic relationships with local faith leaders, lay leaders, community leaders, universities, seminaries, public officials, and foundations. With his prior experience managing large-scale fundraising efforts, Gianfranco built on Partners’ menu of services to create and implement the organization’s consulting services arm. In 2012, he was awarded the Richard Nickel Award from the Institute of Architects (AIA) Illinois, recognizing his dedication to the principles of livable communities through grassroots initiatives, and over the last 20 years, he has successfully helped to raise over $80 million. In 2014, Gianfranco was inducted into the Board of Sponsors of Martin Luther King, Jr. College of Ministers and Laity of Morehouse College.

Rachel Hildebrandt

Director, National Fund for Sacred Places

A native Philadelphian, Rachel began her career at Partners for Sacred Places as an intern, carrying out surveys as part of the Economic Halo Effect of Sacred Places study in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Fort Worth. This work gave her a deep appreciation for what congregations do to support their communities and those most at risk within them. At Partners, Rachel assists with the National Fund for Sacred Places; economic impact research with congregations across the United States; research on the viability of resilience of congregations stewarding older and historic properties; and capital campaign consulting. She recently co-authored a chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Religion and Cities as well as Partners’ guide to transitioning property, Transitioning Older and Historic Sacred Places: Community-Minded Approaches for Congregations and Judicatories. Rachel holds a Master of Science in historic preservation and previously wrote on a freelance basis for Hidden City Philadelphia.

Emily Sajdak

Senior Project Manager

Emily came to Partners in 2017 to coordinate and facilitate capital campaign consulting services. Since that time, she has delivered feasibility and readiness studies, furthered grant-funded initiatives as a team member for the Nordic Churches Project and the National Fund for Sacred Places, and fostered connections with the preservation community in Chicago through participation in Landmarks Illinois’ Skyline Council. She previously worked with Rethos, the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and Calvin Theological Seminary. Emily holds a Master’s degree in Public History: Historic Preservation from Southeast Missouri State University, as well as a Master of Theological Studies and a Master of Theology in Old Testament from Calvin Theological Seminary.

First Christian Church by Exhibit Columbus

National Trust for Historic Preservation

A privately funded nonprofit organization, the National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America’s historic sites; tell the full American story, build stronger communities, and invest in preservation’s future.

Jennifer Sandy

Senior Field Director, Preservation Services & Outreach

As a preservation professional with 20 years of experience in the field, Jennifer works with individuals, communities, and organizations to help preserve and protect the places that matter to them. She leads the annual America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places program and manages the National Fund for Sacred Places for the National Trust. Prior to joining the National Trust, she coordinated the historic survey program for Indiana Landmarks before earning a Master of Fine Arts in historic preservation at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She has worked on various restoration and conservation projects and gained experience in public relations and marketing in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Ann Phillips

Preservation Architect, National Fund for Sacred Places

As a licensed architect and historic preservationist, Ann believes community participation, cross-disciplinary design collaboration, and the history of place to be vital to the planning and design process. With her knowledge of historic building methods and contemporary design solutions, Ann brings a broad range of planning and design expertise to the National Fund for Sacred Places. She advocates not only for historic appropriateness but also for the long-term stability and continued use of meaningful community structures. Prior to joining the National Trust in 2022, Ann worked in the public, private, and non-profit sectors on a variety of projects ranging from city-wide strategic preservation initiatives to the adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of individual buildings. Ann holds a Master of Architecture degree and a Master of Science degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Oregon as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Interior Design from Iowa State.

Emily Kahn

Program Coordinator, National Fund for Sacred Places

Emily is a historic preservationist and public historian who joined the National Trust in 2021. She participates in all aspects of the National Fund for Sacred Places, including daily administration, application review, outreach, and content production. She wrote the National Register nomination for Zion Episcopal Church in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and co-wrote a book titled Repression, Re-Invention, & Rugelach: A History of Jews at Colgate (2018). Prior to joining the National Trust, Emily worked for multiple preservation advocacy nonprofits in the Northeast. She trained at the Preservation Institute Nantucket and holds a Bachelor of Arts in history with a minor in museum studies from Colgate University and a Master of Science in historic preservation from Columbia University.

Nicky Vann

Director of Grants & Awards Programs

Nicky has been at the National Trust for 16 years and currently oversees the organization’s grantmaking and awards programs. Nicky establishes the programmatic direction and implementation of the National Trust’s grants and awards programs and provides budget oversight for the department. Her work ensures that these programs are both aligned with National Trust goals and serve the broader preservation field, while also keeping with current best practices in grantmaking. Prior to the National Trust, Nicky worked for various women’s organizations, overseeing grantmaking and program compliance at Zonta International and Genesis House in Chicago, and the American Association of University Women in Washington, D.C. Nicky holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Diana Maxwell

Senior Manager of Grants

Diana started at the National Trust as a program assistant in the contracts department in 2009. She joined the grants team in 2014, and now as senior manager of grants oversees grantmaking at the National Trust. In addition to day-to-day grant operations, Diana is focused on grant programs with internal or external partners, such as the HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship program, the National Fund for Sacred Places, and the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Diana graduated cum laude from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in communication in 2007 and graduated from George Washington University in 2009 with a Master of Arts in museum studies, with concentrations in museum administration and historic preservation.

First Indian Presbyterian Church by Volkard Graf

Advisory Committee

The National Fund Advisory Committee is comprised of experienced and qualified professionals and leaders representing the key sectors with a stake in sacred places, including religious leadership, architecture and design, historic preservation, capital project financing and funding, and ministry and outreach. The Advisory Committee supports Partners and National Trust staff in reviewing the program applications and evaluating projects based on the funding criteria.

Barbara Abrajano

Director of Development and Community Engagement, East-West University; President, Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago

Alice Antonelli

Director, Nonprofit Finance Fund

Rabbi Michael Balinsky

Board Member, Partners for Sacred Places

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows

Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis

Stephanie Boddie, Ph.D MSW

Assistant Professor of Church and Community Ministries, Baylor University

The Rev. Dr. Christopher Coble

Religion Division, Lilly Endowment Inc.

Mark Constantine

President and CEO, Richmond Memorial Health Foundation

Marsh Davis

President, Indiana Landmarks

The Rev. Katie Day, Ph.D

Charles A. Schieren Professor Emerita of Church and Society, United Lutheran Seminary, Philadelphia

The Rev. Dr. Thomas E. Frank

President, Heritage Conservation Carolina; Retired University Professor, Wake Forest University

Christopher S. Hunter, PhD, Assoc. AIA, CSI, CDT

Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Mississippi State University

Catherine Lynch

Development Specialist, Presbyterian Church (USA) Investment and Loan Program

The Rev. Katherine Glaze Lyle

Retired Pastor, North Texas Annual Conference, United Methodist Church

The Rev. Dr. Tito Madrazo

Religion Division, Lilly Endowment Inc.

Ariana Makau

President, Nzlani Glass Conservation

Jorge Rigau, FAIA

Architect, Arquitectos PSC

The Rev. Robb R. Webb III

Director of the Rural Church Program, The Duke Endowment

Edward Torrez, RA, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB

President and Principal, Bauer Latoza Studio

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez