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Program Details - National Fund For Sacred Places

Program Details

Congregations accepted into the National Fund for Sacred Places program receive wraparound capacity-building and technical support services through training, planning grants, and ongoing assistance, along with matching capital grants.

Holy Ascension of Our Lord Cathedral by National Park Service/ROSSIA

What We Offer

The National Fund for Sacred Places program 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. Stephen United Methodist Church by Charles Davis Smith

Training & Program Orientation

Each congregation admitted into the National Fund for Sacred Places program is required to send a team of 2-3 key leaders to a training event—led by a staff team from Partners for Sacred Places with the National Trust for Historic Preservation—to begin the grant-making program experience.

The training is designed to achieve three goals that build on the participating congregations’ capacity to successfully complete a major capital building project and fundraising campaign:

  • Orient participant teams to the timeline of activities and program requirements of the National Fund
  • Provide expertise on capital campaign fundraising tailored to various campaign stages
  • Introduce participant teams to an ecumenical and interfaith group for peer learning and sharing of ideas

Partners for Sacred Places has led training experiences for hundreds of congregations across the United States. Training content for the National Fund program builds on decades of experience coaching communities of faith on best practices for resourcing the stewardship of their historic facilities. Previous grant recipients have described the training as one of the most valuable benefits of participating in the National Fund for Sacred Places.

Planning and Grants

Congregations invited to participate in the National Fund for Sacred Places program are eligible for planning grants of up to $10,000 to help defray costs of hiring experienced and qualified professional services for the project.

Planning grants can be used for a wide variety of professional services needed beyond the expertise of the congregation. Previous participants have used planning grants to defray costs associated with hiring professional services for:

  • Building Condition Assessments
  • Conceptual Architectural Renderings
  • Campaign Marketing Design
  • Campaign Video Production
  • Donor Research
  • Board Development

Planning grants cannot be used for audio/visual equipment or for consulting services from Partners for Sacred Places.

Congregation Beth Ahabah by Congregation Beth Ahabah Staff

United Baptist Church of Poultney by Chuck Helfer


Individualized Technical Assistance

Partners for Sacred Places (Partners) has been assisting congregations and community stakeholders in the stewardship of historic sacred places for nearly 30 years. Grounded in these experiences, Partners has developed unique tools and resources to help congregations care for their buildings and fully utilize them, all rooted in the core conviction that historic sacred places are vital community assets.

For 70 years, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has led the movement to save America’s historic places. A privately funded nonprofit organization, we work to save America’s historic sitestell the full American storybuild stronger communities; and invest in preservation’s future. Our National Fund for Sacred Places team includes an architect with preservation experience, along with professional preservation experts who can provide technical assistance, make connections within the preservation leadership movement, and provide links to other potential resources.

Technical Assistance Package

Congregations awarded entry into the National Fund receive an individualized package of technical assistance based on these services and tailored to the needs of congregations currently invested in major capital building efforts. The technical assistance package typically includes one of the services listed below.

Capital campaign support

For many congregations, raising matching funds can be a significant challenge. Congregations that choose this option will work with Partners for Sacred Places’ consulting staff to inventory campaign planning work to-date, identify potential donors, and train gift solicitors. 

communications support

The National Fund is a prestigious and highly competitive grant program that is run by two nationally-recognized organizations, Partners for Sacred Places and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Many grantees need assistance to leverage the grant to generate new interest and momentum. Congregations that choose this option will work with Partners’ professional communications staff on areas such as media outreach, marketing collateral, web presence, and/or video projects. 

Economic Halo Effect Study

Sacred places function as de facto community centers, yet they struggle to articulate their value in terms that civic leaders can fully appreciate. For this reason, Partners for Sacred Places developed the Economic Halo Effect of Sacred Places, a research tool used to quantify the economic impact of community-serving congregations. Congregations that are planning to fundraise in the broader community or are working to raise their civic profile may want to select this option and commission an Economic Halo Effect Study from Partners’ consulting staff.

Community Engagement

Congregations with a National Fund project focused on improving the quality of space they use to serve others or making their building accessible to all community members may want to consider this option. Community engagement assistance includes building tours and focus groups, and is about laying the groundwork for new space-based partnerships. 

Capital Grants

The National Fund for Sacred Places differs from most other grant programs because the capital grant process is intentionally designed as a secondary step. Congregations are asked to determine the capital grant amount they are seeking when they submit their Letter of Intent (LOI) and application. The final grant amount is determined by National Fund staff. After approving that all project components meet historic preservation standards and the congregation has the capacity to raise necessary match funds, capital grants are disbursed in two lump sums of 50% each.

Mokuaikaua Church by Michael Stelios/Alamy Stock Photo

The first 50% of the capital grant award will be disbursed when:

  1. National Fund staff review and approve permit-ready architectural drawings or equivalent documentation that describes the proposed project and demonstrates that best practices for historic preservation will be implemented.
  2. The congregation has raised one-fourth of the total matching funds we require and has a sound plan for raising the remaining matching funds to complete the project.
  3. The congregation completes the Capital Grant Submission form in Foundant, the National Fund staff review and approve the capital grant documentation, and a signed grant agreement has been returned by the congregation to National Fund staff.

The second 50% of the award is disbursed when:

  1. The National Fund scope of work has been completed and the grant and the matching funds have been spent on eligible project related expenses.
  2. 100% of the match has been pledged and/or raised.
  3. The grantee completes a final report in Foundant and a site visit with National Fund staff.

The property must have urgent repair needs related to structural components, walls, roof, and/or other elements of the building envelope that are integral to building preservation and longevity. Projects that improve functionality or improve accessibility of the property in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are also eligible, as well as renovation projects that make vacant or underused space usable for community outreach, but applicants should demonstrate that urgent repair needs to the building envelope have already been identified by a building condition assessment and addressed before proposing ADA or interior rehabilitation projects. 

Capital Grant Submissions from congregations accepted into the National Fund for Sacred Places are reviewed on a quarterly basis. The submission deadlines for capital grants are February 1, May 1, August 1, and November 1. In extraordinary circumstances, such as weather-dependent work, the National Fund team is willing to review capital grants outside of the quarterly schedule on a case-by-case basis.

Please note you must receive approval from the National Fund before starting any physical work on your building, if the work is part of the project funded by the National Fund grant.

Matching Funds & Grant Disbursements

Because National Fund grants are intended to leverage broader energy, resources, and dollars, all capital grants awarded from the National Fund require a cash match, and all matching funds must be new money—or money that’s solicited, pledged, and received after being awarded into the program.

Any grant of $175,000 or less requires a 1:1 match, while grants exceeding $175,000 require a 2:1 match. For example, a $100,000 grant requires a $100,000 match (because a $100,000 grant requires a 1:1 match) – and a $250,000 grant requires a $500,000 match (because a $250,000 grant requires a 2:1 match). Keeping this in mind, the grant + match should not exceed the total cost of the project.

The intent of requiring matching funds is to leverage new money raised because of the congregation’s participation in the National Fund for Sacred Places. Therefore, funds solicited, applied for, pledged, or secured prior to the congregation’s official acceptance into the program will not be counted toward the project match. For example, if the congregation received notification that its application was successful and its organization was accepted into the program in October 2024, any grants applied for and any donations solicited prior to that date, even if the funds were received after October, would not be eligible as matching funds.

Grants will be disbursed in two installments: 50% will be paid upon the execution of a capital grant agreement and confirmation that 25% of grant-required matching funds have been secured (paid or pledged). The remaining 50% will be disbursed upon completion of the grant-funded project and confirmation that 100% of the grant-required matching funds have been secured. No portion of the grant will be disbursed until the capital grant submission has been received, reviewed, and approved by National Fund program staff.

The congregation must agree to complete an Interim Report when the project is approximately 50% complete. The report must describe the status of the project and all expenditures made from grant funds as well as provide an update on the congregation’s compliance with the terms of their National Fund for Sacred Places Grant Agreement.

Grantees must provide documentation for any single matching gift of $5,000 or more. In addition, grantees must agree that they will retain documentation of all matching funds for a period of three years post-grant, and will share this documentation with National Fund staff if requested.

Your match can include:

  • Congregational giving
  • Funds raised through events, raffles, and other fundraising efforts
  • Cash or documented pledges from individuals, foundations, or corporations
  • Grants from government or other nonprofit organizations
  • Gifts of stock or real estate that are sold after entry into the program
  • Bequests received after entry into the program
  • In-kind materials and professional services that directly benefit the grant-funded project. In-kind donations may not exceed 20% of the required matching funds. Value will be based on the fair market value of donated materials or services. Grantees that will be using in-kind donations as part of their match should be in contact with National Fund staff to ensure that the pledged amount is properly determined and documented.

Your match cannot include:

  • Reserve funds
  • Bridge or construction loans
  • Funds solicited, applied for, pledged, or secured prior to official acceptance into the program. For example, if the participant received notification that their application was successful and their organization was accepted into the program on October 1, any grants applied for and any donations solicited prior to that date, even if the funds were received after October 1, would not count towards the match.


After a congregation is notified of acceptance into the National Fund for Sacred Places program, new money raised can count toward its capital grant match. Ideally, participants complete their National Fund project and fundraising match within 12–18 months of being awarded into the program, but timing may depend upon the particulars of a congregation’s project and campaign. Click below to learn more about the application and program timeline.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions about the National Fund for Sacred Places program, what we offer, or how to get started? Read our FAQs to find answers to the most common questions.

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church by Richie Diesterheft