In our latest blog article, we welcome Susie Middleton from the Plunkett Foundation, who shares her thoughts on how community business co-locating in places of worship create mutual benefits and have a positive impact on the local area.

I joined Plunkett Foundation in October as a project manager within the Community Business Team. Plunkett operates across all 4 UK nations, providing access to advice and expertise for the benefit of community businesses. We’ve been helping communities, predominantly in rural areas, for over 100 years to create innovative, impactful and inclusive places, through promoting and supporting community ownership of assets and services.

Currently only around 1 in 10 groups that contact Plunkett for support to set up a community business will ever reach trading status. There can be many reasons that prevent the groups from realising their community-ownership ambitions, but the lack of available or suitable premises from where to trade is a common problem they face.

At the same time, many places of worship such as churches, are seeing reduced congregations and are actively seeking ways to increase footfall, strengthen their already important role at the heart of their community, and create an income stream which contributes to the upkeep of these often historic buildings.

Plunkett is part of a coalition of organisations campaigning to promote the benefits of community businesses co-locating in places of worship. There are wonderful examples of this model already helping community businesses and churches alike to flourish, with shops, cafes, farmers markets, performance spaces and renewable energy schemes already operating from within church buildings across the UK.

We recently ran a webinar featuring two community shops that successfully operate from active places of worship. Committee members from each community group told us about how the model has benefitted their communities and why churches proved to be great locations for their ideas.

Other examples include the Grindleford Community Shop, the focus of another webinar this year, which covered how it was set up and how it continues to benefit both its community and the church in which it is based.

We are delighted to be working with the Allchurches Trust to support its ‘Places of Worship’ campaign and provide specialist support and bespoke advice to community groups and Christian places of worship throughout the UK. Plunkett can advise projects at all stages of their journey to trading, from consulting your community to raising the funds for your project. Through our membership scheme we also offer enhanced, longer term support for these businesses.

Recognising that access to funding is critical in the early stages of a project’s development, Allchurches funding has enabled Plunkett to offer small grants of up to £5,000 to support a group’s development and help with the costs of any feasibility work being completed. The funding could also pay for Plunkett Business Membership which may be of interest to those wanting to use the Model Rules service offered by Plunkett, to support a group to register their legal form with the Financial Conduct Authority. The funding aims to help turn ideas in to projects, with our advisers offering support at every stage.

More information can be found here on the Plunkett website or by calling 0845 5571469.