Preserving Black Churches: Guidelines and Eligibility

Preserving Black Churches is a project of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Annual grants from Preserving Black Churches are intended to preserve historic Black houses of worship—either with active congregations and non-active congregations—and advance ongoing preservation activities while strengthening capacity for historic congregations, and preservation and community organizations to steward, manage, and better utilize their historic structures.

Grants from Preserving Black Churches will range from $50,000 to $200,000. Applicants may apply for one of five categories: Capital Project, Endowment and Financial Sustainability, Organizational Capacity and Operations, Programming and Interpretation, or Project Planning.

Have a question?

Make sure you watch the webinar about the application, read through the guidelines, and check out the Preserving Black Churches FAQ before reaching out using the contact email at the end of this page.

Grant Program Informational Webinar

In 2022, there was a two-step process to apply to Preserving Black Churches. That process included submitting a letter of intent (LOI) first and if invited, a full application. This year, all interested applicants will only submit one full application.

Application Deadline: Wednesday, August 23, 2023, at 11:59 pm local time.

All applications must be submitted through the National Trust’s online grant application system by the deadline, or they will not be reviewed. Request for funding and additional information submitted by letter, email, or phone call will not be reviewed. A link to the application system is included at the bottom of this page. The application contains approximately 50 questions about your church or entity, project, and site's historical significance. You will also need to upload photos and a budget related to your project church. Each funding category may require additional supporting information. Scroll down to read more about eligible projects.

Review of all submitted applications will occur between September–December. All applicants will be notified of their applications status throughout the review process. National Trust staff members may engage with applicants and offer technical assistance.

This collaborative engagement will benefit applicants in submitting competitive grant proposals and inform our selection process and grant-making.

Historic Black Churches

For this grant, eligible applicants are entities representing Historic Black Churches. Historic Black Churches are defined as one or more of the following:

  • Religious historic buildings built and erected by Black congregations and continuously occupied by active Black congregations.
  • Religious historic buildings designed and/or constructed by Black architects/builders, currently occupied by active Black congregations, or repurposed for Arts, Culture, Community, and Social Justice programs.
  • Religious historic buildings not originally built by or for Black congregations, but continuously occupied by an active Black congregation for at least 50 years.
  • Active historic Black congregations that are a part of historic Black religious denominations including, but not limited to African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ), the Baptist Church, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME), Church of God in Christ (COGIC), Non-denominational.
  • Active historic Black congregations that are a part of traditional religious denominations including, but not limited to the Baptist Church, Episcopal Church, Lutheran Church, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church, Catholic Church, Non-denominational.
  • Non-Christian Black congregations and churches* (non-Christian churches will be funded on a case-by-case basis in consultation with Lilly Endowment Inc.).

Eligibility

Eligible Applicants include:

  • Historic Black Churches with active and non-active congregations. Active congregations are those which hold regular worship services and public programming in historic religious buildings (defined above).
  • 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations stewarding non-active Historic Black Church buildings reused and repurposed for community, programmatic, and interpretive uses are eligible to apply, including statewide and local preservation organizations, churches, accredited private colleges or universities, historic sites, museums, historical societies, and genealogical associations.
  • Public agencies: State or local agencies including boards, commissions, departments, accredited public colleges or universities, offices, agencies, public bodies, or political subdivisions of the state or of a county or municipality. Examples include state historic preservation offices, city and county preservation offices and planning departments, state and local commissions focused on different aspects of heritage, and publicly owned historic sites and museums.

Applicants that have received previous National Trust financial assistance are eligible provided that all grant requirements are current.

Grant recipients of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund’s National Grant Program are eligible to apply for a grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund’s Preserving Black Churches Project. However, the existing grantee must submit the application under a different funding category than previously awarded. For example, a National Grant Program grant recipient of Capital Projects funding is not eligible to apply to Preserving Black Churches for a Capital Projects grant, and should apply through a new funding category such as Project Planning, etc.

Eligible applicants can submit one application under each funding category. However only one type of grant will be awarded for each grant round.

The minimum grant amount is $50,000. The maximum amount depends on the project category (See below, under Project Categories). Requests below the minimum amount will not be reviewed.

Matching Requirements

  • Grants from Preserving Black Churches may be used to fund up to 100% of the proposed project.
  • Matching funds are not required for the following funding categories: Capital Projects, Project Planning, Programming and Interpretation, and Organizational Capacity Building and Operations. Projects in these categories that are leveraging additional investments are strongly preferred.
  • Matching funds are required for the Endowment & Financial Sustainability funding category. Existing funding received from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund's National Grant Program cannot be used as match for the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund’s Preserving Black Churches Endowment & Financial Sustainability grants.

Grant Conditions

The following grant conditions apply:

  • If the project involves a property, the grant recipient must either own the property or have a written agreement with the property owner stating that the grantee has permission to undertake the grant-funded project.
  • Grants or any matching funds cannot be used directly or indirectly to influence a member of Congress to favor or oppose any legislation or appropriation.
  • Any documents or plans for preservation work that result from the project must conform to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
  • Any construction projects must conform to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
  • Unless prior written approval of a bid waiver is obtained from the National Trust, at least three (3) competitive bids/quotes must be obtained for any procurement of services that exceed $50,000. This provision applies only to portions of the project supported by National Trust grant funds.
  • Grant recipients must include appropriate acknowledgement of National Trust and its philanthropic partners' financial support in all printed materials generated for the project. As part of the grant agreement, a toolkit for promoting the grant will be provided to each grantee.
  • Consultants must be approved by the National Trust before grant funds are disbursed. Board members of the applicant organization cannot serve as consultants unless appropriate conflict of interest procedures are followed and documented.
  • Grant recipients are required to sign a contract agreeing to the conditions of the program.
  • Upon the project’s completion, a final narrative report and financial accounting of the expenditure of the grants must be submitted via the online grant system. If the project is not completed in accordance with the contract, the grant funds must be returned.
  • Applicants must agree not to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, or sexual orientation. This obligation also extends to disabled veterans, Vietnam-era veterans, and persons with disabilities.
  • Additional grant conditions may be required by the National Trust’s philanthropic partners. They will be outlined in the grant contract.

Project Categories

Grant awards may be made for activities and projects in the following categories:

Capital Projects

  • Funding will be given for the restoration, rehabilitation, stabilization, preservation of historic buildings, parsonages, annex and educational buildings attached or directly adjacent to the historic Black church, including bricks-and-mortar construction and planning costs.
  • Historic Black churches with active congregations can apply for funding up to $200,000 and can direct up to 15% of awarded grant funds for construction planning and documents. 501(c)(3) and other non-profit organizations established by (or affiliated with an active congregation) with a mission to preserve a historic Black church with an active congregation are also eligible under this category.
  • 501(c)(3) Not-for-Profit Organizations and Public Agencies owning or leasing long-term historic Black churches with non-active congregations and repurposed for public programming can apply for funding up to $100,000 and can direct up to 15% of awarded grant funds for construction planning and documents.
  • Eligible applicants can direct up to 10% of awarded funds for indirect support and costs associated with project management.
  • Recipients of Capital Project grants must have all pre-development, planning and construction documents reviewed and approved by National Trust staff, before awarded funds are released.
  • Capital Project grants must be completed within 18 months of the initial grant disbursement date. Requests for extensions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Matching funds are not required, but projects that are leveraging additional investments are strongly preferred.

Project Planning

  • Obtaining the services of consultants with expertise in the areas such as preservation architecture and planning, landscape architecture, cemetery conservation, business development, engineering and environmental studies, legal issues, fundraising, organizational development, education, and trainings, etc. to develop plans for implementation by organization.
  • Development of viable business plans for preservation organizations, pre-development planning activities, feasibility studies for market-driven revitalization projects, preservation plans, engineering and environmental studies, property condition assessment reports with cost analysis, historic structures reports, etc.
  • Development of planning documents, guides, and assessment studies for historic Black cemeteries is eligible, but the cemeteries must be owned by and contiguously connected to a historic Black church.
  • Obtaining the services of consultants to complete nominations for historical designation of historic Black Churches leading to listing on the National Register of Historic Places, designation as National Historic Landmarks and/or local landmarks.
  • Eligible Applicants can apply for funding up to $100,000 and can direct up to 10% of awarded funds for indirect support and overhead costs associated with project management.
  • Grants must be completed within 1 year of the initial grant disbursement date. Requests for extensions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Matching funds are not required, but projects that are leveraging additional investments are strongly preferred.

Programming and Interpretation

  • Designing and implementing innovative interpretive programs.
  • Designing and implementing new art and culturally based programming.
  • Collaborating with artists, creatives, and scholars to create and/or re-imagine interpretation and public programming that elevates the significance of the historic Black church, legacy, and contributions to the community, and that advances new approaches to storytelling and public education.
  • Eligible Applicants can apply for funding up to $100,000 and can direct up to 10% of awarded funds for indirect support and overhead costs associated with project management.
  • Grants must be completed within one year of the initial grant disbursement date. Requests for extensions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Matching funds are not required, but projects that are leveraging additional investments are strongly preferred.

Organizational Capacity Building and Operations

  • Creation of new full-time staff, or part time staff to full-time positions which directly support the preservation and stewardship of historic Black church structures and advances preservation priorities: preservation planning, project management, construction management, interpretation, etc. Clergy and religions ministry staff positions are ineligible.
  • Funds can be used to support salaries and benefits for grant-supported staff.
  • Historic Black churches with active congregations can apply for funding up to $150,000 for a two-year period. 501(c)(3) and other non-profit organizations established by (or affiliated with an active congregation) with a mission to preserve a historic Black church are eligible under this category.
  • 501(c)(3), other federally designated Not-for-Profit Organizations, and Public Agencies for historic Black churches with non-active congregations, and repurposed buildings with interpretation and public programming can apply for funding up to $100,000 for a two-year period.
  • Awarded funds cannot be used for indirect support and overhead costs.
  • Recipients of grants to hire new staff, or to increase preservation leadership staff from part-time to full-time, will have two years to complete their project.
  • Matching funds are not required, but projects that are leveraging additional investments are strongly preferred.

Endowment & Financial Sustainability

  • Active Black Churches fundraising to increase existing or establish new preservation endowments for historic Black church buildings, with active congregations, to support activities such as cyclical maintenance of the building and grounds, insurance services, and other activities related to the perpetual stewardship of the structure.
  • For existing endowments, eligible applicants invited to submit a grant application must show proof of existing principal endowment funds equal to or greater than the grant request.
  • For proposed new endowments, eligible applicants must provide either a recently developed fundraising/capital campaign plan or a list of pledged gifts. Grant funds awarded can be used to leverage additional fundraising dollars.
  • Eligible applicants should have completed a comprehensive restoration or rehabilitation of a historic church building within the last 10 years or are advancing an active restoration or rehabilitation project to be completed which within the next two years at the time of application.
  • Awarded funds must be invested into a preservation endowment managed by a reputable financial institution and proof of endowment management is required. Endowment grants must be invested by the financial management firm for a period of three years before an annual draw is taken. Annual draws should not be greater than 5% of the principal endowment.
  • Awarded grant funds will not be provided until proof of 1:1 match is secured. For example, a $200,000 grant must be matched with at least $200,000 of new investment to establish an endowment or to increase an existing endowment.
  • Other non-profit organizations established by, or affiliated with an active congregation, are eligible to apply. The nonprofit must have an organizational mission and leadership role in stewarding a historic Black church.
  • Grant funds cannot be used for active capital projects, planning, programming, indirect support, or operational needs.
  • Existing funding received from the National Grant Program cannot be used as a match for the Preserving Black Churches Endowment & Financial Sustainability grants.
  • Grants must be completed within two years of the initial grant disbursement date. Requests for extensions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Ineligible Activities and Expenses

  • Certain kinds of sanctuary interior costs are ineligible, such as work solely focused on elements created to enhance the worship space or worship experience. However, replacement and repairs of altars, pipe organ restoration, and pulpit furniture may be eligible if a part of a larger rehabilitation project. Each proposal will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
  • Costs associated with planning for or constructing new buildings or structures, including the creation of monuments and statues, parking lots, re-pavement, and monuments and statues.
  • Capital Projects involving cemetery restoration.
  • Catering, entertainment, food, and beverage costs.
  • Expenses incurred prior to the grant award date.
  • Sound and AV equipment.
  • Academic research (i.e., thesis, dissertation, genealogical research, published work) and conservation of records and archival materials.
  • Consultant services (except as noted above) including media and marketing.
  • Conferences and educational workshops.
  • Acquisition of property or capital projects that have been completed prior to grant submission process.
  • Mortgages or debt repayment.

Criteria

The National Trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will select grant recipients by considering, among other points, the following criteria:

  • The historic significance of the property to be assisted and its association to African American cultural heritage.
  • The extent to which the requested assistance will make a difference in preserving, restoring, interpreting, or managing the historic property or site, including what other funds might be leveraged by an existing award.
  • The level of local support for the project, demonstrated through letters of support and information collected on the full application such as site visitation information, volunteer statistics, and other related metrics.
  • The potential of the project to be a catalyst for further positive action to benefit other historic properties, neighborhoods, or communities.
  • The adequacy of plans and resources for future maintenance of the property or the continuation of activity for which grant support is requested.
  • The ability and willingness of the applicant to carry out the proposed plans or activity within the project’s time frame if awarded.
  • The amount of additional resources being brought to the project, either through additional cash investments or donated materials and services.

Application

Access the Preserving Black Churches application form.

You will be taken to the National Trust grants application system where you will need to create a user profile for your organization. If your organization has applied for a grant previously, you will sign into your existing organization profile. If you need assistance using the grants application system, this video can be useful.

If you have questions, please email us at blackchurches@savingplaces.org.

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