Connect Church UK has been operating for over 80 years in an inner-city area of Birmingham. A loan of £975,000 from Charity Bank has helped the charity to build a new, purpose-built church and community centre.
Tracee McAtear, Executive Pastor, shares what it means for the charity to have this permanent base and how working with Charity Bank helped them to achieve their goals.
What prompted the decision to build a centre rather than leasing somewhere new?
The church already owned the land and we believed that a purpose-built centre was right for us at this time - and it’s also a really great central location with good transport links. Building also means we will have somewhere to really make our own and put our own stamp on. We’ve been able to design something that will specifically respond to our aspirations and changing community needs.
How did you raise the rest of the funding required?
When Charity Bank told us they could only offer a portion of the loan, my initial thought was panic. But then I realised that they weren’t just going to leave us to figure it out ourselves and instead put us in touch with other social lenders, one of which loaned us the rest of the money needed. It’s what I really loved about Charity Bank, that they helped us negotiate challenging moments with solutions.
Did you have any concerns about taking out the loan?
Of course, we had our worries at times. It’s all a risk, isn’t it? But we felt confident after going through our risk management assessment. And also the loan application process actually really helped with this. Being forced to go into the real details of the charity, create cash flows, business plans, and look at donation patterns and the potential future uses of the new building really helped to reassure us of the position we were in and that we could afford the loan.
Why did you choose Charity Bank for this loan?
Charity Bank was recommended by a colleague. We had previously spoken to our regular bank but they couldn't offer us the same percentages or understanding as Charity Bank. Charities are their own kind of animal, so it’s good having a specialist lender who understands all the different aspects of the sector – and all the different charity models within that.
We worked with Peter Hughes the whole way through and having that consistency was really helpful. Having been on similar journeys with other charities, he knew all the variables that go into this kind of capital project and really gave us confidence about the potential of the new building and the growth it could afford us. He was one of our best cheerleaders throughout.
We would recommend Charity Bank to other charities. Not only do they understand charities, but they also just really want to see people helped; I really felt they were operating from the same heartbeat as us. It’s not like working with a normal bank, who are in it just for the profit.
What advice would you give to other charities who are thinking of taking out a loan?
Buckle in for the rollercoaster ride! But also to work with the process rather than resent it. As complex and frustrating as it can be at times, know that ultimately it will probably make your charity stronger.
How do you think this development will affect the future of the charity?
Up until now, we’ve been quite limited in what we’ve been able to do. But when the new centre opens, we’ll have plenty of space for our growing congregation and we won’t be restricted by accessibility or opening times.
We’ll be open more consistently and will be able to increase our community and social offerings. We’re even hoping to invite other charities and community organisations to run programmes with us.
Having this purpose-built space also feels like a way of letting our community know that we’re here to stay. That we believe in and value them and that we want to invest in the area.
About Charity Bank
Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1,000 loans totalling over £300m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.
Nothing in this article constitutes an invitation to engage in investment activity nor is it advice or a recommendation and professional advice should be taken before any course of action is pursued.