Cornerstone – March 2024

Ted Smyth provides an update on the Development Department’s progress in fundraising for the Wren Project and the day-to-day operations of St James’s.

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Welcome to the second edition of the Development Department’s monthly update, ‘Cornerstone.’ As Brian explained last month the purpose of this blog is to keep you up to date with what’s been going on in Princes House (the Jermyn Street office where we’re based, courtesy of The Crown Estate), and to bring you news of what’s coming up later in the year. So, I’m just going to take a few lines to tell you about our January and February, and then I want to talk in a bit more detail about the incredibly exciting prospect of our presence at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year.  

So, first of all, to our progress so far this year. As you know there are two priorities for the Development Department: The Wren Project and then the day-to-day operation of St James’s, including its outreach and engagement with the community. Because all the fundraising surrounding the Chelsea Flower Show pertains to the Wren Project, let me talk about the day-to-day first.  

The news is good! In short, across the first two months of the year and excluding anything raised for the Wren Project, the Development Department has brought in £83,600. This is from a variety of sources including donations from our institutional neighbours in the parish, some Trust and Foundation income, a legacy gift, and a couple of large individual donations. We’re especially pleased to be able to say that we’ve already met our annual target to fund the Food & Homelessness elements of our social justice outreach. January tends to be a very quiet fundraising month, so these figures are a real result for St James’s. As a department we spent some time last year developing robust – and realistic – tools for forecasting. Forecasting fund raising is always a huge challenge, but at this point, I’m glad to be able to say that the rest of the year looks promising in terms of income (bolstered by the arrival of our brilliant new members of staff: Anna Auchter as Trusts and Foundations Officer and Mabrur Rahman as Events Officer).  

There is only so much detail I can go into in the context of these updates regarding our forecasts and actual results month-on-month, but ultimately, we fundraise in response to St James’s priorities as articulated by the PCC, so both forecasts and results are regularly reported to them and to the senior management team. Please feel free to speak to them if you’re interested and would like more detail! 

Onto the Wren Project. Because of the way in which large-scale capital campaigns work, a monthly running total like the one I have provided above isn’t as helpful: we will often spend months – even years – talking to single prospective donors before they decide to make that donation. Suffice it to say that the Wren Project fundraising is coming along well, after 2½ years of focus on it.  We are now flat-out to raise the remainder of the total so that the PCC can make a timely decision about what to do when.  We have several events planned over the next few months, including the annual gala dinner for our supporters held in our parish at Spencer House; but most importantly, of course, is our garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  

This initiative that came from the Development team, and will involve, in different ways, many different staff, PCC members, congregation and volunteers. It will help us tell the story of our precious urban green space to a wide audience and help raise the profile of the Wren Project overall.  I cannot overemphasise how excited we are about this. As Brian has previously explained, we are truly fortunate to have been awarded funding from Project Giving Back for the garden. Securing the garden, liaising with RHS, and considerable logistical planning has happened behind-the-scenes, as it were; but now a lot of that has been completed I am delighted to reiterate an invitation to the whole congregation for some drinks in church on Tuesday 12 March, straight after a slightly earlier Sanctuary Eucharist that day.  If you’re free, do join the service at 6pm (silent prayer from 5.30pm) at which we’ll pray in thanksgiving for the gifts of the natural world, for gardens and green spaces and our own part in cherishing creation. Afterwards, you will have the opportunity to meet Robert Myers, our garden designer; representatives from Project Giving Back; and of course, our St James’s staff team will be there too: our own gardener, clergy, development, and communications staff. This will be a chance to discuss the design and thinking behind the garden, as well as how you can get involved in supporting the associated fundraising campaign for the Wren Project garden restoration at St James’s.   

To give us an idea of how many to cater for it would be hugely helpful if you could register here 

I won’t go on any further (well done if you’ve made it this far!): but please remember to sign up for the event on the 12 March, and spread the word to encourage friends, family, and colleagues to support our wonderful garden restoration plans.  

Ted Smyth – Head of Philanthropy