This is the second update, from our Development Director – Brian Willetts, on what we are doing and achieving within Development and Fundraising.
Heart of St James’s Campaign – Update
Over Easter I was invited to travel to France to share in a wedding celebration. Georgina, who I met when I lived in the USA, and Kevin, her husband, have become great friends and it was fantastic to not only share in what was a truly beautiful wedding but to meet new folks and begin new friendships. For my husband and I, it was extra special because it was at our wedding in 2019 that Kevin proposed to Georgina, a fact that we only became aware of when it was shared within the ceremony. The bond created between us is what friendship is, its love, it’s about a shared journey, beliefs and experiences and it’s these things that unite us.
Friends of St James’s
I want to start this month’s update by talking about our new Friends of St James’s scheme. I have been so encouraged by the fact that people continue to come forward and join our ‘Friends of St James’s’ initiative, a vitally important part of our fundraising to make possible our mission and community outreach work here at the church. Anyone can become a Friend of St James’s, those of faith or of none. Any amount is fine: a Friend can sign up to pledge £1 or more as part of this monthly giving scheme. It has been designed as an opportunity to build relationship as well as generate the funding we need. Each week I talk to business neighbours and individuals who live within the parish. Everyone I meet shares how much they love St James’s and our work and it’s why I wanted there to be a way in which everyone could feel valued, be part of that special bond with us. This is why the Friends of St James’s has been created. It’s a way in which those who are not part of our worshiping community, of any faith or of none can feel connected and play their part in supporting our work here. All the funds generated through the monthly giving of the Friends of St James’s scheme goes directly to supporting the ongoing mission, life and projects of the church, (supplementing our congregational giving).
I, for one, feel that bond and connection with St James’s, I worship at another church, yet I wanted to play my part so have signed up as a Friend with a monthly gift, and have encouraged others I know from my family and friends to consider the same, and I know that some have also now become Friends. The work that is carried out each week here is truly life transforming and so I want to encourage you to consider a conversation with people you know and ask them if they too would like to support the work we are doing to support and empower those experiencing homelessness or experiencing difficulties with their mental health through the Caravan drop-in listening project for instance. Every monthly gift makes a difference, it helps our Rector, Wardens, PCC and the staff team plan and it’s what helps keep alive the history of St James’s in this generation. That conversation you might have could lead to so much more, not just in supporting our work with a monthly gift, but an enhanced bond of friendship and connection with us, and who knows where that could lead. All the information is on our website, so please take a look and make an opportunity this coming month to encourage and secure at least one new friend to make a monthly gift to St James’s. As a charity, we are excited at the prospect of making new friends that support us, so thank you in advance and let’s work to achieve this together.
The Wren Project and ongoing support for outreach
We continue to make great progress with building relationship and fundraising for the Wren Project. I am thrilled to share that recently the project has gained the endorsement of His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex KG as Patron for the Wren Project. We are extremely grateful for his interest and support and look forward to working with him in the coming months.
Back in February I visited New York to begin the process of building friendships there as part of our American Friends of St James’s scheme. We are delighted to have received the gift of a very special fundraising dinner and auction by our neighbour Christie’s that will take place in September to raise funds for us. It was a remarkable visit with new partnerships forged, new friends made and pledges of support to help fund the Wren Project and our work here. A new journey has begun with St Barts on Park Avenue and Trinity Wall Street, both churches that share a similar inclusive ethos to St James’s in the centre of their city. The British Consul in New York has pledged their support and is helping us promote and engage their networks in the city in the build up to this important event. It is great to know that we have friends all over the world, this evident in new partners gifting their support in the USA through our American Friends of St James’s, with several donations made over the past few months. If you have colleagues or friends in the USA, please do encourage them to visit our website and learn how they can support us by becoming an American Friend of St James’s Piccadilly which is a 501c3.
Where are we up to now?
As shared previously, my work to build relationship and funding covers both the Wren Project and the ongoing work of St James’s. Over the past few months, we have received invitations by three significant grant funders to make major funding applications, which will be completed by the end of May with proposed potential pledges of millions between them. We received a gift of £10,000 to support Feast, a donation of £50,000 for the Wren Project and two significant individual donors of wealth pledges with meetings planned for the coming months, plus many more individual gifts as well as in-kind donations. All gifts, whatever the size is valued by us and we give thanks for all who are making the connection with us and our work.
Recently this was shared with me that ‘Hope imagines the future and then acts today as if the future is irresistible’. How exciting is that and is what we are all trying to achieve just now as we reflect on our legacy as a congregation as part of our remarkable history over the past 338 years.
Thank you for being part of this exciting, shared journey just now, to empower change one gift at a time, which is helping us make real the vision and mission of St James’s Church. Your help, time, ideas, and assistance and if I may say, prayer, are never taken for granted, are greatly valued, and hugely appreciated. By working together, we have this moment the opportunity to forge remarkable possibilities for all who encounter St James’s. This is an exciting time for all of us. I look forward to updating more next time.
Brian E Willetts – Director of Development