Religious buildings, often at the center of communities, are in danger. Deferred and expensive maintenance along with membership decline has put them in a precarious position. Economic disparity and gentrification in major cities are common threats to congregational membership and overall justice work. In this complex crisis for religious institutions, there is an extraordinary philanthropic opportunity.

Foundations could provide the training that beleaguered religious leaders need to plan a halo kind of future instead of a hollow one. Congregations need planning help in what to do with their assets.  Their governance is often another casualty of their lost membership and broken infrastructure. In addition to helping with capital needs so that public (and parochial) space is not lost, foundations can be very useful in helping congregations transition to stronger governance systems.

For the foundations that say they do not want to fund “religion” or “parochialism”, there are non-religious benefits that religious institutions provide for communities. For instance, Philanthropists and religious bag-holders have at least these things in common: desperation for public space, love of beauty and a sense of the center – and not just the center of town but the kind of moral center that holds great diversity together.

Read the full article about how philanthropy can help religious institutions by Donna Schaper at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.