Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible for Rural Church grants?


The Endowment has expanded the definition of “rural” being used to determine eligibility for Rural Church grants.
Learn more

The following North Carolina organizations are eligible to apply for Rural Church grants:

  • United Methodist Churches that serve rural North Carolina communities.  
  • The North Carolina and Western North Carolina conferences and districts of the United Methodist Church
  • Duke University Divinity School
  • Retired United Methodist pastors and their families on record with the North Carolina and Western North Carolina conferences

How is a church’s eligibility status determined?

In his Indenture of Trust, Mr. Duke stated that eligibility for rural church funding to churches in North Carolina was to be based on the population of the community in which the church is located according to the latest federal census.

Therefore, after data from each federal census is collected, the eligibility of all United Methodist churches in North Carolina is re-examined, and a new list of eligible churches in the state is published. Eligibility status is determined using one of our two approved definitions of rural.

Mr. Duke defined “rural” as a town or community with a population of 1,500 or less.  Churches in towns or communities with a population of 1,500 or less according to the latest federal census continue to be eligible to apply for grant funding in our priority areas, which are listed below under “What kinds of projects does the Endowment Fund?” 

The Trustees of The Duke Endowment have approved an expanded definition to include churches in areas designated rural by the Rural-Urban Commuting Area (RUCA) code.  RUCA codes were developed by the United States Department of Agriculture and are based on the commuting patterns of residents in individual census tracts.

See our 2010-Census-based eligibility list.

What kinds of projects does the Endowment fund?

Our priorities are programs that focus on:

  • Food and hunger
  • Tutoring and literacy
  • Affordable housing
  • Clergy and lay leadership development

The following will NOT be considered for grant funding:

  • Church vans or buses
  • Church playgrounds
  • Church-based child care/pre-school programs
  • Audio-visual equipment for church facilities
  • Routine maintenance of church facilities, including but not limited to:
    - stained-glass window repair, replacement, or protection
    - heating, air, or HVAC units
    - building repairs
    - painting or other cosmetic facility upgrades

Three broad categories define how we fund efforts supporting rural churches.

  1. Replicating success grants reflect the value we place on proven programs and strategies. As we work to address persistent social problems, expand individual opportunity and provide essential support, we value established approaches with clear records of success and replicable models. Possible grant requests for this application could include, but are not limited to, programs that support:
    • Work with affordable housing
    • Tutoring and summer literacy programs
  2. Strengthening organizations grants reflect our commitment to investing in building the infrastructure of effective rural churches. In our efforts to improve eligible United Methodist Church facilities and ministries, we are particularly interested in supporting opportunities that show great promise for long-term gains. Possible grant requests for this application could include, but are not limited to, programs that support:
    • Sanctuary, education and multi-purpose facilities construction and renovation projects focused on outreach
    • Food ministries
  3. Advancing innovation grants reflect our investment in projects that advance innovation when high-achieving, successful models are lacking. Possible grant requests for this category may include programs or services that are not evidence-based.

When are grant applications due?

Pre-applications to be considered for a potential spring grant are due November 7, and pre-applications for a potential winter grant decision are due May 9. The pre-application portal will open approximately six weeks in advance of these dates. Applications cannot be accepted outside of these windows.

How do I apply for a grant?

For building and/or renovation projects, click here.

For program ministry projects, we have introduced a new pre-application process to determine if your work fits with current funding priorities.

Four simple steps are involved:  

1.  Start by taking the eligibility questionnaire to determine if your church/organization is eligible. 

2.  Once eligibility is established, you’ll answer five brief questions to help us determine if your work focuses on:

  • leadership development
  • food and hunger
  • tutoring and literacy
  • affordable housing

3.  After you submit your answers, you will receive a reply within a week.

4.  If your project is a good fit, you will be invited to submit a grant application and will receive clear direction on how to proceed.

Will the Endowment help fund sanctuary, education and multi-purpose facilities construction or renovation?

Yes, applicants seeking funding for construction or renovation may qualify for strengthening organizations grants, but are required to follow a multi-step process before submitting an application or breaking ground.

STEP 1. Review the Readiness Checklist.

STEP 2. Complete and return the Preliminary Planning Guide (formerly called Study Guide).

STEP 3. Agree to comply with the Terms of Agreement.

STEP 4. Schedule a site visit.

STEP 5. Submit preliminary schematic drawings.

STEP 6. Receive a letter from the Endowment approving eligibility to begin construction

STEP 7. Inform the Endowment of construction contract.

STEP 8. Complete the online application.

Why does the Endowment only support rural United Methodist Churches in North Carolina?

Our founder, James B. Duke, was raised in a Methodist family, and he saw and appreciated the impact that churches and their pastors had on rural North Carolina communities. The Dukes were strong supporters of the church and of its various activities. They understood that in rural areas, churches were often the strongest and most effective community institutions.

Does the Endowment award grants to other Methodist denominations, such as Evangelical Methodist or African Methodist Episcopal churches?

No. In keeping with Mr. Duke's instructions, rural church grants can be made only to United Methodist churches.

How do retired United Methodist pastors apply for pension grants from the Endowment?

No application is needed. These grants are made annually to eligible pastors and their families on record with the North Carolina Annual Conference or the Western North Carolina Annual Conference.

Will the Endowment help start a child day care or after-school program?

The Rural Church program area will accept applications for after-school programs focused on literacy, as long as the programs are operated by an eligible beneficiary. The Endowment is no longer funding child day care programs.