Operation Understanding

Operation Understanding is our diocesan commitment to provide grants to parishes that are deeply involved in outreach ministries throughout our diocese that feed, clothe, and provide energy assistance to the needy.  We also fund programs for disadvantaged children. Grants are made possible through the generosity of churches and parishioners who contribute to Operation Understanding through the Alleluia Appeal which takes place during the Eastertide season. 

There are three grant cycles each year, and the application deadline dates are April 30, August 31, and December 31, 2017.  Grant applications are evaluated based on the outreach ministry’s level of poverty, parish participation in volunteering, support of the Vestry, ecumenical participation, and financial support of the requesting parish.  Grants usually fall within the range of $500 to $2,500.  Priority is given to new ministries. Guidelines are found in the link at the bottom of this page.

Progress reports are required to be sent to the OU Committee six months after receipt of a grant.  Personal stories, photos, and financial statements contained in the reports give a broad view of the ministry and how effective our diocese is in helping people in need. 

About Operation Understanding

Operation Understanding is our diocesan commitment to provide grant seed funding to a parish (or a shared ministry among parishes) for creating a new outreach ministry or enhancing an established one.

The ministry should address one or several life necessities, such as providing food, shelter, clothing, health care, energy assistance, and/or educational programs for children or adults in need.

OU grants serve as seed funding to establish and grow new ministries for helping people throughout the diocese.

A parish or a person, who is a member in good standing of a parish in the diocese, can submit a grant application by having the consent of the parish’s rector and Vestry.

A parish may apply for grant funding for up to three annual periods beginning from when the parish received its first grant.

If a parish wants to expand an existing ministry by adding a new outreach need, then it must complete a new grant application.  As an example, an established food ministry wants to add a clothing storeroom and needs to purchase racks and hangers.

OU grants are made possible through the generosity of parishes and parishioners who contribute to OU through the annual Alleluia Appeal, monetary gifts from parishes and individuals, proceeds from ‘Outreach Sunday’ offerings and from fundraising projects.

The major source for OU funding comes from the diocese’s Bishop Stevenson Fund.

OU Committee members are appointed by the Bishop. Ten people representing the clergy (3), laity (4) and youth (3) serve on the OU Committee.

There are three (3) grant application cycles during the year with submission deadline dates of April 30, August 31, and December 31, 2017.

The OU Committee meets in May, September, and January to review and evaluate the OU grant applications.

Grant applicants may be contacted by an OU Committee member before the review meeting, in order to obtain more information or clarification.

Grant applicants (the contact person’s name as it appears on the form) are notified via email or telephone about the outcome of the review immediately after the meeting.

• Provide a description of the ministry’s mission. What calling or vision led to forming the ministry? Who benefits from the ministry? How does the ministry accomplish meeting the outreach need?

• Describe the economic and demographic condition of the area where the ministry serves.

• Explain how the Vestry, Rector, and parishioners support the ministry.

• Show that the ministry has sustaining financial support to keep it alive. How will the OU grant serve as seed funding for growing the ministry? Include details about other funding sources and fundraising events/projects.

• Explain why continued financial support is needed if the grant application pertains to an existing (not new) ministry.  Is the ministry expanding its mission to serve an additional outreach need?

• Does the ministry utilize other ecumenical and/or community agency support? If so, tell us about volunteer participation and financial support of partnering churches and groups.

• Present the ministry’s fiscal plan; its projected or current budget. At a minimum, the fiscal plan must have an outline of its annual income compared to expenses. The grant application will be more favorably viewed when the fiscal plan contains itemized details.

• Know a grant application will not be approved after three annual periods from receiving the first check unless an existing ministry undertakes a new outreach need.

• The Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania will send a check only to an Episcopal church and not to a person or another outreach group. When completing the form, please include the recipient church’s name (as it is to appear on the check) and the prime contact person’s name, postal/email addresses and a daytime telephone number.

• OU Committee members may visit ministries that received grant funding, so we confirm the grant funding is being rightfully used.

• Six months after receiving grant funding, the ministry must submit a progress report. The report should describe the work completed and the ministry’s future outlook, along with a financial report comparing the ministry’s proposed budget (from the grant application) to the actual receipts and expenses to date. Personal stories, photos and financial statements contained in the report give a broad view of the ministry’s success and how responsive the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania is in helping people in need.

• Vestry support, parish participation, and the ministry’s fiscal sustainability are essential items to include when completing the grant application.

• OU grants may not serve as the only source of financial support for the ministry.

• Use of the church facility as the ministry’s gathering place is preferable.

• Ministries funded by OU should focus on providing food, shelter, clothing, health care or educational programs for children or adults in need.

• Grant funding may not be used for facility renovations, building maintenance, congregational development, compensated staffing or paid presenters related to the ministry.

• Requests for “pass through” funding (meaning a parish is not actively involved in a community’s outreach project) will be denied.

• A grant application should pertain to only one ministry. If the parish seeks funding for different ministries, separate grant applications must be completed for each ministry.

• IMPORTANT: OU grant applications and corresponding budgets must be submitted electronically by using http://www.diocesecpa.org/forms/operationunderstanding. Hardcopy (paper) grant applications will not be accepted! However, supplemental items, such as newspaper articles, informative pamphlets, and photographs, may be sent to the diocese. Always include a photocopy of the grant application’s cover sheet with the material, so diocesan staff can match the hardcopy items to the electronic document.


To download the Operation Understanding brochure, click here.

Read the list of 2016 grant recipients here.


“On behalf of Trinity Church in Tyrone and the Volunteer Church Meals Program, we praise God and thank the Operation Understanding Committee for this grant of $500.  This will provide approximately 350 meals to seniors and home-bound individuals.” 
Rev. Jack Hoffer
“On behalf of the Board of Directors of Beacon Clinic for Health and Hope, I am delighted and appreciative of your generous consideration and award of $500 to fund our EKG machine.  It will be a constant reminder of your involvement and compassionate concern for those uninsured and undeserved persons in Harrisburg.”

Dr. Ruth I. Stoll, DNSc, RN

“St. Luke’s, Altoona, is the home to The Beacon, a Christ-centered, faith-based organization that seeks to provide an alternative place for youth in a safe environment with structured activities where positive adult role models can build relationships with “at-risk” youth while encouraging them to make beneficial decisions in their lives.  Grant funding from Operation Understanding will enable The Beacon to purchase much-needed items to complete the tutoring program.” 

Jane Gable, Senior Warden

During this time of economic instability, we ask that you pray for all who are suffering great loss in any way within our diocese and beyond our borders:

Almighty God, giver of all gifts: We thank you for our many blessings, especially for your inclusion of us in your Holy Family through the Sacrament of Baptism, thereby bestowing on each of us the name "beloved."  May we see this gift not as a call to privilege, but rather to responsibility.  May we always look through eyes which perceive our opportunities rather than our burdens, our resources to be shared rather than our shortages to be hoarded.  In times of affluence, may we be charitable; in times of scarcity, may we be just.  At all times, empower us with the virtues of patience, perception, and perseverance that we might better understand your will for your world and respond in ways that reflect the love of your Son, in whose Name we pray.  Amen.

2016 Operation Understanding grant information and forms (PDF format)

Online application

Grant applications are sent electronically to the Diocese by completing the Online Application and clicking “SUBMIT” at the bottom of the form. If you do not have internet access, simply send a paper copy of the form and supplemental documents to Gerry Garber at 550 Harvest Drive, Harrisburg, Pa. 17111-5659.  Call (717) 798-1301 if you have questions or need assistance when completing the application form.