There are now several websites (www.easyfundraising.org.uk, for example) that allow organisations, including schools, to collect income when teachers, pupils or friends purchase from online retailers.
Other websites operate a donations facility that can be set up to raise general funds continually or invite sponsorship for specific events (at last, your chance to skydive!) The most well-known of these – www.justgiving.com – requires you to be a registered charity but they also offer a targeted giving process (www.yimby.com) that involves setting a target (£200 – £5000) and trying to raise it through pledges in 30 days. If you don’t reach this amount then the pledges are not called in but neither do you get charged. Other general donations sites that don’t require charity registration include www.GoGetFunding.com, which is easy to use and very effective.
Most of these sites do take a small cut from donations; to avoid this completely you need to encourage contributions directly into your account. For people who don’t readily use online banking the charity giving websites offer a simple and rewarding method. They’re rewarding because donors see the funds rising, they get a thank you email, they can read about the cause and the best pages are decorated with photographs (at last, your chance to be photographed sky-diving!) and encouraging quotes. Your school website can link to donations pages and can similarly give inviting and exciting information to encourage giving.
If the technology involved in setting up any of these defeats you – or you simply want a polished, professional look – your educational design company can do the job for you at very reasonable cost.
Many secondary schools now employ a business manager whose job may include operating the most common business activity in schools: the hiring out of facilities e.g. Astro turf, hall and computer rooms for adult classes, clubs etc. Expanding links with local providers, community groups and charities will uncover opportunities for the school to do more for the local community by, for example, hosting adult learning classes after school, while they bring in an income.
Beyond this, some educational establishments have successfully identified business opportunities that already exist in their school or college. These may link with teaching entrepreneurship where children learn by doing – getting involved in setting up and running a small business. Schools can offer either products or services (or both) if there is a market out there and a willingness to work at it. Interestingly, special schools often lead the field in this respect; think garden produce sold from a college grounds or even in a local garden centre – any school with its own garden or allotments could start this at least in a small way. There is much potential in Tomatoes for Teachers or Potatoes for Parents sold after school, delivered locally or perhaps just at other events such as the School Fair.
Such an endeavour might easily suggest spin-off products such as jams and sauces with lots of room for teaching not only business skills but also cooking, nutrition and health & safety. You might also offer related services such as cooking demonstrations, clubs or experiences. Whatever the resources, experience or enthusiasms within your curriculum-aware team, something will lend itself to bringing in money. One school might hire out rooms or facilities to external organisations; another will produce arts and crafts worthy of sale; yet another will offer tourists a look round its historical buildings and grounds. These ideas are related to but different from the more straightforward sales of child-made mince pies at the Christmas Fair because they are approached as business endeavours with additional skills and learning involved for pupils and staff alike. They are also designed to raise more significant sums of money.
Fairly simple versions of business initiatives might include selling things; whilst many schools will find good homes for old cupboards or scrappy books (local charities may well be interested) some use the opportunity to realise revenue. One way to maximise income is to auction goods – it’s fairly easy to set yourself up with Ebay; you might consider expanding into a scheme where you collect good quality goods from parents and teachers in aid of school funds. To make the venture into a fun event try holding an actual auction at the school – either flogging off good quality goods for a price or having fun by selling small things, including eatables, to the highest – generous – bidder. A successful version of this took place every harvest in one area – selling cauliflowers for £10 each and a brown loaf for £12.50. If there’s a local, charitably-minded auctioneer in the area (one of those off the ever popular TV antique shows) the event can double up as a Meet the Celebrity.
You could choose to concentrate on one saleable commodity such as gold or mobile ‘phones. Several online services will give you a price by weight – but do be careful to shop around or take advice from consumer sites such as www.moneysavingexpert.com.
If you prefer to link your money-making schemes with the school curriculum or broader principles you might consider collecting and selling recyclable materials. You can get the whole school involved in collecting used materials to sell – you usually need to acquire a good volume of stuff before one of the many companies will pay to take it off your hands. If you have teachers or parents with relevant skills or enthusiasms try tying the project in with paper-making or renovating furniture. However good you are at re-using it all you are likely to have plenty left to sell, and there’s a good chance you’ll have more caring, active, socially aware children. Consider registering as an eco-school (www.eco-schools.org.uk), if you haven’t already, to get lots of ideas and support.
Sponsorship – I can’t believe it’s not difficult!
Most school children, parents and staff will be familiar with sponsored walks, swims, silences (no? – give it a go!) but ongoing sponsorship from a company or other benefactor seems more daunting. In reality it’s actually a donation with something in return – often advertising. Taking a lead from premiership football or other sports, a school might consider a team kit with a company’s logo – especially if the company supplies the kit. Similarly, the farmer who funds your new field can have a plaque and the new stage drapes from the local fent shop can have their name sewn into the fabric. In reality, usually one or two major sponsors can get frequent mentions and on walls and websites so you can avoid every pencil case, piano and picture-hook having a label.
“We’d like to thank Mrs. Fish for her unstinting efforts”
Whatever your ideas for local fundraising you will need to determine who actually coordinates the process. A business manager will undoubtedly organise some of the more ambitious ventures: for some activities and in many schools the job falls to the PTA. It is important you are sure of your status as a school and charitable body. Independent schools are usually charities in their own right and Academies and Free schools now share this status. Parent Teacher Associations are often separately registered charities whose articles of association declare their charitable objective to be supporting the school. Charitable status dictates the ways in which trading may or may not take place and there are laws governing raffles (‘lotteries’ in the eyes of the law).
There may be an established relationship between school and PTA with a protocol around both raising and spending money. The clearer the parametres of this relationship the simpler it will be to organise fundraising activities as part of a structured plan. Another great help is an enthusiastic and active group of parents and teachers who carry the support of local residents and businesses. (See Building a School to Show Off).
Many PTAs organise big events; what’s likely to be popular with your staff and parents is best for you to decide but it is always worth considering something you haven’t done before: dances, quizzes, cabaret, a horse-race evening, exhibitions, performances – the themed disco list on its own is endless, though not everyone still has their white Abba boots or wants to wear them. If your event is designed to make a significant sum do consider how you might publicise it – bring in external support for a professional look if you don’t have the facilities yourself. Remember that there are laws and by-laws governing some entertainment – licences for alcohol or music, for example – but don’t let them put you off as they really aren’t that onerous.
Not every school will try every fundraising option but the purpose of this outline is to encourage you to think beyond the obvious. Whether you are auctioning off the Elvis costume or wearing it to party, bidding £5 for a banana or demonstrating how to barbecue one, there are ways to diversify your sources of income. And if you really like Hook-a-Duck – no-one’s going to mind if you keep it in!
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