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Big project fundraising

Schools are increasingly turning to PTAs to fund big purchases for the school, but when you're asked to raise thousands of pounds, where do you begin?

Fundraising for a 'big' project could mean raising anything from £5,000 to £50,000 or more. With a target that's considerably larger than what you're used to, you need to think differently, using a carefully planned approach. For a bigger project, you'll rarely get all the money you need from a single source. There are many different options available so think about which will work best for you.

  • Crowdfunding invites a number of supporters to each contribute a small amount in return for a reward.
  • Grants involve applying to a funder for a large sum.
  • Sponsorship means approaching businesses with requests to sponsor elements of your project, often in a mutually beneficial way.
  • Fundraising events make for a fun and visual way to fundraise and bring together a captive audience.
  • Passive income keeps funds topped up in the background.

Target

You know that you're fundraising for a trim trail or a new library, but how much do you need? Check with the school: who's going to get quotes, and how will the process of finding a supplier work? If the PTA is in charge, make sure there's a good line of communication with the school at every stage of the process.

Start by looking up information on suppliers' websites and in brochures to get a broad idea of costs and what's available. Then pick up the phone to discuss your specific needs. Most suppliers will adjust existing products or can recommend the best solutions for your circumstances, often by surveying your site. Get quotes for the work and equipment to obtain your fundraising goal.

Timeframe

It takes time to raise a large amount of money, so consult with the school and suppliers to set a realistic deadline. Ensure it's short enough for initial donors to benefit from the project. Plan your fundraising strategy alongside your PTA calendar, anticipating how much everything might raise using totals from previous events and activities. This will help you to establish how much extra fundraising is needed to meet your goal.

Establish a start date for the project. Can work commence once you've raised some, but not all, of the money? Not only will this mean supporters can see their money being used, but it will reignite interest and be a visual way to promote it, helping to draw in more sponsors. You do need to be sure you'll reach your goal, as half-finished projects will be frustrating for everyone involved.

Strategy

Big money means exploring lots of fundraising avenues that tap into a wide range of supporters, ensuring no single group is being exhausted. Survey your parents, governors and the wider community to see what they would be willing to support. Events and passive fundraising schemes are a large element of PTA fundraising, but running too many can overwhelm supporters. Crowdfunding works well in schools that are able to ask parents for contributions, but if you can't rely on families, a grant may be the best route. Think about different ways your supporters could help. Perhaps a parent runs a company that would gladly sponsor part of your project, or they can get match funding from their employer.

As you establish what will work well and what you will run, assign each activity its own target and make sure the total adds up to your overall fundraising goal. Plan for what you will do if you raise more or less than your target, and make these plans clear in your publicity. Set up sub-committees for each activity to spread the workload.

Grant fundraising

There are a number of grant schemes for which schools and PTAs are eligible. These range from grant-givers with a specific interest, such as the Ernest Cook Trust (focused on outdoor learning), through to general funds like the National Lottery Awards for All.

Some grants run nationally, while others are regionally specific. Most schemes state the maximum amount they will fund and may have set criteria, such as the project needing to make a difference to the whole community. FundEd members can search the school-specific grants database at funded.org.uk.

Compiling grant applications often takes longer than you think, so check deadlines and work backwards, allowing plenty of time to gather supporting documents, write detailed budgets and seek evidence from supporters.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding can be hugely successful but is often misunderstood. Although it's relatively quick and easy to set up a project online through a platform such as DonateMySchool, it's not simply a matter of doing it and waiting for the money to come in. You need to be able to push your project through as many channels as you can to reach lots of potential sponsors, as it's reliant on getting a large number of small donations. Drive it on social media, through emails and newsletters, and get local media involved. As schools sit at the heart of the community, you are well placed to tap into the generosity of the people around you.

Sponsorship

Investigate which local businesses operate CSR (corporate social responsibility) schemes. When approaching businesses, speak to the decision-maker and offer three different options with varying levels of commitment; they'll be more likely to pick one than say no altogether. Once established, develop ongoing partnerships by keeping sponsors updated on how their work has helped the school and thanking them both personally and publicly. If they can see it's mutually beneficial, they'll be more likely to continue supporting you.

Local community groups, for example Rotary Clubs and Lions International, often raise funds to give back to local projects. The amounts and criteria vary from club to club, but it's always worth asking - especially if your new project will benefit the wider community.

Fundraising events

Events can take a lot more time, effort and manpower compared to crowdfunding or grants, but they're a great way to raise awareness of a project and bring supporters together. If an outdoor area needs renovation, highlight the space in need of development by hosting a car boot sale or a campover. If it's your school hall, hold a quiz night or a barn dance. Popular sponsored events include a run, a bounce or a read-a-thon, and Gift Aid can be claimed to boost profits. Ask parents whether their employers offer match funding - many companies will pledge a sum related to the amount an employee has raised.

Passive fundraising

Passive fundraisers can run in the background of your project and keep money flowing in. Shopping affiliate and recycling schemes are a great way for parents to raise funds without spending money, while a 100 club means parents pay a set amount each month for the chance to win half the profits. These are easily administered by one person and are a low-effort way to keep funds coming in. If you don't have them set up already, implement some that suit your school, and if you do, be sure to promote them regularly.

 


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