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Socially-distanced event ideas

Social distancing might mean you can't run some events, but with a little creativity you can still raise money and have fun.

For most PTAs, fundraising is pretty challenging right now. But events can still go ahead - you just need to think a bit differently. Once you've chosen the type of event you feel comfortable running, read through our ideas and themes to create the perfect experience for your supporters.

Individual challenges

Climb a mountain: Challenge children to walk up a nearby hill - or their own staircase - until they've climbed the height of Snowdon, Ben Nevis or even Everest! You could even get them to make a flag, which they can 'plant' at the summit. Award prizes for the fastest climb and the best flag.

Run a marathon: Give parents an excuse to get out of the house by inviting them to run a marathon within one month individually. They can raise money for the school while achieving a personal challenge.

Sponsored beard shave:  Ask a hairy dad if they would like to shave their beard to support your school or find a supporter with long hair who's willing to cut it off.

School anniversary challenge:  Take inspiration from the 2.6 Challenge and ask supporters to think of individual challenges based around the number of years your school has been in existence - the more unusual the ideas, the better.

Seek inspiration from your local area, the diversity of your community, and the interests of your supporters to come up with something unique.

Group challenges

Complete a trek:  Whether it's Land's End to John O'Groats, around the Equator or across the sea, the distance everyone travels is pooled until the group has collectively reached its goal. To increase involvement, invite people to take part in whichever way they wish, be it run, walk, cycle or skip.

Readathon:  Readers are sponsored per page (or book) over a week, fortnight or month. Make it more exciting by creating a goal that's unique to your school. Could you collectively read as many books as are in the school library or read books that together equal the height of the school? Read For My School (readformyschool.com) can help pupils keep track of how they're getting on. Other sponsored events that can be completed individually at home as part of a group challenge include spellathons, and maths, dance or football challenges.

Run a relay: Run this class by class to keep it manageable. Parents of runners will need to let you know their address, or an alternative start point if they're not running from home. Each child will run to their closest classmate's house, where they will then 'pass the baton' by waving. Children who live in another town can come and do a lap of a local park. Use a planner such as MapMyRun or Google Maps to work out the route, and a WhatsApp group on the day to let parents know when each runner is on their way.

Track sporting success

For sporty fundraisers, participants can keep track of how far they've travelled via apps like Strava, Fitbit and Google Fit. Ask them to submit their achievements to you regularly so you can keep supporters updated on how close you are to meeting targets.

Virtual events

Get everyone having fun at the same time from the comfort of their own homes. When considering what you could run, take existing events and break them down. How can you capture the different elements online? How will you make a profit?

Afternoon tea: Parents order their food online in advance, and it's delivered fresh to their home on the day of the event. It can then be enjoyed together via a private Zoom link. If there's a baker in your community, get them involved. Add a bit of a tipple with a G & Tea.

Entertainment shows: All manner of entertainers have taken their business online, including clowns, magicians and scientists. Depending on pupil numbers, you can book one bigger show or multiple shorter ones to suit different age groups.

Balloon race:  Eco-racing (ecoracing.co) runs virtual balloon races using real weather data and geographical positions. Supporters each buy a balloon, which they can then decorate and alter prior to launch, before following it through its realistic flight path.

Workshops:  Draw on the talents of your local community to get everyone learning a new skill, or even taking up a new hobby. One-off workshops could include everything from baking and pottery to flower-arranging and pumpkin carving. If you have enough interest, ask supporters to sign up for a series of classes, such as salsa dancing or music lessons. If attendees need certain materials to take part, provide them with a shopping list, or include materials in the ticket price and deliver to their home.

Bingo: Ask players to print randomly generated cards from a website such as onlinebingo.info. Use an app to generate the numbers when calling. For a twist, how about music bingo? Instead of numbers, email out cards with song titles. Play 15 seconds of each song. Players tick off a song when they hear it, and the first person to get a line or house wins.

Quiz:  Create multiple rounds incorporating pictures, songs and even riddles. Players keep track of their answers and mark themselves at the end. If you're concerned about cheating, offer a prize for something that's difficult to Google, such as the number of sweets in a jar or a teacher's favourite band.

Disco: Make a playlist of popular tunes to play through your device to everyone in the call. Mute the kids so they can hear the music and dance along while seeing their friends. Ask everyone to wear bright colours and add some classic party games for variety.

Art trail:  Ask children to make art around a theme, such as favourite authors or awesome autumn. It can be anything that can be displayed in their window, from drawings to sculptures. Produce a map for families to follow and share photos on social media for anyone who can't visit the trail in person.

Christmas plans

Wreath-making evening: Find a crafty parent or professional florist who's willing to hold a virtual workshop. Send out kits in advance.

Christmas tree sales: Link up with a local Christmas tree seller, taking a percentage for the PTA in exchange for securing sales.

Christmas hampers: If requesting donations, make sure everyone is aware of the deadline and ask if items can be left untouched in the school for a few days. Ask local companies to donate in exchange for publicity. Collect items together in themed hampers and use as raffle prizes.

Distanced events

While external access to the school and larger gatherings are limited, face-to-face events may not be possible for a while yet. Speak to the school about what they are comfortable with and what might be possible. In time, you may be able to hold an event for each bubble of children at your school or an outdoor family event with marked out plots where each family or bubble can sit together.

To keep everyone safe, provide hand sanitiser and ensure toilets are cleaned between uses. If it isn't possible to hold events at the school, is there an alternative outside venue that you could hire?

Charging for events

For some families, this is a difficult time financially. Set a suggested donation for your event so people can give what they can, and make it clear that financial hardship won't exclude anyone from participating. Could a local business sponsor your event? If you are selling tickets for events where circumstances may change, write a clear policy demonstrating what will happen if the event is postponed or cancelled.

Remind parents of the important role your PTA plays in the school community. Funding gaps are more acute now than ever before, and some parents may even be persuaded to give more as a result.

'We raised £867 with a virtual balloon race'

'A local hospice had been advertising a virtual balloon race, and the idea seemed appealing to us. I decided to look into how it worked, and discovered we could sign up to join the 'School's Out' race with ecoracing.co without any risk or initial outlay.

However, we needn't have worried about lack of interest! In just a few weeks, we sold 367 balloons - at £3 each - to people within the school and local community, as well as to friends and family. We let parents know about the race via a flyer sent out from the school, then spread the word wider using social media, including our own Facebook group and the local village Facebook page.

We also tried to encourage a bit of healthy competition within families and workplaces to generate more sales.

We found that sending regular reminders to our supporters - via text from the school and on social media - helped draw in more participants, as did offering our own local prizes as well as the national ones.

Before lockdown, we had already started preparations for our summer fair, so were able to use already-donated bottles to make up a drinks hamper. We also used items from our 'gift amnesty' collection box - something we use to collect donations all year round - as other prizes.

Our supporters enjoyed watching the race launch online, and we posted regular updates on which balloons were travelling the furthest. One of our supporters' balloons came second overall, so they won one of the national prizes from Ecoracing! It was a win for them and a win for us, as we raised £867.'

Michelle Bebbington, chair, Friends of Hartford Manor, Hartford, Cheshire (414 pupils)

'Our virtual gin-tasting night raised £700!'

'Instead of cancelling our PTA gin-tasting night, we decided to hold it virtually. We posted a poll on our Facebook page to gauge interest and decided to make up 50 boxes containing enough gin and tonic for five drinks, plus snacks. We only included craft gins, because we felt it needed to be brands people couldn't find locally or in supermarkets.

I started researching the types of gin by asking questions on some gin forums. I got chatting to a lot of people and secured some impressive deals and help from distilleries, including a donation of 50 miniatures. I'm a member of Craft Gin Club and was able to take advantage of its offers too. I also referred some PTA members, who each bought a box at an introductory price. The most we paid for a bottle was £20.

We bought two bottles of each of our five chosen gins. Each 70cl bottle contained 28 servings, so we decanted them into 25ml measures using sterilised bottles purchased from Ampulla. I contacted a tonic brand, which offered us a great deal, and we ordered snacks from Snack Revolution and Candy Kittens. Each box cost £10 to put together, and we paid £21 for a TEN. Participants paid £20 for each box, and I left the boxes in my garage so people could collect them on their daily walks.

We posted information about each drink on our Facebook page, and the boxes included instructions on how to prepare each drink, plus a reveal of each brand's name for after the tasting. Some people got together in groups on Zoom, while others took part with their partner. We raised £700 and still had a fantastic gin night!'

Kate Horrey, fundraising team co-chair, Katherine Semar School, Saffron Walden, Essex (480 pupils)


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