Play to your strengths

How two PTAs made the most of their volunteers' skills

During the pandemic, it has become more important than ever for PTAs to adapt and be enterprising in order to succeed. You already know your PTA volunteers are amazing: hardworking, resourceful and energetic, but is there more to them than meets the eye? Have they been hiding a specialist skill that you could tap into to create something unique and help raise funds?

Our creative team raised over £7,000 during lockdown!

The Friends of Halsford Park School in East Grinstead, West Sussex, has always attracted creative people, and recent school fairs have featured a stall selling handmade items created and donated by talented parents. Secretary Sarah Everson explains how they harnessed this creativity and put it to good use during lockdown.

Reusable masks: Last May, a grandparent of children at our school approached me with an offer to make reusable face masks in aid of our charity. The chair thought this was a great idea, and agreed to look after the admin, advertise the masks on Facebook and arrange distribution. After a few weeks, we became known as the local PTA who were making masks. I joined four other parents, another grandparent and an ex-pupil in the sewing effort. We started off making one standard size of face covering, but as demand grew we increased our range and now offer masks in sizes from pre-school to extra-large. We were given donations of fabric, so our costs were low, and we were able to offer the masks for a suggested donation (of £4), which most people paid by bank transfer. Demand was so overwhelming we lost track of how many masks we made, but as of November 2020, we had raised £6,800!

School photos: When I saw the date on the calendar for school class photos during lockdown, I realised we were going to miss out this year. Most children werent in school, and those who were there wouldn’t be able to gather together for a photo. I suggested to our chair and graphic designer that we invite parents to submit photos of their children (in school uniform), and we would compile ‘lockdown school photos for each class.

We set up a consent form on Google Forms and a Dropbox with folders for each classs images. Although there were a few teething problems uploading photos, in the end more than 70% of the children had their photo submitted. All the teachers and TAs sent in pictures too. Our designer worked her magic, and we posted proofs on our private Facebook group and offered prints for sale via PTA Events. In total, we raised £887.

‘My mechanical engineering background has come in handy

Richard Brigg, vice chair of Moorside Friends (MOORFS) in Lancaster, has a background in mechanical engineering. He put his inventiveness and passion for science and engineering to good use for his sons school.

Games and props: I had previously made two Christmas tree themed games and a touchscreen-operated character tree for a Christmas tree festival, so I offered them to the PTA for use at their Christmas fair in 2018. They were hugely popular, so I started working on a feed the bunny game for the spring fair. Keeping up the momentum, I set to work refurbishing a couple of electric ride-on jeeps, to enable us to run a MOORFS Driving School at the summer fair. We set up the reception playground with a painted road layout, cones and road signs. During the three-hour fair, children took 120 rides, and we raised £240!

Next came a request from our headteacher for a spooky coffin to be used at the Halloween disco. Not wanting to disappoint, I rigged up a scaled-down coffin with a pressure mat. When someone stood on the mat, the coffin opened up slowly, and a skeleton sat up.

I felt I needed to keep up my reputation for innovation in 2019. I had seen a Google Doodle garden gnome catapult game, which planted the seed of an idea for elf twangers. We set these wooden catapults up at the fair with stuffed toy elves and a target to aim for. Children, parents and teachers all loved them, and they raised £150.

MOORFS movies: ‘During lockdown, I noticed the increase in popularity of outdoor film nights, which got me thinking about an old projector with a broken bulb that was languishing in a cupboard at home. I dug out the projector, refurbished it, and packaged it up in a carrying crate with an unwanted DVD player and a pop-up screen to make a ‘MOORFS Movies kit.

We offered it for hire for an evening or a weekend at a time, via our Facebook page and other Facebook groups connected with the school. Word spread within the local community, so as well as bookings from school families, we started to attract interest beyond the school. Due to the need to quarantine the equipment between bookings, we are limited on how often we can hire it out, but we hope it will be a steady income stream for many months to come. So far, we’ve raised £120.

Do your supporters have hidden talents? Ask for creative solutions to your fundraising challenges in the school newsletter or send out a questionnaire so parents can reveal their expertise.