Schoolzone: School fundraising

School fundraising

Until recently many schools’ fundraising efforts amounted to little more than the annual summer fair and the occasional special event to replace the ageing minibus. Asurvey of school fundraising in 2009, however, showed that nearly half of secondary schools and six per cent of primary schools successfully raised more than £10,000 in extra funds.

Many schools are now realising that carrying out their own fundraising activities can provide the extra cash and resources they need to raise standards and meet their development plans. Each year hundreds of millions of pounds of external cash and resources are available to schools that know how to access them.

Developing a strategy
Before beginning any fundraising initiative it is important to take stock of the school’s financial position and decide what the priority areas are. For this to be successful it is important that the headteacher, or another other senior manager with access to such information, is closely involved.

Many schools, especially larger secondaries, give a management allowance for a suitably qualified member of staff to coordinate such work. This can be a cost-effective option. It is vital whoever is chosen links closely with the school development plan, so priority areas identified in this official document can be addressed.

For example, it may be that buying new sets of textbooks has to take second place to providing adequate computer provision for students, if this is the key whole-school development priority.

Once this audit of priorities is completed you can build a plan for the year to target the fundraising effort, perhaps with no more than three specific projects or priorities. Then the hard work of finding patrons can begin in earnest.

Fundraising can be targeted at a variety of areas:

  • An extension or new building – a new sports hall, music room or science laboratory
  • Specific resources such as computers, sports equipment or books
  • Environmental projects – an environment pond, recycling scheme etc
  • School visits in the UK and overseas
  • Curriculum enhancement initiatives
  • One-off appeals, such as resurfacing the all-weather pitch
  • What types of funds are available to schools?

Three factors mean there have never been more sources of funds for schools than there are today:

  • The shifting position of the government on centrally delegated funds for schools
  • A raft of new educational initiatives
  • The increasing community focus of businesses and the many charities and other groups organising competitions for schools

Read our tips for fundraising

Business donations
Many businesses arehappy to give cash or resources to schools as part of their community work or in return for positive publicity. So cultivating strong links with the managers of key local businesses can reap far-reaching benefits. Schools are also discovering the value of involving such companies in delivering curriculum programmes, and the benefits students can derive through working with local employers.

Businesses are often keen to provide support for a specific initiative (for example, equipping an ICT room), rather than providing general donations. A good place to start making these links is your local Yellow Pages or chamber of trade. Remember to ask yourself what is in it for the business too – look after you sponsors.

School appeals and events
There are diverse ways in which schools can raise funds from the community through specific appeals, from fashion parades to cookery demonstrations. Many of these can be linked into school projects or examination work, and getting students to help organise such events is invaluable in helping them develop life skills.

Imagination and novelty are often the key to success in such schemes and our Fifty fundraising ideas for schools article includes many possibilities in this area. The advantage here is that the timing is flexible and the cash raised can be channelled directly into priority areas.

European funding
Schools wanting to gain funds to develop European links through the curriculum and exchanges can expect generous EU grants, particularly through the Comenius Programme (further details are available throughthe British Council).

Many of these schemes are as yet under-subscribed and the excellent support available from the organising bodies make the chances of a successful bid very favourable.

The National Lottery
The world’s most successful lottery has injected a huge amount into the voluntary and community sector and is a potential goldmine for schools. Although many of the lottery schemes are not aimed specifically at schools, they are eligible to apply for funds under certain criteria.

The key is adapting the application to the requirements of the awards. The application forms for the larger schemes, such as building a sports centre, are still daunting, but there has been a recent move to simplify the application process.

Competitions and awards
Barely a week goes by without a school competition being launched in the Times Educational Supplement. School fundraisers should do everything they can to support and encourage colleagues to enter students’ work in such competitions.

It is surprisingly easy to build competitions into curriculum work. Especially as some competitions simply require the submission of students’ ready-prepared coursework. They are often also a powerful motivating force for students.

Grant making trusts
Scanning through the pages of the Directory of Grant-making trusts (published by the Charities’ Aid Foundation and available in larger libraries and online) will reveal thousands of potential patrons. Carefully targeted applications to such funding bodies are often welcomed, but this type of funding is underused by schools.

The computer programme FunderFinder, available at, can help narrow down the search, and their web page of links to trust funds is an excellent resource.


Other considerations
LocalAuthorities, eager for their schools to provide the much-needed resources to raise standards, are only too keen for schools to carry out their own fundraising work. It is worth finding out if there is a grants or funding officer at the LA who could help your school by looking over your funding applications.

With this type of support, a well-organised school fundraiser could probably increase the school budget by 5-10 per cent in both the primary and secondary sector.

But they need protected time away from students and meetings to carry out the task effectively. The demands on teachers’ time has led to some schools using the services of specialist fundraising consultants.

Charity fundraising
As well as raising funds for themselves, many schools have taken up the challenge of helping local or national charities with their appeals. The success of such work by schools for the annual Children in Need appeal is testament to the excellent results possible in this area.

Such work is also an effective way of raising students’ awareness of important social issues in their communities, especially with the introduction of the new Citizenship programme in 2002.

A final word
Fundraising is time-consuming and sometimes soul destroying.

Perseverance is the key – if you keep at it there are sufficient funds out there to mean that eventually you will be successful. Once you have discovered the correct formula further success is likely to follow, and you could be on your way to your first million.


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