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‘Covid needn’t scupper fundraising,’ expert tells schools

Additional cash is more important than ever in these uniquely difficult times, says expert Kate Jillings as she urges parents to rally round.

Schools were suffering squeezed budgets long before the additional expenses of keeping going during the pandemic kicked in.

Keeping pupils and staff safe have proved costly while setting up remote learning platforms and paying for support staff to cover sickness and those having to isolate don’t come cheap. And schools serving disadvantaged areas have faced additional outlay as they help families struggling to keep their heads above water.

Respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that school spending per pupil in England fell by 9% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2019-20. This represents the largest cut in over 40 years, though these cuts come on the back of a significant increase in spending per pupil of over 60% during the 2000s.

Research by the charity Parentkind shows its Parent Teacher Association members have lost as much as £42m in fundraising this because of the pandemic

But these unprecedentedly difficult times are not the moment to let efforts slip.

Many schools need additional funds simply to keep going; others are raising money for Covid hardship funds to help families facing particular pressures. So what are the key things to keep in mind when it comes to fundraising?

Here are my top tips.

Have a defined objective

What do you want to raise money for? It makes it much easier to focus your efforts if you have a particular project in mind. And those you approach for contributions will immediately be engaged in your campaign.

Know your school community

What are the needs of your pupils, teaching staff and parents? By involving them in your fundraising every step of the way, you’re far more likely to get ‘buy in’.

Don’t forget your alumni

Has your school kept in touch with its old boys and girls? Approached in the right way, many of them will be only too happy to make a contribution – often a sizeable one. Especially at this time of year, we tend to look back with affection at their school careers and recall nativity plays and other seasonal highlights from their childhoods. But far too many schools rely on email addresses to stay in touch. These often expire as soon as the child leaves the school or a year later. Think about establishing a high-quality portal for managing donations from past pupils.

It’s all about sustainability and building long-term relationships rather than a quick cash and grab.

You will be far better placed for future fundraising projects if you establish an enduring relationship with alumni, many of whom will have gone on to successful careers. And remember that giving isn’t just about money. Former pupils may be better placed to give ‘in kind’ with expertise or contacts.

Make it personal
Emails are a useful way to communicate with donors once your project is up and running. But initially, reaching out in person makes a much better impression and helps you to establish fruitful relationships quickly.

Check out local traders

Don’t forget that local businesses may be able to help you. Although they too are facing enormous financial problems, they may be able to offer assistance in terms of expertise or transport or manpower.

Look beyond the school gates
Talk to other schools in the area. It may be advantageous to join forces and work together on a particular project. Other school communities may bring additional strengths and experience to the table.

Don’t let Covid gloom get your down

Try to take an upbeat approach to your endeavours despite the very real challenges posed by the pandemic. Many schools have found that virtual events – quizzes, treasure hunts – have gone down a storm.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

You won’t be short of seasonally-themed ideas. Carol sing-alongs, Christmas gifts and a host of others will spring to mind.