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School fundraising tips for parents

School fundraising in the UK
Practical advice for parents about grants, fundraising events and projects that can help raise money for primary and secondary schools in the UK.
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If you're keen to support your child's school, and tired of seeing out-of-date equipment and struggling teachers, there are a lot of things you can do to help out. Parents can play a vital role in raising money for their local schools. Whether you're are a member of the PTA or simply a passionate parent, you can bring new information to the table that your child's school may not have. Lindsey Marsh, author of The School Fundraising Handbook, offers her expert advice. 

School grants: Everything UK parents need to know

Grants are sums of money that do not need to be paid back, and are usually restricted to specific groups or causes. When it comes to school grants, some might be for sports, some for equipment, and others for resources. Doing your research is vital; Lindsey recommends:

  • Visiting the funder's website
  • Reading grant policies 
  • Reading guidance notes
  • Checking answers to frequently asked questions 
  • Viewing the award criteria
  • Taking an eligibility test 
  • Contacting the funder for more information 

Who gives school grants in the UK?

"Grants can be given by individuals or organisations such as charities, businesses and local councils," explains Lindsey. She lists the National Lottery Good Causes, National Association for Voluntary and Community Action, and the Charity Commission for England and Wales as just a few examples.

You need to make sure the right person applies for the grant as some only allow applications directly from the school, but others will allow a third party or volunteer to apply as long as it is made clear that the school has sanctioned it. Don't be disheartened if you cannot apply yourself – as Lindsey says, "There is no reason why the PTA can’t look into it and gather the relevant information required for the school to support or progress an application."

Funders are keen to see evidence of support from parents, students, PTA and volunteers when they consider an application, so do some research, contact your school and get yourself (and your children) involved in brainstorming grant ideas!  

How to fundraise for ICT school projects

There is plenty of funding available for educational ICT projects and it's important to utilise this because ICT can be one of the most expensive elements of a school budget.

Lindsey highlights some of the things teachers and parents may consider doing with their school:

  • Running an after-school club for graphic design or coding
  • Funding the salary of an ICT technician 
  • Running e-safety awareness sessions for parents amd families
  • Funding a new parent-teacher communication app 

Tips on raising money for ICT in UK schools  

Donate a PC website is a free service encouraging people and organisations to donate ICT equipment to good causes. The items included on their platform can be anything from laptops to printers and scanners.

"Schools and PTAs can also generate uncome using Rocket Fund which is a non-profit crowdfunding platform specifically designed to help schools and PTAs fundraise for technology-related projects. It is completely free to post on the site and schools keep 100% of the donations," explains Lindsey. 

She adds: "Most schools have a strategic ICT plan which fundraisers should consult when tasked with a technology-related fundraising project." 

As well as grants, some technology-based businesses, such as Sony, offer support for schools and can offer free tours of their manufacturing company. This is a great opportunity to encourage and inspire young entrepreneurs and tech-savvy students. 

Lindsey says if your school is based near an Amazon fulfilment centre or has any connections with Amazon employees, the school could be nominated to recieve monetary and product donations like Kindles or VR headsets. 

Fun ideas for funding UK school libraries

Despite the many benefits that a school library can bring, there is no statutory requirement for schools to have a library. Many libraries are facing cuts or closure but there are sources out there that can offer support for your school.

If you are looking for librarians or other staff for a library you can advertise using the school newsletter and post volunteer opportunities on the Do-it website. If you are considering volunteering you will need an enhanced DBS check (Disclosure and Barring Service) but there shouldn't be a charge for this. 

In Lindsey's book she highlights several ways you can raise money for a library project and explains that grant-giving trusts like to support organisations that take the initiative to fundraise for themselves. Here are some of her suggestions: 

  • A second-hand book sale. Invite staff and parents to donate books for your sale and maybe even include bookmarks and refreshments for the event. 
  • A sponsored readathon. 
  • A family reading breakfast. Invite parents to join their child for breakfast and share and discuss stories.
  • A book-to-film night. Pick a famous film based on a book and enjoy a movie night in the school library. 
  • A book fair.
  • A book-themed dressing-up day. 
  • A story evening. Invite the children to come back to school in their pyjamas, read a bedtime story and enjoy milk or hot chocolate. 
  • A book swap party. Ask everyone to bring in a book to swap and any left over books can be donated to the library. 
  • A raffle or auction. You could contact local authors and ask them to donate a signed copy of their book for the event. 

UK grants and schemes for school libraries 

There are specific organisations which aim to help schools raise money for books and libraries. The Book People's School Fundraising Scheme allows schools to earn a 10% commission on any sales they help generate and simply requires that when your supporters shop online they use a unique fundraising code at the checkout. Read for My School is another great source which helps schools fundraise by running online reading challenges at a small service fee.

"You could also produce your own school book to sell," says Lindsey – for example, The Cookbook Initiative allows schools, PTAs and other fundraisers to create their own professional cookbook. Students and parents can submit recipes and photos and the school can personalise the front page. There is a reasonable charge for the books and this allows plenty of opportunity for making a profit by selling them for more than you paid. 

Fundraising tips for school music projects

If you're looking to raise money for musical instruments or other music projects, there are plenty of fun music-themed fundraisers you could consider organising such as:

  • X Factor-style competition or talent show
  • Invite a local dance instructor to teach an evening of line dancing or something similar
  • Karaoke night
  • Music festival on school grounds with local singers and bands
  • Sponsored silence
  • Create a music CD to sell to parents (Recordings 4 Schools can help you make a professional CD)

Lindsey explains how you can also leverage support from local businesses. "Try creating lasting relationships with organisations that are prepared to help out, and keep thinking ahead. If you would like your local corner shop to sell raffle tickets on your behalf in the future, then thank them in your school newsletter, credit them on your website and/or send them a handwritten thank-you card."

Music grants in the UK 

If your school is in need of some extra financial help for music then it may be worth investingating organisations such as Jessie's Fund, Music for All, Restore the Music UK, and Roger David Burrows Music Fund. 

Fundraising for PE and sports in UK schools

If you're fundraising for large sports projects, then Lindsey says it may be worth requesting donations of specific items instead of fundraising to buy them. She recommends:

Of course, you and your school can also host sports-themed fundraising events such as:

  • A sports quiz. You could charge an entry fee for each team and provide prizes.
  • A sponsored walk or fun run. 
  • A football tournament. You could charge a registration fee and sell refreshments. 
  • An assault course. 

Lindsey also recommends signing up to fundraising platforms such as Total Giving to create a page and appeal for donations. "There is no charge for this service, meaning that schools keep 100% of the donations received. It takes less than five minutes to create a fundraising page." 

You can also try and recruit your local running club or trampoline park to put on fundraising events on your behalf. "Don't forget to keep an eye on events happening in your local area, as there may be opportunities to make money. If there is a football match scheduled at a local stadium, for instance, why not ask if you and a team of students can hold a bucket collection on the day?" suggests Lindsey. 

Tips on helping your school's PTA raise money

On most school websites, you can find a section about the PTA with names and contact details, otherwise you should be able to request more information directly from your school. A well-organised PTA will be accessible and often have social media accounts such as WhatsApp and Facebook.

Amanda Szulik is the chair of the PTA at her children's school in Cardiff. She encourages parents and carers to get in contact if they have ideas or want to volunteer for events. "We have email, Twitter and the school website so if you want to get involved you're more than welcome."  She says if you have a fundraising idea you can get your friends and family involved and the PTA will help publicise the event and offer a hand on the day. "Parents can take over and manage things because we can't do it all!" Amanda explains. 

As chair, Amanda has monthly meetings with the head of the school to go through any new ideas and she says they rarely ever say no and always consider every idea carefully. 

"We try to do community-based things as much as possible. We’ve had a BBQ, we’ve had a bake for books sale – we challenge every year group to run a bake sale and whatever they bake is then pushed back into their year group in books. So for example, Reception raised £300 so we’ll buy £300 of books. Next year they may have enough books so we might do bake for something else. It’s a way of getting parents and children involved and they can see where their money goes." 

In Lindsey's handbook, she highlights that PTAs can register as a charity, which will exempt them from tax and make them eligible for Gift Aid and Payroll Giving. "By having charitable status, your PTA will also be eligible to apply to many more grant-making trusts." 

Extract adapted from The School Fundraising Handbook (Crown House Publishing) by Lindsey Marsh. Copyright © 2019.

School Fundraising Handbook front cover