“What is a Project Narrative and why is it important?” Webinar Now Online

In case you missed the next in Pebble’s webinar series, “What is a Project Narrative and why is it important?” we’ve put it online. It’s a great watch if you’re struggling with grant applications, asking for donations or not even sure where to start!


The Daunting Task of Asking for Donations for School Projects from the Community

“Shy Bairns Get Nowt!”135195-e2bc3dbf272d4c91aa84bf0d286f2c34

It’s a popular phrase up here in Newcastle, where Pebble is based. Just in case you don’t speak Geordie, here’s what it means: If you’re too shy to ask, you won’t get anything at all.

It goes without saying that asking your community for donations to a school project can feel awkward. Nobody enjoys the proposition of facing rejection over and over and that is why many projects fail at this step. School staff lack the confidence to approach donors in the community.

However if you’ve picked a project for your school, you already know it’s a winner and donors want to fund winning projects.

The trick is being able to fully communicate or ‘pitch’ your project with confidence.

When one is able to confidently articulate the ‘need’ for the project and what benefits the project will have for the school, the students and the community, it is no longer daunting to ask donors for help as there are fewer ‘nos’ and many more ‘yeses’.

The conversation can either go like this:

“We want iPads for our special needs students. Would you be willing to contribute £5 towards this?”

Or this:

“Many of our special needs students have difficulty communicating with staff which leads to frustration and resulting behavioural problems. Ultimately, time is taken from the children’s education to deal with these issues. There’s an app available for the iPad that helps students communicate with teachers, reducing frustration. It has been shown to have excellent results with 85% of teachers using the app saying it has ‘dramatically reduced behavioural problems in their special needs classrooms.’ We need only £5,000 to get iPads and apps for each of our students. If you contribute just £25, you will be helping our students and teachers have a more enjoyable, learning-focused school day.”

You would be more likely to donate to the second pitch, right? So would others.

In order to identify, define and articulate the need for your project, start by answering the following 10 questions:

  1. Who will your project benefit?
  2. What problem or issue will your project address?
  3. How do you know there’s a problem or an issue?
  4. What is the root cause of the problem or issue?
  5. What evidence is there that your project will address the problem or issue?
  6. Do you have research or statistics to back up your findings?
  7. Have you sought the opinion of your potential project users?
  8. Have your potential users had any influence over this project?
  9. Do you know of any other similar regional/national projects?
  10. If yes, what impact have these projects had on their communities?

Once you have all this information, your project will start to flesh itself out and you will have most of what you need to write your project narrative, which is your ‘pitch’. You can then use your new project narrative for a multitude of things:

  • Put components of your project narrative into your school newsletter, asking for contributions. Highlight how your project will benefit children. You may be surprised at how many community members really want to help make your school a better place.
  • Let Pebble help you put together a donations page on your website where your community of donors can easily donate £5, £10, £25 or even more to your project. Those small donations can really add up quickly.
  • Call local businesses and explain what you’re trying to do and how it will benefit the community. Most companies take corporate social responsibility seriously because it’s the right thing to do but also because it benefits them from a public relations perspective. Being able to publicise that they’re helping local schools and are community focused is good for their business too. It’s a win-win!
  • Use your project narrative to apply for a multitude of grants. Pebble’s Arro software includes the UK’s largest school grant database where you can match your project to different funding opportunities. For example, we currently have over 20 grants listed ranging from £100 to £50,000 for outdoor projects that benefit young people.

You don’t have to be a shy bairn. Get started today by picking a project that really inspires you. When you feel great about your project, you’ve taken the first step to get donors excited and in the frame of mind to help.

For more information on Pebble’s online donation platform, Arro’s database of grants or generating additional income for your school, please give us a call at 0845 310 1788 or at info@mypebble.co.uk.


Five Key Steps for Creating an Income Generation Plan

Does your school want to become financially resilient against the continual budget cuts
the education sector faces? It’s a dream for some schools and a reality for others. What makes those schools that can generate £50,000 a year different to those that don’t?photo-1450101499163-c8848c66ca85

In our recent national survey, 95% of Headteachers and School Business Managers said that Income Generation was ‘important’ or ‘very important’. However nearly most schools generated a comparatively disappointing amount through their income generating activities. When these respondents were interviewed, the single biggest reason they gave for poor results was a ‘lack of time’.

If time is what schools need then how do you make time? To put it bluntly….you can’t! If I could then we’d be in a different business altogether. So what’s the next best thing? You have two options:

  1. raise the priority of the task in question, therefore dropping other tasks and re-allocating time or
  2. become more time efficient and get more done in those precious hours.

As 95% said that income generation was a high priority, let’s work on the latter. Where can efficiencies be made? What do you need to realise these efficiencies?

We need a plan.

Planning is something that we do everyday. Sometimes we are not even aware that we are doing it. Planning is the process of thinking through the different steps needed to reach a desired end state or goal. Without a plan, the chances of reaching your goal or desired outcome are low, hence the common saying ‘If you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.’

Here are my five key things to remember when creating your own income generation plan.

1. Have a Visionexpand
Take hold of your school development plan and create a one-liner from the school vision that you can easily and clearly communicate to others. A vision is the most powerful tool a leader can own. Your vision will allow you to galvanise supporters and keep them motivated in times of slow progress. Visions create a big picture and are aspirational with a utopian feel about them. They might not be achieved in your lifetime but will provide focus for generations to come. Spend time getting your vision right and use it wisely. A vision is like north on a compass; change it and people can lose their path.

Example: To become the UK’s most forward thinking school with an aim to prepare our children for a rapidly changing world.

2. Set Mission Goalslist
If your vision sounds intangible then your mission goals will help you explain to others how you intend to achieve it. Mission goals break your vision down; what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, and whom you’re doing it for. It still needs to be punchy, you can use bullet points and there should be no time limit on your mission goals. See your mission goals as a high-level summary of what you do on a daily basis.

Example: To equip our children with critical thinking skills, global perspective and respect for core values of honesty, loyalty and compassion.

3. Define Projectsaddress_book
Vision and mission goals cost nothing to create but delivering them will take money. If you want people to support your activities and make donations then you need to tell them what their money is going to be spent on. When deciding which project you should undertake, ensure you think about the outcomes it will deliver and how they relate to your mission goals and vision. What will be different after this project is delivered and how will you measure this? How will you tell your supporters about your success? Finally don’t forget to let them know about the activities that will help raise funds to deliver this project. If the vision is looking into the distant horizon then projects are looking at the path beneath your feet.

Example: We plan to install an Inter-school Web Portal which will be used by our children before, during and after school. The Inter-school Web Portal will be used in partnership with our twin school in Nepal. We will alternately host two lessons every week with our twin school that focus on developing critical thinking skills and collaborative working. It’s our aim to deliver on our mission goals whilst improving technology and communication skills. Within ten months the children will showcase their ability to set-up and host Inter-school connection with a second school of their choice. This showcase will be demonstrated to parents, community members and local businesses with a live carol service between the three schools at our school’s Christmas Fair.

4. Create Activitiesbox_check
Schools are traditionally great at creating activities. Activities are your summer fairs, clubs and fundraisers which will raise money for your projects, which in turn will deliver on your mission goals, which contributes to your vision. Make sure you create a range of activities that don’t exclude those supporters who can’t visit your school. Where I see big mistakes made are when schools spend huge amounts of time on an activity and don’t factor time as a cost. If you’re not commercially savvy then find someone who is. Those schools that make the biggest return on their time investment are entrepreneurial. Those that aren’t either fail or end up subsidising the project from an already tight budget. Don’t make this mistake and create both financial and time plans for any activities you do.

5. Tell Supportersspeech_bubble_exclamation
Your plan should include communication. When you’ve done all this good work don’t forget to tell others. It very easy to push your keyboard away after you’ve spent all this time writing your vision, mission goals, project and activity plans. Your work is not done. This is where you must pick up your megaphone because you won’t get supporters sitting in the back of your chair. Social media is the cheapest and most powerful mega-phone that can reach billions of people. If your vision truly resonates with other people then Twitter, Facebook and the internet will allow you to connect with them. Make some decisions about your supporters and the best channels to reach them on. If you can’t update every social media channel every day, then don’t. Pick one channel and do it well. When you’re able to recruit a supporter to help you with the next channel then add it in afterwards.

In conclusion, we have seen all sorts of plans from different schools on how they are going to generate additional income. Some are 100-page documents and others are just two sides of A4. Both can work to keep you focused and effective. More importantly, a plan can be passed to others and they can use this plan to understand what’s inside your head. Being super efficient with your time is one thing but if you can use your plan to empower others who have time; that’s a whole new level. Maybe your issue with time is not that you don’t have any but the fact you are unable to share your workload with those that want to help.

For more tips on Income Generation get in touch with us at 0845 310 1788 or info@mypebble.co.uk. We’re experts on finding creative ways to get more funding using less time.

A Shiny New Pebble Video

Tips For Funding a Beautiful School Garden

Spring has sprung at Pebble HQ! We have our windows open wide and have been trading tales of recent Sunday afternoons spent digging in our respective gardens.

We’re not the only ones feeling the pull of the outdoors. Pebble have had many calls from schools who want to add lovely outdoor spaces including sensory gardens, vegetable gardens, outdoor library areas and even a bio-dome.garden

It’s no wonder. Being outdoors has wonderful benefits to both health and well being for pupils including: fresh air, reduced risk of a multitude of health baddies, stress relief, mental clarity, a feeling of community and giving back to the Earth. What’s more, if you have a vegetable garden there’s one more added benefit…yummy fresh food!

Donors know this and absolutely love to give money, time and resources to gardening projects. Here are a few ways you can let your garden inspire those around you to get digging:

  • Send a note out to parents about your garden plans and ask for their help. Many parents love to get involved in projects like this that benefit the school and ultimately, their child. They may be willing to donate money, supplies, equipment or even their time to get you started.
  • Visit retailers in your community to see if they would like to help. B&Q has a Community Reuse scheme to donate items to schools; you just have to visit your local store.
  • Scour the internet for freebies that may be of use in your garden. For example, Grow Your Own Potatoes will send you a free potato growing kit for you to use when you register!
  • Enter competitions such as The Harvest-ometer Challenge (London-only). Good old competitive spirit is a big driver for some. Use that to your benefit to get even more donations.

If you carrotswant more tips and tricks, links to other freebies, competitions and grants or if you’d like to get started with our Funding Passport which will get your gardening project ready and put forward to donors in just two weeks, give us a call on 0845 310 1788.

The Importance of a Project Narrative

Your project narrative is the foundation of all of your income generation efforts. Not only does it give you a framework for grant applications, it can also be used as part of your other income generation activities. A strong narrative may encourage more people to engage with your school and therefore, further increase your income. See below how you can maximise your income generation with a strong project narrative:Female hand writing on a sheet of paper

Clubs: The income you generate from the clubs at your school can be used for your project. With a clear project narrative in place, it can be used within the club and distributed to parents to inform them of how the club is helping your project.

Donations: If you have a donations page, you can use the project narrative to describe what you are raising money for.

Events: Use some of your project narrative on promotional posters, flyers and literature for your events to raise awareness of your project and to make supporters aware of how they are contributing to your project by attending the events.

Grants: Your project narrative can be used and adapted to apply for multiple grants. Once you have a clear project narrative that outlines each aspect of your project, you will be much more likely to secure funding.

Lettings: If you advertise your lettings through your website or through local media, you can use aspects of your project narrative to explain what project the money from your lettings is funding.

Services: Your project narrative can be used within your services portfolio to explain to customers how they are helping your project by purchasing your services.

Sponsorship: When approaching businesses for sponsorship, your project narrative will be a useful tool for explaining the project to them. Furthermore, if you have already set up a sponsorship deal, the text from your project narrative can be used on their website or literature.

How to write a Project Narrative?

At our workshop, ‘An Introduction to Income Generation and Grant Writing’ you will have begun to write your project narrative with the guidance of your workshop leader.

However, please do not feel that once you’re back at school that you are on your own! We are here to help you every step of the way. As you write your project narrative on our Arro system, our dedicated copywriter will give you regular feedback. Then, once your narrative reaches 75 % on Arro, you will receive bespoke feedback from our copywriter so that you can complete your narrative with confidence.

Starting with ‘why’ is the best practice when writing your project narrative. Why have you decided to undertake this project? Why do you want people to attend your activity?  ‘Why’ is the foundation underpinning the reason for your school, what your school aims to deliver and the difference your school is going to make. One of the best ways to identify the need for your project is to ask yourself why five times. That way, you will get to the core of your reasons for pursuing your project and will identify the key need.

Consultancy Option

If you would like a project narrative written for you, a Project Narrative Draft can be
purchased for £55 per hour. A professional draft of your project narrative, written iStock_000070911049_Fullby our in-house copywriter,  will save you time and strengthen your chances of securing further income. For £55 per hour, you will receive  a detailed discussion of the aims and objectives surrounding the project, a sharing of research and resources and a complete draft of your project narrative written for you by our copywriter. The estimated time to produce a project narrative, from inception to completion, is four hours.

Don’t Just Take Our Word For It!

We could write all day about the benefits of project narratives, but don’t just take our word for it. Many of our customers have found success thanks to their strong project narratives.  Read about our success stories below:

John Ruskin School, Jonathan Verity, School Business Manager:

“From start to finish, Pebble remove the complexity from grant writing and support you along the way with helpful tips and advice. With their help, I’m now confident about successfully generating income and funding streams for my school.”

Millfields Primary School, Nina Hearty, Teacher:

“I found the experience of completing a narrative for my project an interesting and worthwhile task. The process allowed me to focus and identify clear aims for the project and work collaboratively with others to create a shared vision. Arro staff were consistently quick to respond to my requests for guidance and support and were always able to offer very helpful and detailed advice.”

The Redeemer CEP, Maggie Duncan, School Business Manager

“My biggest success was applying for an Awards for All grant. We were awarded £10,000 towards an IT projects and I believe that this success was mostly due to Pebble.”

So, What Are You Waiting For?

You have already made an excellent start by reading this article and beginning your narrative at our workshop. Log onto your Pebble Arro account to add to your project narrative. If you would like some feedback, contact our copywriter, Lucy at: lucy.jones@mypebble.co.uk

We look forward to hearing from you!

“Benefits of Income Generation” Webinar Now Online

In case you missed the first in Pebble’s webinar series, “The Benefits of Income Generation” we’ve put it online. It’s a great watch if you’re new to Income Generation, or not entirely sure where to begin…

New Release: Share With Colleague, Attach Grant To Project, Grant Detail And More

At Pebble, we’re always working hard to help you generate the income you need for your projects. With the first major update to Arro, our flagship Income Generation platform, we’re delighted to announce a wealth of new features which will move you closer to your goals. From Project Sharing to Adding Grants to Projects, we’ve listened to our users and have added plenty of improvements that we’re sure you’ll love.

Share With Colleague

Getting support from your colleagues when you’re writing a Project Narrative can be hard work; but it doesn’t have to be. With our brand new Share With Colleague feature you can ask for feedback, advice and information from your Senior Leadership Team and other staff at the click of a button: 

Add your colleagues and a custom message, then Arro will send them a link to your Project Narrative where they can add their own comments. Once their comments have been submitted, you’ll be able to see them in your Projects screen. To save you even more time, you can display comments alongside your narrative while you’re editing:

Add Grants To Projects

Wouldn’t it be great if you could attach grants to your projects? Well, now you can. Stop wasting time switching between different parts of the system; when you find a grant you’d like to apply for, just Add to Project directly from the Grant Details screen:

You’ll then be able to access the grant directly from the Grants tab within your Project Narrative:

Grant Detail Required

Know how much effort you’ll need to put into a grant application before you apply. Our Income Generation Specialists now evaluate every grant we upload so you can see at a glance how much detail an application requires and how long it will take to complete:

Upload Files To Projects

Don’t lose all your hard work gathering evidence about the impact your project will have. Upload  any documents, photos or other supporting files directly to your Project Narrative and keep them all in one place:

We’ve also given the design a major overhaul and added loads of other improvements to help you get the most out of the system. Like what you see? Please let us know in the comments.

Interested In Finding Out More?

Follow us on Twitter or get in touch through our website to hear about all the products and services we offer to help you become a real Income Generation entrepreneur for your organisation.

Schools & the Environment: the benefits of ‘going green’

Have you been told that you should cut your carbon emissions? Be more eco-friendly? Consider the environment? It’s not just companies that are expected to have an awareness of the impact they have on the environment, schools are increasingly under the spotlight too.

Schools aren’t cheap to run. If your building is old, it will likely cost far more to heat. Then there’s the daily use of the classroom to consider as well as the running of school buses if your pupils are from a wider catchment area.

Being eco-friendly doesn’t have to cost the earth.

hiresIt’s widely thought that being environmentally conscious involves spending money on carbon curbing measures, installing solar panels and investing in costly energy saving technology. In fact, what it can mean for schools is simply cutting back. Being greener doesn’t mean being poorer.

If you reduce the amount of resources you consume and act responsibly with what you do use, you can greatly reduce the impact you have on the environment. If you consider the costs involved in running a school, thinking ‘green’ could mean saving money too.

According to Eco-Schools, “schools in the UK spend approximately £100m on electricity; £106m on water; £39m on cleaning up litter and preventing vandalism; £56m on emptying bins; and £150m on paper and school stationery every year.” So, cutting back really can mean cutting costs.

What’s in it for you?

As well as saving money, being environmentally conscious in schools can extend beyond simple actions; it becomes part of the broader learning structure too. Teaching children about recycling, switching off lights and reducing waste can have a significant impact on them at home as well as at school.

You can get money too. Funding environmental projects is a trend among UK Trusts and Foundations and that isn’t likely to change for a while. Numerous grants are available to schools that wish to run environmental projects from Trusts such as Ernest Cook and Naturesave. Money can also be made from recycling with many companies offering cash in return for goods such as Bag2School and RecyCool. Schools should take advantage of these opportunities while they can!

Where do you start?

Small changes can have a big impact. Recycling, switching off lights, only using the water you need, reducing the amount you print and closing doors and windows are all little things that add up.

Consider running a small environmental project within the school and apply for a grant to run it. Ernest Cook Trust is one of the UK’s most popular funders of environmental projects. They give grants to schools who want to get more young people involved in environmental activities.

There are also free resources available to get you where you need to be. Green Hero is a great example. They offer free resources to primary schools to help them teach environmental education and sustainability.

Pebble’s position

We’re all being asked to do our bit and at Pebble, we’re leading by example. In our office in Newcastle, we’re committed to reducing the amount of energy we use and the waste we produce. We’re so committed that we’ve even put our Environmental Policy on our website for the world to see! We’re making it part of our company culture, being environmentally conscious and thinking about the environmental impact of our actions.

We started by making small changes. So can you.

If your school would like to know how you can generate more income, save money in the long term and access funds for environmental projects, get in touch! Pebble provides tools and advice to schools and academies that helps them do just that.


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