Fundraising In A Recession – The Way Forward

At the end of the financial year in March 2011 all funding for Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) came to an end. As a result the majority of Extended Services Coordinators (ESCOs) were made redundant. For five years this additional Government funding helped to provide opportunities for family leaning, school clubs, holiday schemes, childcare and access to specialist services. ESCOs were pivotal in resourcing and meeting the needs of their schools and communities. Currently in the grips of an economic recession with significant cuts in Government funding schools and educational services are hard pressed to the type of activities they can continue to provide. In order to provide continued support consideration should be given to seeking funding from external sources.

Fundraising in a recession may be a daunting thought however there is a way forward. Regardless of the school funding climate there are always opportunities to be harnessed and always people to be found to give help and advice.

Finding alternative funding; there is an estimated £1.5bn available for educational projects, activities and services from businesses, grant-making trusts and foundations. These opportunities are available in the forms of cash grants, in-kind support, competitions, awards, volunteers, discounts and free resources. The key to achieving success from these sources comes from knowing how to organise your time effectively, prioritising your needs, and engaging support from your school and community. With all this choice and limited time write yourself a vision and a strategy for what you will apply for.

Define your fundraising vision and strategy. Whether you are new to fundraising or not a vision will instil a sense of positivity, togetherness and direction, which are invaluable at any stage to any fundraising mission. In short, a fundraising vision is a strategic way of thinking about your school’s fundraising efforts over the next 12 month to three year period. For many schools fundraising is donation collection, fetes and mufti-days. Applying for funding and grants may be a completely new experience. If your school doesn’t have a fundraising vision now is the time to do something about it. Express what position you want your school to be in at the end of the timeframe. It should:

  • Embody an empowering message that is shared, understood and achievable by colleagues, pupils, parents and local community representatives
  • Capture the school’s mission statement and commitment to the local school community.

Why is it important to have a fundraising strategy? It effectively translates your vision into a tangible framework of action. It keeps fundraising on track and more importantly those involved motivated. Your fundraising strategy should:

  • Set your fundraising aims and objectives (which should be specific, achievable within a specified timeframe, have clear benefit to your school community, relevant to your school and its strengths, and measureable so that you can record your progress against them)
  • Define your priorities for fundraising according to your school’s most urgent needs
  • Set out the roles and responsibilities of an appointed fundraising team
  • Plan out a timetable of activities that will underpin your fundraising efforts.

Like the fundraising vision, it should be shared and agreed upon by colleagues and other members of your school community. It is important to involve them at this early stage of fundraising, to gather their ideas, support and participation that will ultimately help your school realise its vision.

How do you ensure your fundraising drive has a visible presence in your school or a virtual presence on your school’s website? Keep information up to date on noticeboards or a bulletin pages to keep the school community interested and coming back for updates. This might encourage offers of help, which can make a real difference to your success. This could be in the form of:

  • Proposal and bid writing
  • Organising and hosting of local fundraising activities
  • Local knowledge of businesses and community groups

Often the challenge is making the most of your volunteers’ skills, expertise and time, while making it an enjoyable and rewarding experience for all. Make sure that you give your volunteers manageable and practical tasks that they are willing and able to do, set achievable goals, and praise their accomplishments.

Remember that fundraising should develop and change according to your school’s current situation and specific needs. Be sure to review your progress so far, reflect on your successes, and make adjustments as necessary, in order to keep your strategy fresh, your outlook positive, and maximise your fundraising efforts.

Julia Sharman

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