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How a small, rural primary school raised £50,000 for a new classroom
Snape Primary School needed to raise money to build a new classroom, so it could expand to take more pupils. Here’s how they did it, and how you can too.
Sarah Gallagher is the headteacher at Snape Primary School in rural Suffolk. It has 44 pupils and is rated good by Ofsted.
The need for a new classroom
Snape Primary School used to take pupils up to year 4, but decided to expand when the local authority reviewed the school provision in the area, to avoid losing pupils whose parents would prefer a consistent primary school experience for them, and to show that the school was viable for the future.
It needed a new classroom to accommodate the extra pupils, which would cost £92,000. About £40,000 had been built up over time in the school's reserves, where the local authority had given the school permission to reach the maximum level before it clawed back the money.
This still left the school with a long way to go.
Have a small group lead the project
Identify a couple of people to ‘own’ the fundraising effort and organise the others so your project keeps up momentum. Ideally, this group would include people with a good mix of skills, and varied local links, to give you as many options as possible.
At Snape Primary School, the effort was led by the headteacher and governing board. The governors probably overstepped their strategic role during this project, but as Sarah explained, sometimes this has to happen in small schools to get things done.
The governing board had a range of skills, including a couple of older people with extensive knowledge of the community. A lot of them were also retired, meaning they had a lot of time to dedicate to the fundraising effort.
Set a funding strategy
When fundraising for a large amount of money, set a funding strategy.
- Identify the different sources of money available (grants, match funding from local businesses, events, donations) so that you spread the risk
- Divide up the workload among a small group of committed people, assigning jobs, setting targets and deadlines
- Monitor progress by meeting regularly and tweaking the plan where necessary
Read more about creating a fundraising strategy, and use our template plan.
To get the fundraising effort started, the group asked itself:
- Who do we know in our local area? Who do we already have links with? Can we get help from suppliers, businesses, community groups, the parish or town council, societies, religious groups, parent groups, sports teams?
- How can we use their skills?
- Will we able to make money from this?
- What can we do that is different enough from our usual fundraising activities? How can we make sure this campaign attracts attention?
Apply for grants
Bidding for grants can bring in significant chunks of money and make a big dent in your fundraising target. You don't have to seek the full total from one organisation – applying for a range of smaller grants maximises your chance of success, spreads your risk, and helps you build relationships with different organisations.
Once you’ve gathered your evidence and prepared the documents to support your bid (this usually involves cost breakdowns, evidence of local need, expected outcomes, etc.) applying to multiple sources is simplified – you're essentially copying and pasting.
The retired governors at Snape Primary School put lots of time into applying for grants, both from larger national charities and small, local ones. This paid off – the school received a range of grants from:
- The local councillor’s ‘locality fund’, which supports community projects (£2,650)
- Mrs L D Rope Foundation a Suffolk-based charity with 3 separate funding streams (£3,000)
- Garfield Weston Foundation, a national charity that awards grants to projects in a wide range of fields (£6,000)
- The Adnams Charity, a brewery with a charity that awards grants to local causes (£1,000)
- Sizewell B, a nearby nuclear power station run by EDF Energy (£500)
Find grants relevant to your project in our funds and freebies for small or rural schools article.
Hold a flagship event
Schedule at least one big event that gets the whole community involved, aims to raise a lot of money in one go, and is a great media opportunity. Holding an event at the launch of your fundraising efforts communicates your plans for improvement to your whole community – you never know where offers of support might come from after this.
Snape Primary School ran a ‘heritage weekend’ – an event which centred on the history of the school and engaged the whole community. The weekend ran from 11am to 5pm over 2 days in April, and involved:
- Dancing and music provided by pupils
- An exhibition of school photographs and artefacts from 1905 to the present day, provided by the village archivist
- A vehicle display featuring vintage fire engines and tractors
- A heritage evening with a talk from the village archivist – people purchased tickets and learned all about the history of the town
- An activity where pupils tried to find the oldest ex-pupil (who turned out to have been born in 1913), and the ex-pupil who now lives the furthest away from Snape (who lived in New Zealand)
- A visit from the local MP
- Displays of pupils' work
- A photographer and reporter from the East Anglia Daily Times, who featured the event in the press
The event itself raised over £3,000, and the publicity it generated helped the school secure more donations from the community too.
Offer a legacy opportunity for donors
When fundraising, especially in a less affluent community, it helps to have a concrete 'thing' that the money is attached to, rather than relying on people to simply donate.
The school launched a ‘buy a brick’ campaign. ‘Bricks’ were priced at £5 for 1, or 3 for £10, so as not to exclude members of the community who would want to contribute, but couldn’t afford a large donation. This worked really well as donors felt that they’d bought something tangible, rather than just giving the school money.
To help people see their donation in action and feel that they were being recognised for it, the school made a big banner which was hung over the front of the new building. It had a brick pattern on, and the name of each donor was written on a brick.146 individual donors bought bricks. The names of donors are also recorded in a special bound book kept in the new classroom.
People could also become a ‘friend of the school’ for £10, or a life friend for £100, which meant there was opportunity for wealthier people to give a significant amount if they wanted. The names of the school's friends were engraved on a plaque in the school. This raised £1,350.
If you're considering doing this, offer the opportunity to businesses too – just make sure that any businesses you approach are ones you'd be happy to be associated with in this way.
Maximise your donations with Gift Aid
Gift Aid is a national scheme where registered charities can reclaim tax on a donation made by a UK taxpayer. It essentially increases the amount you receive by 25p for every £1 donated, at no extra cost to donors – a win-win situation.
Snape Primary School's Parent School Association (a registered charity) applied for Gift Aid manually on donations, and then passed the money to the school.
If you want to avoid the admin for your own fundraising efforts, use a crowdfunding site which will claim Gift Aid automatically for you.
Promote, promote, promote
Do everything you can to get the word out – you want everyone in your village or town to know that you’re trying to raise money and why.
Snape pitched to the local paper, TV and radio stations. The school had a couple of contacts at the local press which it made the most of, but otherwise had to be tenacious and persistent, sending many emails and not being disheartened when there was no response.
Among the coverage was a newspaper feature about the upcoming heritage weekend, and a follow-up piece including a slideshow of pictures from the event. Having a story with visual interest is key to being featured in the local papers. If a photographer can take some pictures of the event or you can send some over yourself, you have a better chance of getting your story featured – just remember that you'll need consent to use photos of pupils in this way.
A more manual and time-consuming task was leafleting every house in the area. The leaflet explained that the school was trying to raise money for a new classroom, and included a donation form so people could simply fill it out and return it to the school. If you want to do this, try to get your printing costs covered by a local supplier or sponsor.
Don’t forget the follow up
Snape held a grand opening of the new classroom which the community was encouraged to attend, with performance from a folk band, allowing donors to reap the rewards of their generosity. This also featured on the local radio and newspaper, again allowing the community to see the results of their donations and help them feel part of it.
The school also sent thank you letters to everyone who donated, the organisations who awarded the grants, and local media for helping to promote their campaign.
If you’re fundraising yourself, follow suit and maintain this relationship. It fosters goodwill and encourages people to donate again in the future.
Sarah Gallagher is the headteacher at Snape Primary School in Suffolk. She also works to create reading cultures in schools, and is a teaching associate at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge.
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