June 2011


  • Fledge funds?
    When budgets are squeezed, schools and colleges need to drum up new sources of income. And, like any management task, it requires a properly thought-out plan of attack. Val Andrew offers some ideas. More
  • The generation game
    From carpentry and childcare to hosting conferences and opening a professional gym, schools and colleges are finding imaginative ways to generate new income. Dorothy Lepkowska reports. More
  • Brave admissions
    UCAS boss Mary Curnock Cook is leading an overhaul of the 50 year old university admissions system, tackling some of the problems previously labelled 'too difficult' to address. She talks to Liz Lightfoot. More
  • Taking up the challenge
    If you decide to challenge an Ofsted decision, what can you expect? Jan Webber explains the dispute process and looks at the case of one institution which refused to accept an inaccurate report. More
  • Hives of activity
    Co-operative schools, with their emphasis on work ethic, self-help and social responsibility, are booming. Dorothy Lepkowska explores what makes them tick and looks at plans for the first co-op academy. More
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When budgets are squeezed, schools and colleges need to drum up new sources of income. And, like any management task, it requires a properly thought-out plan of attack. Val Andrew offers some ideas.

Fledge funds?

Fundraising and tracking down ways to generate new income are at the forefront of many ASCL members’ minds, given the economic climate, the impact of dwindling budgets and the number of reforms happening in our schools and colleges.

Individual funders too have been affected by the country’s economic woes. Falling house prices and the value of investments generally have impacted on the ability of wealthy benefactors to continue donating to good causes at previous levels.

Meanwhile, companies and corporations have moved towards less tangible ways of supporting education, preferring to donate time and expertise rather than hard cash. There have also been changes to some criteria for accessing National Lottery funding.

As a result, and with the withdrawal of many publicly-funded initiatives, competition for those external sources of funding that remain is intense.

On the positive side, the UK has a £50 billion charitable sector. Major grant sources include the Community Foundation Network whose member organisations channel funds from government programmes and other sources to community projects.

There are also supermarket schemes and approximately 9,000 grant-making trusts in the UK making awards of more than £3 billion each year. Among the top 15 are The Wellcome Trust, The Royal Society, Cancer Research UK, The Wolfson Foundation, and The Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Together they donate around £1.6 billion annually to good causes, including education. The recently updated ASCL list of funding resources (www.ascl.org.uk/Home/Publications/) includes just some of the trusts that schools and colleges can apply to.

The government plans to stimulate more philanthropy by encouraging social responsibility initiatives. In addition, there are technological changes designed to encourage giving – for example, donations through cash machines, pay points and social networking sites. And more than 2,000 grants schemes are available to schools and educational establishments in the UK, despite the recession.

So where to start? Gone are the days of a spontaneous response to a regular newsletter...

Think strategically
Fundraising is not an academic process. Using common sense and some tried and tested principles can be successful to a point, but underpinning everything should be a robust strategy giving structure and focus to the task and linking directly to objectives in the development/improvement plan.

It should set out who will be responsible for coordinating the strategy – preferably a working group drawing on relevant expertise in the school and governing body, but ideally overseen and led by someone with financial experience, such as the business manager, bursar or finance manager.

The task itself can and should involve others. For instance some schools and colleges have identified that their students are the most innovative bid writers and have targeted funders who give priority focus to student-led initiatives.

There are also examples of schools and colleges appointing someone to a dedicated role to lead their fundraising strategy in return for a creative remuneration package which includes a percentage share of successful bids.

Ideally, the strategy will highlight short, medium and long-term objectives and timelines for reviewing success factors. Objectives could be divided into small to medium (£10k to £50k) and larger amounts (£50k-plus). Responsibility for short-term or smaller objectives could be devolved to a parent, teacher or friends association if there is an active group prepared to take on the challenge.

Don’t forget to consider the ethical aspects of fundraising when finalising your strategy to ensure that the values and ethos of your school or college are not compromised in pursuit of additional funding. For example, some schools have thought twice about schemes which encourage students to collect sweet wrappers for conversion into equipment or resources, but undermine healthy eating initiatives.

Legislation pitfalls
There are many statutory regulations to be aware of in fundraising. One of the most important areas to understand is data protection and the steps necessary to adhere to the rules. There is a code of fundraising practice available from the Institute of Fundraising and other useful information about the legal aspects at www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk

It’s also important to ensure that you understand the specific regulations which apply to your establishment. Academies, for example, will have to comply with regulations governing company and charity law.

Once the strategy is established and the legal aspects fully understood, the campaign can start in earnest using the three key principles or 3Rs of fundraising: relationships, research and record-keeping.

Developing relationships with stakeholders for fundraising purposes is blindingly obvious but incredibly time-consuming. The time involved makes it probably the most challenging aspect.

However, time invested in developing relationships with existing stakeholders, carefully selected for the purpose, can ultimately pay dividends. In its crudest form it is like prospecting for gold: identifying and selecting those to approach and being brave enough to overcome that reluctance to do what is considered very impolite in the UK – ask people for money.

The list of potential givers will include: previous donors, patrons or sponsors who may already be supporting in less tangible ways, successful ex-students who have reached the pinnacle of their chosen careers, suppliers, neighbours, corporate contacts and so on.

Do your homework
Many websites are available to help research and target a potential fund or donor. Some are free; others require a subscription. For a list of some of the most appropriate for education, see below.

There are organisations offering search engine facilities to make the research easier and more focused when seeking funds for specific projects. They usually involve subscriptions but many also have additional services to offer, including advice and support with bid writing.

Some 80 per cent of fundraising success is in the planning and research stage of the process. The concept of effective research extends to the finer detail and criteria required by your targeted funder. Check the criteria very carefully – two-thirds of applications fail on this aspect alone.

Make sure that any additional requirements, such as business plans, are identified well in advance to give you time to prepare and ensure that considerations for matched funding, VAT implications and inflation factors are all taken into account.

There a are many bid writing hints and tips available from various sources but the most appropriate advice is "read the question carefully to ensure you understand all the sections, plan your answers, write clearly and make sure you address all the points."(Sound familiar?)

Naturally, managing a fundraising campaign requires information and data to be processed efficiently so you can keep track of applications submitted and progress achieved.

But equally, accurate and organised record-keeping is incredibly beneficial in the development and nurturing of relationships with potential funders. For example, if a major prospective donor shares a passion or a personal memory in an early conversation, this is valuable information to inform your relationship-building strategy.

Information management to support your fundraising activities needs to have checks and balances to confirm accuracy and time needs to be spent ensuring that it is kept up-to-date.

None of the above is rocket science. Yet I recall that during my own time working in school, while I always knew this was something we should be doing, formalising a strategy seemed to keep slipping off my list of priorities.

And although we did successfully bid for funding on a few occasions, a better organised approach could have helped us to generate more. In the current climate of financial uncertainty perhaps the structured plan of attack is now more of a necessity.

  • Val Andrew is ASCL’s business management specialist.

Useful websites for funding


Fledge funds?