We’d be lying if we pretended Primary School fundraising was simple and straightforward. We’ve been there and worn the t-shirt, and we know that in reality PTA members are usually strapped for time and funds, as well as juggling a million other commitments. So when it comes to fundraising ideas and activities, what you do needs to hit the spot, and fast.
But we also know that it doesn’t have to be a struggle. Primary School fundraising really can be the best fun you’ll have as a school parent or teacher, provided you have the right tools. To make sure you do, we’ve pulled together this fantastic guide with ideas and advice from genuine PTA veterans. We’ll help you to be both politician and friend, fierce negotiator and gentle persuader. Before you know it, you'll be driving polished campaigns, and raising more money for your school without breaking into a sweat.
The eight steps to success
Step 1: Power up your PTA!
The PTA is your powerhouse, and it needs to be in good working order. Nothing happens without their commitment, and good nature, so if things aren’t feeling productive, it’s time to change your approach. Here’s how:
- Unity. Are you missing a sense of community, and commitment to the same goals? At the start of a new year you might have new members who bring great ideas, but feel unsure of their place in the team. Why not have a PTA social, away from the pressures of raising money, just to get to know each other? In fact, if you’re giving up your free time it’s got to be enjoyable, so take every opportunity to make meetings sociable. It doesn’t need to be a big night out. After all, everyone knows that naming tombola teddies is best done over a glass of wine!
- Roles and responsibilities. It’s vital to the successful functioning of your PTA that everyone knows who’s responsible for what. Select your decision-makers carefully - they should be liked, respected and able to make decisions when the team can’t agree. To help, print off our PTA structure diagram.
- Keep communicating. To make sure everyone’s in the loop between meetings, set up a simple communication method that you all feel comfortable using. Tools such as MailChimp and Classlist can be effective, or you may choose to stay in touch with a simple WhatsApp or Facebook group where you can share ideas and photos of fun events. Keep an updated list of everyone’s email addresses and phone numbers too – you never know when you might need an emergency restock of the ice-lolly stall!
- Be kind. People will always respond well to warm and friendly behaviour. Actions as simple as remembering birthdays and saying thank you when someone has busted a gut will make a world of difference.
- Be open. While unity is important, it’s vital to avoid being seen as an exclusive club. Ultimately you need the support of the whole school to make a success of an event, so try to walk the fine line between feeling like a team, and including others. You could organise an open invite evening at the local pub, or a coffee morning to explain to new parents what you’re all about.
Step 2: Plan to be organised
Okay, so it’s not the most exciting part of fundraising, but good planning is fundamental to the success of your entire fundraising calendar. And actually, if you’ve followed step 1, planning can be good fun – coming up with big ideas and quirky ways to raise money. Get it all in the calendar at the beginning of the year, then work out what needs to be done to make it happen. A good rule of thumb is to plan one big event for every five small initiatives – that way you’ll never face donor fatigue, and you’ll have something running all year.
Step 3: Build your network
Now you’ve put together a fantastic fundraising plan, you need to leverage your networks to make sure people engage, come along to events, and donate.
Your ‘networks’ in a Primary School include everyone connected with the school: parents and grandparents, teachers and governors, and yes - the children too. All of them will have a part to play in the success of your fundraising activity. And don’t discount the local community. They’re as much part of your audience as the people who use the school, and they have the potential to contribute to a much bigger fundraising pot.
So how do you expand your network?
- There will always be a set of parents who will come to you to get involved. Use these people to spread the word on the school playground, and to champion your cause in the local community. That’s how you’ll start to get newcomers to your events, and grow your fundraising capacity.
- Get people involved from the outset. Just think – there’s a new group of parents every year. Be ready for them, and have a strategy for communicating your plans. For many, the school community will be a new and exciting prospect so take that opportunity to get them involved, and they’re likely to stay with you for the duration of their child’s time in the school.
- Don’t forget the leavers though! After years of doing the school run with you, parents of leavers are often reluctant to totally cut ties, so ask them if they’d like to be kept up to date with developments and social events at the school. In our experience, you’ll be surprised how many will sign up!
- Above all, communication is key. You want to get to the parents who aren’t actively engaged in fundraising, and convert them! So grab a spot in the school newsletter to post updates about events, funds raised, and how the school has benefitted. Make it personal, with pictures, and quotes from the kids about how much the new laptops have helped them with their maths, or what they’ve learned about the world in forest school. Not many parents can resist the power of their own child’s influence!
Step 4: Make the most of what you have
Think about it. You have quite literally hundreds of teachers and students at your beck and call, with parents who’ll be around and in touch for years to come, as well your entirely unique local community. So how can you harness this?
- Involve the teachers. We know that this one’s always a winner. Why not put a popular teacher in the stocks, or get the head teacher doing a sponsored silence? The teachers are your ultimate crowd-drawing resource.
- Play the long game with the parents. Their children will be in the school for several years, so you have time to build their commitment. Whatever they do, whether it’s a batch of cakes for the bake sale, or volunteering to run the bar at the summer fair – keep saying thank you, and ‘we couldn’t have done this without you.’ You’ll soon see commitment start to grow. Why not keep a database of people who’ve helped, or come along to an event previously? It’s an easy way to remember who volunteered for what last time, so you know who to approach for the next event.
- Consider your context. The best fundraising ideas suit your surroundings, precisely because they fit in with, and involve the local community. At Four Elms for example, the school has stalls at the village fete every year; Sevenoaks Primary School get involved in the Dragon Boat races; and Amberley hunt for cows – in line with local tradition! So get in touch with the organisers of local festivals, fairs and cultural events. A great example is an event like Camp Bestival, who are involved with a number of charities – including schools. Don’t be scared to aim big either – you might just be surprised!
Step 5: Get your fundraising maths right
Make sure you budget for each event during the planning stages. It helps to have a goal, so decide at the outset what you want to do with the money you raise, work out how much it will cost, and set that as your target. Once you have something to aim for, work out how much you need to spend to create a successful fundraising activity, and what you’ll need to charge in order to both cover costs, and smash your target.
It helps to think of it all in cash terms. Estimate who you think will join in. If each family at the school attends half of the events, and you make £10 profit per family per event, will you reach your target? If not, reconsider your annual plan of ideas. Stage a bigger, unmissable event. Or swap out a book sale for an extra bake sale – like it or not, cakes always sell!
Step 6: Tell your story well
You know what drives you to fundraise. The trick is to make other people understand why too, or better still, to make them feel the same urge to solve things as you do. Telling the story of your fundraising goal is crucial to getting people on board and contributing. Here are the key points you need to consider to create a compelling story:
Let’s take a look – which of these sentences grabs your attention the most?
- “Please would you give money to the school?”
- “There are some things we need at school – would you give money to help us?”
- “The old playground is broken and dangerous, we need £4,000 to buy a new one for our children – would you buy some raffle tickets to help us raise the money?”
The latter is honest, transparent and emotive – far more likely to get people donating and involved. Download our key messages guide to help you get started, or check out some of our favourite school fundraising messages!
Step 7: Get online
We know that for many, setting up and maintaining an online presence for the PTA can be daunting. But it needn’t be, and once you get started, you’ll find it simple to post a few updates when it matters. If you want to know all the ins and outs of fundraising online – read our comprehensive guide, but if you just want to know where to start, try our quick set up tips:
- It makes sense for one person to manage social media accounts. That way they can develop an online personality for the PTA, and engage with consistency. Agree who that person will be, and get authorisation from the head teacher or governors to represent the school online.
- Being online can mean a number of things – a page on your website, an online ticket and giving facility, Facebook, Twitter and so on. Make the most of the online tools that suit your school and abilities. We like what Lady Boswells in Sevenoaks have done; displaying this kind of information alongside newsletters and Facebook posts could be a really great way of getting your parents involved.
- Check out these really helpful online tools:
- PTA Events is a super handy site built specifically to help with the arranging of school fundraisers like yours. Its tools cover everything from ticket sales, to mailing lists and task management. The best bit? You can use most of its features for free.
- To simplify things, it can help to use a scheduler such as Hootsuite – it allows you to create your posts at a time that suits you, and publishes them for you at the best time to get in front of your audience. It also lets you manage all your social media accounts from one place.
- Make it look good! People scan through the things they see online very quickly, so you need eye-catching visuals to make them stop and read. Canva is a free-to-use online design program that will help you produce beautiful posters and creative visuals for your social media accounts. Using these will add an all-important touch of professionalism that’ll get your events noticed.
Step 8: Remember that it’s not what you do - it’s how you do it
You won’t be surprised to know, but most schools are doing the same things as you – ice lollies, fairs, Christmas shows, bake sales. And that’s fine! In fact, it pays to keep repeating the things that you know will work. But the difference between the okay fundraisers and the fantastic events is the energy you put into it, from start to finish. The PTA’s we know that have the most success with their school fundraising are those who plan well, communicate effectively, and put on a great show. Go the extra mile, and you’ll create a fundraising result to be proud of!
You may also enjoy reading:
Cheeky Fundraising Challenges for Schools
41 Tried and Tested Fundraising Activities for Schools