A guide to giving

More schools are setting up regular-giving schemes, where supporters donate monthly amounts towards improvement projects. School fundraiser Amanda Burgess takes us through the process, step by step

Getting started

Take time to get your head, governors and PTA on board – you may find you have to overcome some initial barriers around how state education should (ideally) be funded. Your PTA will be vital in taking a regular-giving scheme forward, acting as a treasurer and gateway for donations, while allowing you to claim Gift Aid (if it is a registered charity).

Present your ideas to these key groups and then create a sub-group working party to look at your initial proposals. Be sure to identify and include any key people – including parents – with fundraising experience. The aim is to create a story around regular giving that will make all of your stakeholders feel part of the community you are building.

Include facts about why the scheme is important and what are your trying to achieve. Identify what is good about your school, what works well and what could be better. Do you have any specialisms or famous alumni? Can you use your Ofsted grade and comments to help?

Make sure your ask is achievable – if every person donated just £3 a month (aka the price of a cup of coffee), how much could you raise in a month? (In my school’s case that figure is around £3,000). Emphasise that every person making a small donation will make a huge difference to the school.

Ensure your ask is not just about money, but also about what skills people can offer and what part they play in making your school a better place. This ‘skills audit’ can be built into your database.

Create a database 

Now you need to identify your potential stakeholders and target groups. For most schools this will be parents and carers, but it could also include alumni, local businesses and any successful/famous individuals living locally or with connections to your school. Make sure you have permission under GDPR to contact these groups regularly, particularly if you are not sending direct communications from the headteacher.

Create a database (possibly a list or an Excel spreadsheet) that includes contact details and offers of support, and can be easily updated.

At my school, we send joint letters from the headteacher and PTA (Friends of Priory) as this allows us to approach all parents and carers about every appeal. We then create the database from those who respond and give us permission to contact them directly. This partnership works really well as, without it, the PTA can only contact people who opt in to join the Friends (all new parents receive an invitation but must return the form to opt in).

Mission and wish list 

Be clear about the aims of your fundraising. Establishing a wish list really helps focus people’s minds. Liaise with your head, senior leaders, governors, students, staff and PTA to identify key projects. Try to include a few small items, along with one main project that both the school and PTA will fundraise for each academic year. Set goals of raising say £10,000, £20,000 or £50,000, around which the whole school can pull together.


Decide how you want to communicate – my school sends out regular letters at least three times a year. Promote the same fundraising message and appeal for supporters to sign up at every opportunity, including new parents’ evenings, PTA fundraising events, websites and social media.

Make sure your website is set up for donations. Giving platforms such at DONATE from the National Funding Scheme (nationalfundingscheme.org) or Donr (donr.com) can be used on your school website to facilitate donations and allow the setting up of monthly direct debits. (Be aware that some do charge a fee).

Create a culture of giving, particularly with new parents, so that this gradually becomes more embedded through the school. Tell people what you do to fundraise and how this improves educational provision for their children.

Take a look at nudge theory – favoured by Barack Obama and David Cameron (who established a government ‘nudge unit’ (aka Behavioural Insights Team) in 2010.

The idea is that you give people clear information to help persuade them to make active choices for the public good. By showing people good examples of what others are doing, you drive their desire to be seen as good, helpful people themselves.

Use concise messaging and examples of how previous donations have made a difference to encourage stakeholders to do the right thing and sign up!

Build momentum 

Celebrate your successes – even the small ones! Going for some small quick wins makes a big difference because it gives your scheme credibility and creates match-funding opportunities. Be consistent and ensure you maintain the schedule of letters going home.

Say thank you

Once your database is up and running, make sure you thank your supporters, either with a head’s letter or by providing VIP tickets to an event or reception.

Do your research

Look at the fundraising activities carried out by local private schools. Fundraisers are often happy to meet, share ideas and talk about the projects they are focusing on. It’s staggering how much independent school parents are prepared to donate on top of paying school fees. When you compare what state schools offer in terms of extracurricular activities and trips, you’ll begin to see what a bargain your parents are getting. This, in turn, will embolden you to ask for help and support.

  • Amanda Burgess is community liaison and income generating manager at Priory School, Lewes. She previously worked for 25 years in the voluntary sector, and gained much of her fundraising experience in her last role as a project manager.

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