'As the Head of separate infant and junior schools that were due to combine and expand, I knew there wasn't going to be enough space for the children to engage in active play, especially in the winter months due to our clay soil. The perfect solution was a Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA). We expected it to cost around £180,000, so we collated funds we already had, which included two years of sports premiums, uncommitted school funds, £20,000 from the PTA, plus money from the diocese and the school governor's fund. We needed another £50,000 for the project to be approved by the governors, so I launched a JustGiving campaign. Crowdfunding isn't something I'd done before, but it would enable us to reach out to parents' friends and family in a way we couldn't with direct-to-school donations.
It was quite straightforward to set up the page - all we had to do was upload some information about the project and a photo. We chose not to offer any rewards - the motivation was the MUGA itself and the difference it would make to the community.
Children, parents and companies all donated to our cause. The children really kept the fundraising alive by doing what they could to help. Two boys raised £40 by getting a pound every time they spoke Spanish on holiday!
At the beginning I had to do quite a bit to drive the crowdfunding forward, but towards the end the campaign took up a life of its own. Parents ran their own fundraisers and linked them to our crowdfunding page. Donors to three dads who ran the Brighton marathon agreed to double their donation if they ran it in under four hours - all three of them did, and they raised over £4,000!
Funds were boosted by £8,000 from the parish council, £2,000 from Tesco Bags of Help, and £2,000 from a local festival. We added to this with some PTA-run events, which included a fun run and a 'party in the playground'.
The children absolutely love the MUGA. They enjoy having races and doing gymnastics, and they even make up their own games using the markings. For the grand opening, I wrote and sung "Thank you for the MUGA" to the tune of Abba's "Thank you for the music"!
We took a big leap and worked really hard under a lot of time pressure, but we now have a fantastic resource that has helped tie our two schools together. The community really supported us, and the children feel they were part of it, too, so they know it's special.'
Sarah Lewis, Headteacher, St Mary's CofE Primary School, Oxted, Surrey (555 pupils)