‘Furze Platt Senior School is in an area where student numbers are rising, and we are one of several academies that have received funding for expansion and improvement to accommodate this increase. Our local authority (the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead) provided around £8million to create a new teaching block and school hall.
The icing on the cake was a plan, developed by our school and governors, to make the new hall a multi-use space that could be transformed into a theatre both for the school and the wider community. This required an additional £34,000 on top of monies that the school was able to commit, and so the New Hall Theatre campaign was born.
It was led by our PTFA, which, as a registered charity, was able to claim gift aid on donations. We used the crowdfunding website DonateMySchool to build our appeal, create content for our publicity and help us with ideas to boost our fundraising potential.
Our theatrical vision was to install state-of-the art retractable seating for 448 people, as well as a production lighting desk and facilities, audio trolley mixer and loudspeakers, curtains and high-quality projection. The idea was to offer incredible opportunities for students in our new performing arts department (created from a merger of drama and music) and for those taking our new curriculum addition of GCSE dance. It would also provide options for studying technical theatre skills.
As one of the largest venues in Maidenhead, the New Hall Theatre could double up as a community asset, available for hire to local arts and theatre societies, orchestras, groups, and indeed other schools. Not only would this address a shortage of performance and rehearsal space locally, but we would be able to raise revenue from lettings and services such as theatre ticketing, an interval bar and courses in the holidays.
We launched the appeal with a video created by our sixth-form media students, which we uploaded to our crowdfunding page and school website. DonateMySchool produced a fundraising appeal letter that we sent out to the school community, asking them to donate online, and to pass on details of our appeal to their own social media networks of family and friends.
To help incentivise donors, DonateMySchool suggested we set up a rewards scheme, along the lines of those run by professional theatres. This included a mention in theatre programmes if you donated £50, and your name on the patrons’ board and an invitation to a champagne reception for donations of £500. Any donors contributing £5,000 in sponsorship would be thanked in permanent signage in the foyer and mentioned in all advertising for two years.
The campaign ran from October 2019 to the end of March 2020 and we were absolutely thrilled to reach our target. We received donations from many different stakeholders. Parents were probably the largest source of funds, though many of our suppliers and local businesses each gave between £200 and £4,000.
Our local ward councillors gave the first donation (of £750) and we also received two large donations of £5,000 – one from a local business and another from a parent.
In addition to the crowdfunding appeal, our PTFA ran a very successful quiz night and our sixth-form students organised a sponsored unofficial record-breaking event. We did experience a bit of a lull in fundraising midway through and we had to really work to keep up the social media campaigning. However, work on the project is now well underway, and the students can’t wait to perform in their new theatre.’
Lynne Moore, head of operations and business development, Furze Platt Senior School, Maidenhead, Berkshire (1,400 students)