Small but mighty

Rural schools face their own unique set of challenges when it comes to income generation – here's how to overcome them

Being in a rural area often means fewer potential volunteers and donors for a school. There may be a lack of local businesses willing and able to make donations, and an isolated location may make it difficult to attract visitors or work with third-party fundraising organisations. But with the right considerations in place, a successful fundraising plan can ensure your income generation has the potential to be as strong as that of any other school.

Expand your supporter base

By making the most of all manpower, you can ensure no group is overworked, and avoid burnout. You have staff, governors and parents at your disposal, but there are many more groups that can be utilised.


Getting support from businesses is a great way to gain extra resources while boosting awareness of your school. Local businesses will be keen to back the school, whereas national businesses have CSR schemes in place, so make sure you approach a range of company types and sizes.

Business involvement isn't just about money – companies can also donate skills, manpower and knowledge when it comes to work-related learning.

Many businesses are keen to support schools but don't know how, so approach them with a range of options rather than a single or vague request. People are a lot more likely to say yes if they have a choice and know what they're agreeing to.

Fundraising groups

Talk to local fundraising groups to see if you can work together. Lions or Rotary Clubs are a great place to start. Can you borrow equipment from them? Do they have any fundraising ideas or advice, or could you work together on an event and split the profits?


Parents are the obvious place to turn when it comes to fundraising, as they have the incentive of their children. Do you have a PTA? If not, why not? PTAs raise, on average, £8,000 per year and can make a huge difference to your school.

Other schools

A smaller school means smaller fundraising teams and potentially fewer ideas, so team up with other schools to keep things fresh and bring new ideas to the table.

'One of our school's TAs is also on the PTFA of the school her children attend. Our PTFAs have built up a relationship through this TA over the past five years. We loan each other equipment, donate leftover supplies to each other after events, and swap ideas. This is done for free and is a very helpful resource.' Dawn Grocott, PTFA treasurer, St Mary's CofE Primary School, West Derby (214 pupils)


Having a smaller school donor base means it's key for rural schools to embrace the local community. Many rural schools are one of only a few (or the only) school in the area, so it's important to draw on community feeling and people's willingness to support local causes.

Fundraising events are often aimed solely at those directly connected to the school, but involving the wider community can lead to more visitors and bigger profits, as well as the chance to build relationships with new supporters, raise the profile of your school and build awareness of your cause.


There are always going to be more members of your school's alumni than there are children at your school. As well as monetary donations, alumni may have valuable experience and skills they can share with pupils. Consider how you will contact pupils and their families once they have left and ensure this complies with GDPR.

Market your school

Increased awareness of your cause can result in offers of support from unexpected sources. This can be done in many ways, including partnerships, press releases and social media. Each school's situation is unique, so develop a marketing plan that suits your circumstances.


Draw on your PTA (or form one) when it comes to event planning to relieve stress on staff.

You may be limited by location, so if visitors need to drive to an event, it needs to have pulling power. Do something that appeals beyond the school walls and fills a gap in the community. You could run a quiz night with a bar if you don't have a local pub, or a film night if there's no cinema. Research your local area looking for gaps and opportunities to fill, and conduct surveys to gauge interest.

Match funding

Whenever you run an event, encourage volunteers to speak to their employers about match funding, which is when an employer agrees to make a donation to a cause based on the amount of money their employee has raised for it. It's a simple way to boost profits, especially if you ensure anyone being match funded is put on the most profitable stall at the event.

Other funding routes

Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding relies on people to make it work, so it's important to consider what will make it more appealing to donors and therefore more likely to succeed. Can you boost support by finding a way for the project to benefit the whole community. To be successful you must have a realistic target and timescale, explain clearly what the impact will be and promote the project as widely as possible.

Grants: There are millions of pounds-worth of grants available, some of which are specifically aimed at rural schools. The Trusthouse Charitable Foundation gives to fragile rural communities, while British Science Week grants are offered to rural schools. Subscribe to the FundEd database for access to £12 million-worth of grants specifically tailored to schools.

Use your assets: Make the most of the school's assets, facilities and people by making them accessible to the public. Hire out your hall to local businesses to use outside school hours and hold open days where the wider community can make use of your resources, such as sports areas or the library.

Meet school goals

With the pressures on schools and staff, it may seem as if you don't have the time or resources to fundraise. But by tying fundraisers into some of the school's targets, you can achieve two things at once.

Working with the community

The school can fill gaps in the rural community by organising events and providing access to its facilities for local people. Invite people to come into the school as volunteers to help children in their learning, saving resources that can be used elsewhere, while letting volunteers see the school in action.

Educational events

A great way to get unenthusiastic parents on board is to tie a fundraising event into the children's learning, for example with a sponsored read or a fun run.

Case Study: 'There's always money coming in'

'Our PTFA has been running for years and we have a great relationship with the school. They rely on us and know we're a safe pair of hands whenever something needs to be funded.

We run numerous fundraisers throughout the year so there's always money coming in.

We use social media to promote events to those outside the school. When opening up to the community it's all about making sure those from outside the school feel welcome.

We make sure we take ourselves out into the community as well as inviting them in. For example, at Christmas we took a barrow of booze to the local Christmas market. It was really popular and we were able to show our cause publicly.

We've built partnerships with local and larger companies who support us with donations, including estate agent boards for our fairs and monetary donations from the rugby club.

We may be a school of only 97 pupils, but we raised £2,500 at our last Christmas fair.'

Emma Aylen and Monique Neeter, Framfield CofE Primary School PTFA, Framfield, East Sussex (97 pupils)


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