'The David Ross Education Trust (DRET) is a network of 34 primary and secondary schools across the country, with more than 13,000 pupils in total. Many of our pupils qualify for free school meals and pupil premium funding, and our MAT has developed an Inspiration Fund to provide an award-winning enrichment programme of access to high quality sports, music, culture and outward-bound activities.
Events and initiatives supported by the fund include a Summer Cup (a festival of seven summer sports) and Winter Cup (football and netball), DRET Music Festivals and talent days (with specialist musicians, dance instructors, elite athletes and Olympians). We have also funded mentoring programmes, an All Stars programme (including music, football, netball, rowing and rugby), improved sports facilities and equipment, specialist sports programmes, instrumental lessons and a ‘Singing Schools’ project.
Traditionally, we have used paper-based methods of raising money for the fund. However, when Covid-19 struck, we realised we needed to look at different ways to raise sponsorship and collect donations. Our main annual fundraiser is a Santa Run event, which gives pupils across all our schools the chance to raise sponsorship for a Santa suit which they can then walk, jog or run in. It’s a really fun and festive way to raise money and support the opportunities that our Inspiration Fund provides.
With thousands of children, friends, parents and grandparents wanting to get involved, the Santa Run is a bureaucratic challenge in normal times. With Covid-19, we needed to make our fundraising methods both more efficient and Covid secure.
We decided to move online and approached the crowdfunding and regular giving platform InvestMyCommunity (IMC). Its staff were able to develop new sponsorship capabilities on the platform, so that each of our participants could create their own mini campaign and associate it with the trust’s main Santa Run page.
We wanted the Santa Run to be an uplifting event for our students and families – and we were overwhelmed by the generosity of donations and the level of participation. Over the course of just a few days, more than 2,500 students signed up for the event, which took place in existing school bubbles. Of these, more than 480 set up their own sponsorship pages on the platform. The event was so successful that there was a hundred-fold increase in traffic to the IMC site in 24 hours!
Using IMC was a game-changer. It provided a new and safe dimension for our fundraising, and it also saved us many, many hours of administrative work. We also raised a lot more money than we had done previously. We ran both the IMC platform and paper-based approach in tandem to compare how well they worked. Participating students raised an average of £50 each in the IMC platform, compared to an average of £11 each on paper.
We received donations of almost £24,000 on IMC, including Gift Aid, and altogether the Santa Run raised more than £50,000. We’d done a lot of work over the year to promote the value of the Inspiration Fund, but we also have IMC to thank. The development and customer service teams were fantastic: they created new options for us and responded quickly to any queries from parents and the school.
Everyone found the online giving approach very easy and enjoyed sharing the link on their campaign pages. Seeing all the fundraisers in their Santa suits on their own pages was inspirational and created a tremendous sense of community. This year we plan to make the Santa Run online crowdfunding only!’
Alice Page, fundraising and events manager, David Ross Education Trust, Loughborough