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Passive income

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No such thing as free money? Think again! Howard Rose, Director of Funding and Publicity at Balsall Common Primary explains how to get the money trickling in with minimal effort.

How does passive income work?

In basic terms, passive income is a way of having other people working for you, making money, 24 hours a day, doing things they are already do, without any cost to you. Or, as I like to call it, ‘free money’! Schools can offer businesses valuable access to a database of potential clients. And many companies are keen to provide sponsorship in exchange for promotional opportunities. Well, those parents can also be used as a workforce to make money for you! They don’t have to change their lifestyle or do anything different, other than a few extra clicks of their mouse, quoting a code over the phone or trying a new menu item.

Shopping affiliate schemes

There are literally hundreds of passive income schemes you can explore, but you have to decide what is right for you. The first place to start is probably the easiest: shopping affiliate schemes. These provide a simple initiative whereby charities, schools, sports clubs, community groups, and other good causes can raise money whenever their supporters shop online. Over 2,700 retailers are involved in the scheme, including Amazon, eBay, Thomas Cook, M&S, Aviva, Tesco and many other retailers your parents would regularly use. These retail sites donate a percentage of the money spent to your cause, at no extra cost to you or your supporters.

Simply register your school with Give As You Live or Easyfundraising and promote the scheme to families and staff. Encourage your supporters to download the ‘donation reminder’ bar and you’ll never miss out on your free money again! They simply head straight to the website they want, activate the donation bar, and continue with their purchase. Once the payment is received, the retailer will give your cause a percentage. These are collated and paid to your school every quarter. Last year we raised over £600 just by parents having to make a few extra clicks!

I used this basic premise to look for other companies that either offer a similar deal or would be willing to set something up. Birmingham City Football Club has a ticket incentive scheme that we promote to our community and, every quarter, we receive a cheque. Lavender Hall Autos, a local garage, offer £5 off a service to give parents an incentive to go there. Parents let them know that they are from Balsall Common Primary to claim the discount, at which point the company also donates £5 to the school.

Estate agents' boards

A few years ago, we ran a ‘For Sale’ sign competition with John Shepherd Estate Agents. Not only did this prove popular with villagers, with eye-catching designs, but every time a vendor chose to use one of the children’s boards we received £250.

Healthy menu restaurant scheme

Other passive income initiatives we are now running include a deal with The Saracen’s Head, a local bar and restaurant. Pupils designed a new cover for their children's menu, chose their favourite healthy menu item and every time people order that meal we receive a 50p donation. This doesn’t sound like much but over a year this usually adds up to nearly £600.

Videography sales and sponsorship

CMA Video have been making DVDs of our summer and Christmas performances for years and we have a good relationship with the supplier, but no one ever thought about sponsorship. Now CMA Video has the back page of the DVD selling all of their services and again we get 50p per copy sold. This is usually around £250 in the summer and the same at Christmas so another £500 in total over the year.

New passive income deals

Deals I have recently started include the following:

  • Balsall Common Travel Club, this is where parents can get holiday quotes or make a booking using a dedicated local phone number or via a dedicated link identifying the school as the source. We then get a percentage of any holiday booked.
  • Borroclub have a deal where parents can choose to donate either 10%/50% or 100% of their fee to Balsall Common Primary.
  • Utility Warehouse offers a community deal where you can offer energy and broadband.
  • Lyconet will pay a percentage of all money spent using one of their cards set up via the school.
  • Vorwerk have sponsored the school PTA but are also looking to set up an arrangement similar to the ones above so watch this space. n Finesse Windows are in talks with us now and will pay 5% on all sales via the school.

Although each of these initiatives raises a fairly modest amount (an average of £500 a year each), when added together they represent a significant contribution. And the real key to this is that, once set up, you need do nothing!

Sponsor's wall

Our ‘sponsors wall’ was an idea that began with the PTA. They sold engraved bricks to parents as a lasting reminder that their children had been at the school, and, at £25 each, it was a very reasonable idea. I wanted to create something similar for businesses that would allow them to shout about their links to the school. I also wanted to have a physical link from our website to theirs, so I created the ‘virtual wall’.

This is a wall with companies’ logos on it, and when people click they are taken to a page that tells them all about what the sponsor does for the school. Rather than taking parents straight to a corporate website, this interim page creates a good impression about the sponsor, encouraging parents to use their goods or services. At an annual cost of just £150 it is affordable, effective, and for the school, is a gift that keeps giving. With 12 sponsors this is worth £1,800 per annum and growing!

Leaflet distribution

Schools are constantly bombarded by requests to hand out leaflets or send out details via Parentmail. I suggested that we charge £30 for this service. This would mean that if it really was worth it to the business they would pay, if not they would stop bombarding us with leaflets. Last year this brought in over £700 – not bad for something we had already been doing free of charge!

Getting started

The examples given are based on my experience, but there are hundreds more opportunities. Search for affiliate programmes in the suppliers directory; approach local businesses and ask them to support the school by operating a kick-back scheme – if it doesn’t sell they don’t give you any money, so there’s no risk to them; speak to local sports clubs, estate agents, restaurants, solicitors – reiterating the positive publicity that you can offer. And remember ‘No’ may be ‘No’ now, but they may know someone who might say ‘Yes’, so ask for a referral. Many businesses would love to start a relationship with a school but don’t know how to get started.

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About our expert

Howard Rose is Director of Funding and Publicity at Balsall Common Primary School and Damson Wood Nursery and Infants. Since 2012, he has secured just under £500,000 for the school through grants and sponsorship. He also estimates saving the school over £20,000 a year by negotiating free teaching and learning resources or services from local businesses. In 2015 he won a Chamber of Commerce Education and Business Partnership Award.

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