Build bridges across your community

With purse strings tightening, it's more important than ever to build engagement with three core groups: parents, the community and local business. So says Phil Burton, SBM at Hallbrook Primary School in Leicester

If you're feeling hesitant about asking the wider community to support your school then ask yourself a simple question: can I afford not to? Even at a basic level, you can bring in additional income – and help – in a short amount of time. The key is to get the right person, or people, to lead your efforts. You need people who are bubbly and happy to chat to others. Personally, I have found it helps to be nosy! Developing engagement with parents, the community and local business is increasingly important in everyday school life. So how does this work? And how can these groups support you in raising additional funds?


This is the largest group of people, who have the most to gain from making your school better. Every parent is invested in getting the best all-round education possible for their child, so you are already partway there. Work alongside your PTA, if you have one, to capitalise on this self-interest in your fundraising. If you don't have a PTA then arrange some events based around school.

My school serves 183 families in a deprived area and does not have a PTA. Yet we manage to raise around £7,000 a year thanks to the dedication of a few members of staff, who work hard to engage our parents and the wider community. Our more successful events are usually are seasonal focused events – our Summer Camp, Easter Bingo and a Christmas CD recording.

Remember, this is a two-way process – you need to listen to what your parents want and try to accommodate them wherever you can. Often, this means being able to come into school and spend time with their child in an educational setting.

The community

The more children you have on roll, the better. Remember, each child is worth £24,500 over the primary lifetime, so this is where the majority of your funds are made. Getting your school involved in community events will ensure that it is 'seen' by local people. So take part in the local carnival float or Christmas tree competition.

For example, new parents can get to know your school before their children are school-age – and presenting the right image will help them decide to send their offspring to you. Organising an open event is always a big win, and linking it to your curriculum will support other areas as well.

The best way to increase funding support from the community is to be visual. One of the biggest community events our school leads is the village Santa Dash and Dawdle, which raises lots of money. More than 500 people attend and run around the village to raise money for good causes. It is staffed in the main by members of our school team, who are really bubbly and love being with the public.


To secure ongoing support, try viewing your relationships with local businesses as partnerships. You might get the odd donation from ad-hoc letters, but that is not going to make a huge difference. As someone who comes from a background of food catering, sales and customer service, I know that businesses want relationships that can be mutually supportive.

Firstly, take a look at your suppliers. You already have a relationship with them, so send a quick email to see what they can do. Our suppliers have donated more than £2,000 in recent months to a specific cause at the school. Remember that many businesses offer match funding, which their employees can access. So find out which companies your parents work for, and if any of these offer this type of support. We're looking at doubling the funding for one of our events due to this stream.

Secondly, research the businesses that are local to you. They will be keen to support the school as it shows they are doing their bit for social responsibility. Inviting a representative to have a cup of tea at school and then showing people what you want to achieve is a great way to get the ball rolling. I am aware of a small school that managed to secure a £500,000 funding stream over a cup of tea at the local church. The business agreed to pay for the renovation of various parts of the building.

Of course, most donations will be nowhere near this size but every little helps! I've secured over £6,000 through listening to people and finding out what – or, more specifically, who – they worked for. I invite them for a cuppa and talk through what I want to do. The majority return with a donation.

Additional income may not always be in the form of cash. Instead, you may be able to acquire things your school needs. For example, I was able to secure a video prospectus through a long-term partnership: my contact wanted to bring this product to market and we agreed to be the demo school.

At the time of putting this together, we are in the midst of an unprecedented situation and now, more than ever, people are looking to support each other. As a school, you will have a lot of contracts and work that needs to be undertaken, and local businesses will want to secure their future. It is worth considering what partnerships you can create – even in this dire situation – to support the long-term vision of your school. You can find out more about what I'm currently doing at my school by following me on Twitter: @runningsbm


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