Grants: Walking the financial tightrope

Working to an overstretched budget may not be specifically mentioned in the job description but it’s something that SBMs are all too familiar with. However, there are many ways of boosting the coffers; here we take a look at grants as a viable funding option and how to make sure you secure them

Times are tight and schools are in desperate need of additional funding. “We are tasked with doing more and more with less and less and the prospect of any improvement to education funding looks increasingly unlikely,” Val Andrew, ASCL business leadership specialist, observes. Schools are exploring alternative avenues of income generation, from fundraising to lettings; however, one area remains largely untapped: grants. There are roughly 7,000 grant-making trusts and foundations in the UK and, according to FundEd, they give out approximately £4m annually. But to be eligible you first need to apply – something which requires time and planning. So, where do you start?

Down with the grant grind

First off let’s do some myth-busting. “It’s a common misconception that grant funding is an option available only to registered charities,” observes Ryan Green, managing director at Pebble. In fact, there’s a plethora of grant opportunities awaiting your application, from the very small – for sporting equipment, for example – to larger grants – for sports facilities, perhaps. Funding opportunities can be difficult to find – and even more difficult to secure – but this is nothing that organisation and planning (aka effective fundraising) can’t overcome. A ‘spontaneous’ application will be unlikely to achieve the desired outcome so consider a formal fundraising policy or strategy which sets out key objectives and which can be adapted as required. “It’s essential that a robust strategy underpins the process in order to focus on initiatives which link directly to objectives within the school development/ improvement plan,” Val advises. To optimise your effectiveness, it may be necessary to have one person responsible for co-ordinating your grant strategy. “This, ideally, should be someone with financial experience – for example the SBM/SBL, bursar, or finance manager. S/he should, preferably, lead a working group which gathers together people with relevant expertise and interest from within the school and governing body,” Val says. “Some schools have identified their students as their most innovative bid-writers and have targeted funders who give priority to student-led initiatives,” she adds.

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This is an abstract of an article that appeared in the March issue of Education Executive. You can read the full article here with additional tips and practical advice from our contributors.

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