Schools have long used fundraising for extra-curricular activities, but with budgets being tighter than ever, could crowdfunding also be used to buy resources normally provided by the state?
Sponsored silences, school fetes and sponsored laps around the school field have long formed the fabric of school fundraising for extracurricular activities. However, in recent years the traditional method of parents handing over cash at the school gate has been replaced by online fundraising platforms known as crowdfunding sites.
Crowdfunding is growing in popularity across all sectors, but the growth in its use for educational purposes has seen a significant change; schools are no longer just using crowdfunding for extracurricular activities, they are now also using it to help buy resources which are normally state-funded.
According to The Guardian, around 700 primary and secondary schools have appealed for donations for basic materials on sites like JustGiving and Crowdfunder. One of these schools is Lainesmead Primary School, in Swindon, which said it had been forced to turn to JustGiving after it lost £80,000 to ‘government budget cuts’. The school wrote on their JustGiving page, ‘Our dire financial situation has continued this year and we are having to make further cutbacks’.
Another cash-strapped school which has taken these measures is Bayton C of E Primary School, near Kidderminster. The school said it needed the extra money ‘To continue to provide quality teaching, learning and resources for all our children’.
Wish lists too
The investigation by The Guardian also found that a further 300 schools have used Amazon wish lists to ask for specific supplies. St Wilfrid’s Catholic Primary School, in West Sussex, used one of these wish lists to ask for pencils, glue sticks and erasers.
“The fact so many schools are doing this should be ringing serious alarm bells for the government,” said Paul Whiteman, the National Association of Head Teachers’ general secretary.
Some people have argued that fundraising in this way for basic supplies exacerbates pre-existing inequalities between schools because crowdfunding relies on donations from people who have the spare cash to give and those who donate will, predominantly, be parents of the children at the school – which means that schools in poorer areas are likely to still struggle. So, schools in more affluent areas are likely to have pupils with richer parents who can afford to donate more money.
“Schools have always been involved in fundraising; private schools even have dedicated fundraising teams,” Ben Gill, the project lead at Rocket Fund a specialist crowdfunding service for schools points out. “Crowdfunding is a way to boost budgets by modernising their existing fundraising techniques. We think state schools are missing out on over £100m of untapped support from alumni – and potentially even more from businesses.”
Appealing to local businesses can alleviate some of the pressure on parents and ensure that schools in less affluent areas are not unfairly disadvantaged. Schools can offer a good deal to local businesses by promoting those which sponsor or donate on the school website, on the school premises or for school football kits, for example. A school is one of the best places a local business can advertise as it demonstrates them as being a community player, and parents and staff are more likely to use that business over a similar one as a result. Schools can easily mass-email local businesses asking for donations in exchange for promotion – a two-way deal where everyone involved benefits.
As the saying goes; if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Don’t be afraid to ask the local community for donations as it can be a mutually beneficial deal. Schools are in need of extra cash more than ever and there is no shame in asking when you need help.