Budgets may be stretched but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to refurbish the sports hall, invest in new IT or extend premises. Grant fundraising can effectively boost income; it’s just a matter of being able to write that winning bid. For the April issue of Education Executive, Rachel Gordon, funding consultant and head of the School Funding Service, offers some sage advice to boost the coffers
As school budgets continue to tighten, many school leaders are looking to raise extra money from grants. Bid writing, therefore, becomes a key part of the job. If you are new to such fundraising, or want to start a new campaign, you might be wondering where to start. Here are five essential first steps to give yourself the best chance of success from your efforts.
1. Define what you want to achieve
From the very start, you need to define what difference you want to make as a result of your fundraising activity. What projects or activities will it enable you to do that you cannot do currently? How will individuals benefit? What difference will it make to their lives? A vision of future change will not only give you something to work towards but it will also provide a sound rationale for fundraising when communicating with supporters and funders alike.
2. Set milestones
Setting and monitoring milestones will help you to keep your fundraising activity on track. Milestones are key activities or tasks that help you to achieve your fundraising vision. They should have timescales so you can monitor your progress along the way. Milestones could include key activities such as shortlisting funders, planning a project, obtaining quotations for project costs or writing a draft bid proposal.
3. Build a team around you
The responsibility for grant fundraising is often given to, and carried out by, a single member of school staff. But grant fundraising encompasses a broad range of tasks, from project design and development, to research and writing. To help you, it is a good idea to identify any skills and knowledge gaps you may have and include people in your team who best fit those needs. Be clear about the responsibilities of each team member. Schedule regular meetings to keep you focused and working together.
4. Commit your time
Grant fundraising and bid writing in a school environment can be very tricky, with many other priorities competing for your time. The most successful school fundraisers are those who are able to allocate time to grants’ research and bid writing on a regular basis. You should aim for at least a couple of hours a week. Ideally, this should be spent away from your desk, office or classroom to minimise interruptions.
5. Keep a diary
Use it to keep note of your fundraising activities, conversations you have, decisions you make and reasons for any changes along the way. It will act as a handy reminder of the process you have gone through and how other people have shaped or influenced your progress. Funders will often ask about this, especially when it is related to project design and development.