Everyone on board!
It's important that a regular-giving scheme is a whole school initiative, backed by your headteacher and governors. Be prepared for some initial barriers around how state education should (ideally) be funded when presenting your ideas to key stakeholder groups such as school staff, parents and governors.
As a PTA, you will have a vital role in taking regular giving forward, acting as the treasurer and gateway for all donations, and claiming Gift Aid (if you are a registered charity). The benefit of setting up regular donations is that it can help you plan ahead – and would work well for a PTA with ongoing commitments towards an agreed wish list.
Create a working party to consider your initial proposals. Include parents, ideally with fundraising experience. Your aim is to create a story around regular giving that will make all of your stakeholders feel part of your community. Include facts about why the scheme is important and what you are trying to achieve. Highlight what is good about your school, and what could be better. Do you have any famous alumni? Can you use your Ofsted grade and comments to help?
Regular-giving schemes (where supporters donate monthly amounts towards a charity's fundraising goals) are a relatively new venture for PTAs, but are growing in popularity. School fundraiser Amanda Burgess shows you how to get started
Developing a database
You are probably already in regular contact with many parents and carers who have opted in to hear from you. You could also add alumni, local businesses and any famous individuals living locally – or with connections to your school – to your target audience. Make sure you have permission under GDPR to contact new stakeholders regularly, particularly if you are not sending direct communications from the headteacher. Create a database format (possibly a Google Doc or Excel spreadsheet) that includes contact details and offers of support.
At my school, we send joint letters from the headteacher and PTA (Friends of Priory) as this allows us to approach all parents and carers about every appeal. We then create the database from those who respond and give us permission to contact them directly.
Mission and wish list
Make sure your ask is achievable and emphasise that every person making a small donation will make a huge difference to the school. Asking for a small amount won’t alarm people, and when they see it on their bank statement they're less likely to do a double-take. It might take some effort to get people to sign up initially, but if every parent in a school of 200 families gave £3 a month, that's over £7,000 a year.
Clearly, establishing a fundraising wish list helps to focus people's minds. With a regular-giving scheme, you need to agree on key projects with your school and you should also specify to donors exactly where their money is going. You may want to align regular-giving income to your existing fundraising goals. Whatever you decide, it's worth including a few smaller items, along with larger or ongoing projects, to build momentum.
Choose your platform
You will need to ensure that the school website can be set up for donations. There are many fundraising platforms that facilitate donations and allow the setting up of monthly direct debits. (Be aware that some do make a charge.)
- DONATE, run by the National Funding Scheme, is an integrated platform across text, web and contactless for everyday fundraising, with a 4.5% processing fee.
- JustGiving has monthly subscription fees starting at £15 +VAT, although donors can now contribute to cover these fees.
- Virgin Money Giving offers this option for its one-off £150 registration fee and processing fees.
- Localgiving has a membership fee of £80 +VAT per year, and can potentially help members with small grants, match funding, and expert fundraising support.
- InvestMyCommunity (formerly DonateMySchool) is a regular-giving and crowdfunding platform that also offers fundraising support and advice. Its basic service is free to use, but it takes a small percentage of donations.
Your aim is to build a culture of regular giving that gradually becomes embedded across the school. So, it's vital to keep supporters updated about the progress of your regular-giving campaign – and demonstrate how donations are making a difference. Make sure you promote your fundraising messages through a regular social media schedule, as well as appealing for supporters at new parents' evenings and fundraising events. Use examples of how previous donations have been put to good use to encourage people to do the right thing and sign up.
Take a look at nudge theory – favoured by Barack Obama and David Cameron (who established a government Nudge Unit – aka Behavioural Insights Team – in 2010). The idea is that you give people clear information to help persuade them to make active choices for the public good. By showing people good examples of what others are doing, you drive their desire to be seen as good, helpful people themselves.
Therefore, you should celebrate your successes – even the small ones! Going for some quick wins makes a big difference because it gives your scheme credibility and also creates match-funding opportunities.
Say thank you
It's important to acknowledge new donors as they sign up so that you can build loyalty and support from the outset. Continue to thank supporters regularly to emphasise the difference they are making. A letter from the headteacher or thanks in-kind (such as tickets to an event or photographs and quotes from delighted children) act as further incentives.
- Amanda Burgess is community liaison and income generating manager at Priory School, Lewes