This article originally appeared in the September 2012 Innovate My School magazine.

It’s a familiar problem: you want to start a new project at your school, but there’s no money for the equipment or services you need.

Don’t dust off the rolling pin for a fundraising cake sale just yet. Believe it or not, you may be able to get what you need for nothing!

Organisations across the country give thousands of free items to schools and allow them to use facilities and professional services without charge. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Over the years, schools have received all sorts of freebies: from maps, books, cereals and giant chess sets to hedges, telescopes and even trees!

With the advent of Marketing Awareness and the increase in the number of schools who now have Marketing Managers or Marketing Departments, Headteachers are becoming increasingly aware of the power of marketing at many levels: how good marketing can effect how a school is perceived and, in many cases, how this affects pupil numbers.

Setting up an after-school club, purchasing new books for the school library, updating computer equipment, and installing specialised playground equipment – these are all important projects for the creation of a diverse learning and social environment at school but they are often the first things to go when budgets are tightened.

Taking matters into their own hands, more schools and colleges are looking for new and inventive ways to boost their funds to support special projects and activities. The great news is that there are plenty of ways that your school can make money that don’t take up too much time or require sustained effort from school staff to organise and operate. The following ideas constitute a selection of easy-to-implement money raising schemes which, once they are put into action, you can sit back, relax, and watch your school funds grow, giving you that additional income to enhance the school experience for your pupils and local community.

Finding new ways for schools to save money seems to be the ‘hot potato’ at the moment, and quite understandably so. There is another option though: find new ways to make money. With all that intellectual property, skills and knowledge floating through the corridors, are there any opportunities for new business ventures to emerge from your school?

There has always been a contribution culture amongst teachers: 'We can get hold of lesson plans at the click of a button and reuse someone else’s work', or, as the saying goes: ‘There’s no point reinventing the wheel’. However, should we be more business-minded about giving our hard work away?

Your school has decided to turn its hand to fundraising, but you are unsure about where to start. Getting started is one of the most difficult aspects of fundraising and it challenges all of us – from fundraising beginners to seasoned experts embarking on a new venture.

These initial feelings of uncertainty are easily managed with a planned approach to fundraising. It begins by answering two simple questions: why are you fundraising and what do you want to achieve?

Securing funds for any business is a challenge and never more so in the current climate. I have spent many years helping with fundraising at my own daughter's schools and local charities but this has become increasingly harder as corporate companies that normally jump at the chance to become sponsors are holding onto budgets.

Many schools now have their own dedicated Development Director who may well have moved from a corporate environment and has brilliant fundraising and marketing skills. There are, of course, a number of excellent consultants around that specialise in writing applications for grants and will be more than able to help your school.

Schools and Colleges all have their own websites and this may be the first place an ex-pupil will visit to re-establish contact and possibly offer professional services and/or wish to make a donation. Similarly, your alumni database is your school’s business and you must get to know all of your supporters/members. With the aid of the right software this can be achieved easily and efficiently.

ASI Europe have recently published their own white paper 3 keys to smart website. Jyoti Hull-Jurkovic advises how schools and businesses can easily conduct a sales and marketing review with the aid of the correct tools alongside the norm of their site being just ‘user friendly’.

Value your database

Proper planning and management of any fundraising activity will culminate in better results and managing your alumni database is no exception. What many schools often fail to recognise is that their Database is a vital business tool and it is also a core alumni fundraising asset. Regular maintenance will enable you to ensure that the correct data is retained and all relevant history and information to your supporters is easily accessible to your staff.

Your alumni database is also the driver for any PR or marketing campaign. Consider what actions are required to be carried out by various personnel which need to be taken into account. Ask yourself have I incorporated their role into my follow-up procedures? However, if you have the right IT hardware and software many of these administrative dilemmas can be eliminated, or, at the very least, be managed efficiently.

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