How to get your students fundraising

Sarah Williams

Sarah Williams is assistant headteacher and head of Sixth Form at Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School in Aylesbury. Sarah first got involved with schools expedition provider World Challenge in 2003 and this summer completed her 10th expedition. After visiting Ethiopia this summer, she will be leading a group of students on expedition in India in 2015.

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If affordable, introducing students to foreign countries is well worth considering. Sarah Williams, assistant headteacher and head of Sixth Form at Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School, has found that fundraising is a great way to get these trips off the ground.

Getting students involved in fundraising activities can really add value to their school education (excuse the pun!). By letting pupils take responsibility for driving fundraising events, it not only teaches them more about the value of money, but also helps to develop broader skills which will stand them in good stead once they leave school.

The practicalities of putting on a fundraising event needs effective communication skills delegation, pricing up and consideration of profit margins (Maths in action), design and branding and security (ensuring that any tickets sold can't be forged). But more than those specific skills, it is about teamwork, leadership and responsibility. When you are working in a team and have been given responsibility for a task, it is on you and you alone to deliver, and that is something that many students wouldn't have experienced before.

I first really got involved in student-led fundraising when I started working with a schools expedition provider. As part of their overseas trips, the students complete a community project and so in the two years running up to the expedition the teams fundraise to support these projects.

We always let the students decide how they want to spend the money they raise as a team. They are encouraged to spend some of the money in advance to take gifts with them, but also to wait until they are out in country so they can really see how their money can make an impact. This summer I went with a group of year 12s to Ethiopia, and the team took with them footballs and training kits for the children. When we got there the children in the village were able to play football for the first time knowing who was on each team! Once we were out there the students decided to spend another $300 on stationary for the local school, resources that had a huge impact for a school that didn't even have a pencil.

The students are given the option to spend some of the money on their own R&R whilst on expedition, but this is a decision that is always left to the group. My husband was working with another group in Ethiopia this summer and after a massive debate, they came to the decision to give all of the $1,400 they had raised to the community project; a huge donation that would enable the completion of the school’s construction.

Each year we want the students to come up with their own ideas and to lead their own fundraising. However, as a school we have now established two regular fundraising events for the expedition groups each year, which have been successful.

In the spring term, the team due to go away the following summer puts on an evening event for friends and family. Next year our school is going to India, so in March the students hosted an Indian Evening, with everyone bringing different Indian dishes. The students hosted quizzes for the adults and games for the children as entertainment. Through this event the students were able to raise over £2,000 to go towards their group fund.

Each November we do a 'stay-awake-athon'. Years 7 and 8 are invited into school one Friday evening and are sponsored to stay awake from 7pm to 7am; it is the older students' responsibility to plan a 12 hour programme of entertainment and activities to keep the younger ones occupied! This has included recycled fashion shows, a talent competition, dance offs, five-aside football, movies etc. Staff are on hand only for supervision through the night. This event has now become a rite of passage at the school, with many students who have taken part in the 'stay-awake-athon' going on to do an expedition in the sixth-form.

Here are my tips for teachers wanting to get students involved in fundraising in school:

1. Sow the seeds and facilitate ideas, but let the students take the lead. It can be quite stressful sometimes because the students don't do things how you would necessarily do them yourself, but it is important to bite your tongue and let them figure out their own way - you just need to be there to catch them if things go wrong.

2. Ask the charity or organisation you are raising money for if they have anyone who can come in and work with the students to brainstorm ideas. We have had a couple of people from the expedition company come and work with the students each year, and it really helps them to start thinking about why they are actually raising money, what impact they can have and how to think outside the box.

3. Make sure it is doable. If your students have got a big idea it doesn't mean that it can't be done, but you may be needed to step in and help them break it down into smaller tasks.

4. Think carefully about timings. You will want to avoid lots of additional work in the run up to key exam periods, but also think about avoiding those times of year when there are already a lot of other school events planned. Additionally, for an event or activity that would probably take you six-weeks to organise, you should allow three months of planning for the students.

5. Be aware of other fundraising going on in the school. If parents, teachers and students are constantly being bombarded with requests for money for various causes it can put people off. At our school all requests for fundraising activities, whether it is a big event like the 'stay-awake-athon' or simply a student wanting to hold a bake-sale, have to be approved by a Deputy Head.

6. Finally, remember to let people know how their money has been used. When we return from expedition each year the challengers lead an assembly to report back and show the rest of the school how their fundraising efforts have had an impact on a community elsewhere in the world. This really helps the whole school community feel part of the effort and helps students who haven't been directly involved to really see the impact that they can have through charitable giving and fundraising.

Have you undertaken fundraising in your school? Let us know in the comments.

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