With the education sector facing significant financial challenges; schools and academies are looking at how to make efficiencies. Income Generation is often one of the last areas to really be focused on but can yield significant benefits.
Rather than brining any surprises to the table, let's explore three old favourites and look at the obstacles that come with them.
Nothing new here, but so many schools never venture into looking at available grants with exception of the big hitters, such as the Conditional Improvement Fund (CIF) but there are quite literally hundreds of grants available! They range from potentially high value grants for buildings, equipment, projects to the smaller grants. All that’s required is a little time and research and sadly a fair bit of dreaded form filling (everyones favourite.)
Time: the School Business Manager's biggest enemy. We all wish there was a magic wand to wave over this one, but just like you need to schedule the completion of that Budget Forecast Outturn or prepare your Management Accounts this is also where one you really should prioritise a little time, even if it is to investigate your options. We’re helping you out with a few links to get you started at the end of this blog.*
There is the option of paying someone else to complete the research and many will even complete the bid on your behalf, but there will always be a cost implication and there is no guarantee of the funding, so weighing up the risk versus potential benefits is a must if you are considering this option.
Many grants are given to fulfil a specific brief, so ensuring that you read the criteria fully before will help to complete any bid. The last thing you want to do is to fill in forms only to discover you missed something that excludes you from the bid. For example, some grants for breakfast clubs target schools with a certain percentage of free school meals, if you were in an area with a low FSM percentage you wouldn’t qualify, so read the brief and try to make sure your bid encapsulates the criteria to maximise the potential of receiving that grant.
Many schools generate vast amounts of revenue with lettings but it can vary depending on where you are located, with inner city schools being able to demand higher premiums than those of a village school.
Things to consider are the costs associated to lettings, I’ve worked with more than one school where they hire a room for £20 an hour but the cost of having site staff and keeping the school open far outweighs the financial benefits. Then, of course, there is the potential disruption, mess that may be left, damage to property and bad debt etc. all of which are potential reasons not to venture into Lettings.
If you’re already letting your spaces as a school, make sure you are getting the ‘going rate’ as many long term lets will have never have put up the rate for years. If you have a large amount of lets, do you have different rates for community lets and private lets? Is it possible for site staff to work shift times? Many schools pay large amounts of overtime to site staff to be available after hours and its often unnecessary. Most important of all - invoice in advance! So many schools are left unable to recover high amounts due to lack of credit control, something we would associate more with business, but when it comes to lettings we should be applying the same principles to avoid having to write off bad debt.
This is an old favourite and although it's unlikely to raise huge sums it's still invaluable to have the staff, parents and students involved. Having something to raise funds for can often help drive up those donations. For example, raising funds for something like a new school minibus can have a real impact as the fundraisers can see a tangible asset at the end of their efforts and they get that warm fuzzy feeling.
Actually getting people to participate! This is probably one of the more difficult obstacles to overcome. Staff and students are normally more than happy to participate in fundraising activity but getting parental involvement can be more difficult for some school, the only thing I can advise is to persevere. You just need a find few who are really dedicated to the school and they are likely to take a lot of the work of your hands. (Hallelujah!)
Remember, if you are receiving funds through grants or fundraising, a thank you, and update or if appropriate, an unveiling ceremony, goes a long way to showing your appreciation.(who doesn't like a thank you?) No matter how big or small the funds are. Also, never miss the opportunity to invite the local press so that the wider community can see the results of your efforts. Who knows, a future benefactor could be amongst the readers.
Author: Director, Tracy Dawson