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PTA Fundraising


If we told you that your PTA could raise £7,500 in just four hours you might be forgiven for thinking that we'd slightly lost our marbles.

Botanic Primary School

Well it's true as this is just the amount of money that Julia Verney secured on behalf of the Parent School Association of Sir John Lawes School in Harpenden, Hertfordshire by successfully applying to a local trust. Applying for external funding is an excellent way to supplement your association's current fundraising efforts but we guess you've got a question or two about the process.

Q: What is a trust?

A: Trusts are bodies that are set up with an amount of money that is invested; the income generated from the investment is then spent on good causes. So trusts are established to give money away albeit within established criteria. The term 'trust' covers a diverse range of organisations, from trusts set up by an individual or a family to large corporate and national trusts such as BBC Children in Need, Awards for All and Comic Relief. There are about 8,800 grant-making trusts and foundations in the UK alone, with the top 500 awarding approximately £3.6 billion each year to charitable causes. And this staggering figure excludes the £millions given away by the Big Lottery Fund.

Q: Why should my PTA consider this as a way to fundraise?

A: Quite simply, it's cost effective and a great use of your time. Applying to trusts can provide your PTA with a new dimension to fundraising. It's not always reasonable, especially in these austere times, to ask your parents to support yet another event, especially if you are increasing your fundraising goal to support a specific project. Applying for external funding is therefore a great way to utilise the skills of your parents and if your bid is successful imagine the feel-good factor when you announce to everyone that you have been awarded a nice pot of money!

Q: What are the barriers?

A: There's a huge misconception that applying for external funding is complicated and time consuming. Compare and contrast the time, effort and complexity (not to mention the stress) of running a PTA Summer Fair and suddenly applying for a Rotary Club grant, is child's play by comparison! Many PTAs assume that they are not eligible to apply and may be put off by fear of failure. Well, we can help you address both. Trusts will have specific, detailed criteria. If you don't meet the criteria then don't apply. If the thought of failing is putting you off, then take a look at Awards for All to see just how many schools and PTAs have successfully secured small grants of anything between £300 and, wait for it, £10,000!    

Q: How do we get started?

A: Before anything else you need to have a clear idea of the project and what it hopes to address; trusts will not simply hand over money for your general funds. So speak to the school, is there an area of barren land that could benefit from a facelift or does the school need new computer equipment or playground markings?  Is there a specific difficulty the school is aiming to overcome? If so why does this exist and what needs to change to overcome the problem? Once you know what the school requires, why it's needed and what difference it will make to the beneficiaries i.e. the pupils, parents and in some cases the local community too, this becomes the absolute heart of your application. Get this bit right and, assuming you meet the trust's criteria, your half way there!

Q: How do we find funders?

A: Research, research, research! Charitable trusts don't usually advertise or publicise what they do. However there are a number of online sources and printed publications that can point you in the right direction (see outbox). Your research should help you find a number of potential funders that are likely to fund your project. Trusts will only fund projects that fit with their specific areas of interest. PTA-UK members have free access to an online database of over 4,000 trusts, managed by the Directory of Social Change. On behalf of its members PTA-UK has purchased a licence to enable PTAs to search for potential funders using the bespoke online directory When you're ready to get going, simply contact the PTA-UK Advice Line on 0300 123 5460 or email info@pta.org.uk then supply you with the relevant login details which will enable you to access the service for up to eight weeks.   

Q: How can we get our application noticed?

A: Sadly, there's no fool-proof way to get your application noticed. Remember that the trustees of the charitable trust may well be pouring over many hundreds of submissions so when you're completing the application think about ways to make yours stand out. A good, innovative project name is a must, with a strong opening paragraph. Aim to write in a way that resonates with the funder's interests and use headings and a logical structure, ensuring that you follow the funder's guidelines at all times. Try to avoid jargon and always explain acronyms - you know what PTA stands for but don't assume the reader does! Don't waffle, make sure you get to the point and use active, positive language. Don't be passive, be passionate!    

Q: Why do applications fail?

A: Many applications will fail because they don't meet the funder's criteria; this is why it's vitally important to ensure that you take a qualitative not quantitative approach. Under no circumstances should you send the same letter of application to a number of trusts. You'll be more successful if you target specific trusts with a bespoke application. If there is a specific form to use, then use it, don't send in a sheet of A4 if the funder wants you to use their documentation. Make sure you have answered all the funder's questions. Applications will be rejected if there is information missing.  Ensure the application is clear - before you submit it, ask someone not involved with the project to read through it. If they can understand it, then the chances are so will the funder. Guidance provided by funders is not always that clear. If any point needs clarification, give them a call.  If your application is not successful, seek feedback, so that you can learn by your mistakes.

Q: How long will it take?

A: The process can be quite lengthy, so be prepared for the long haul. You'll need to identify the project and the need, then start researching potential funders, before you even start to complete an application. The good news is that this can all take place behind the fundraising scenes so to speak as applying for external funding should not overly affect your traditional fundraisers. Funders will publish the dates when their trustees meet, which in some cases may only be once or twice a year, so check the deadline dates for applications.

Q: Where can I go for help?

A: Look no further than the PTA-UK website. We have an Information sheet to help get you started - Fundraising - through trusts and foundations, plus we can help your PTA become a registered charity as this is usually a fundamental requirement when applying to a  trust. With our model constitution in place, PTAs in England and Wales can achieve registered charity status in as little as 10 working days and in Northern Ireland, our constitution has been approved by HMRC for the purpose of charity registration. Remember, you have free access to trustfunding.org.uk giving you a saving of over £200 on the annual licence fee and we are now running a number of bespoke, free workshops for anyone interested in raising money through trusts. 

So there you have it, a little bit of effort could reap a lot of reward as one member told PTA-UK recently - 'PTAs are needy not greedy'!

Case Studies

The PTA of Rothwell School, Leeds

The PTA of Rothwell School is celebrating its success in winning a £9,000 Lottery grant to provide additional computer equipment. The grant enabled the PTA to purchase twenty state-of-the-art Fizzbook laptops, which will be lent out to pupils at evenings and weekends to improve their basic IT skills. The computers will also be loaned to families that do not have access to IT facilities and the school will be using this new resource to run IT classes for parents, in conjunction with local community groups.  

The PSA of Sir John Lawes School, Harpenden 

Julia Verney, Chair was so delighted when the PSA received a grant of £7,500 from a local trust identified by the trustfunding service she got in touch to tell us more: "The online database was so easy to use. I simply typed in our criteria and was then presented with a number of trusts that matched this. You can refine your search so that you end up with a number of trusts that you can then look into a bit more closely. This is a fantastic service provided by NCPTA. It took me ball-park four hours to identify a suitable trust, time well spent I'd say!"

Further information:

  • Trust directories, local and national available from your local library and to purchase from the Directory of Social Change Prices start from around £40;
  • Online sources e.g trustfundraising.org.uk (free for PTA-UK members)/ Grantfinder and Grants4Schools (free 28 day trial);
  • Council for Voluntary Services - your local CVS may be able to provide you with support preparing your application;
  • Your local authority - most have an external funding officer. At the very least your authority will more than likely produce an electronic funding update, so you can find out about local and national funding opportunities.


This information sheet is a benefit of PTA-UK membership. It is published by PTA-UK for its members. Content in whole or in part may not be produced without the express written permission of PTA-UK. For information please contact PTA-UK on info@pta.org.uk. PTA-UK has made every effort to ensure the content is accurate and correct at the time of publication but some details may be subject to change without notice. PTA-UK will not therefore be held responsible for loss or other liability that may result from actions or decisions taken by a PTA / member, based on the advice given.

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