Top tips for teachers applying for funding

21 March 2018

AND Advocates Facilitator, Rachel Moss, reflects on session three of this year’s Advocates Programme and shares top tips for applying for funding

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AND Advocates are a group of teachers and senior leaders from schools across London with a passion for the arts and culture in education. For session three of the 2017/18 programme, we met at LIFT in Islington on 13 March. The focus was on fundraising, a key area identified by the teachers in their applications to the programme.

After an ethical dilemma icebreaker (do you accept money from certain corporates or not?) we heard from and questioned two inspiring speakers, who set the scene on fundraising in the current climate. Firstly Anita Kerwin-Nye from AKN Consulting and the Every Child Should Campaign, who ran through the types of funders: trusts and foundations, statutory funding, community foundations, individual giving, crowdfunding, corporate partnerships, and community and events. She then signposted the Advocates to websites like Funding Central for trusts and foundations, and Contracts Finder for statutory funding so they could search to match their projects.

Next, we listened to Lawrence Walker, Development Manager at a New Direction, who talked about his experiences of fundraising - in particular his 'must-dos', language and case making, plus lots of tips to remember when filling out applications including remembering to provide evidence, to innovate and to be sustainable. He emphasised using the correct language such as ‘impact’ (the long-term change you want to have as a result of what you do), ‘outcomes’ (the changes, benefits, learning or other effects that result from the project) and ‘outputs’ (products, services or facilities produced or supplied).

We heard next from two of the AND Advocates who gave presentations about their successful fundraising bids. Lucy Williams from Erith School spoke about her experience of NESTA crowdfunding platform Rocket Fund, the pros and cons, and NESTA’s future focus on technology. Then Shermaine Slocombe from The Halley Academy shared her experience of applying for Arts Council England's Grants for the Arts fund last year and her recent reapplication, noting that the fund has recently been renamed to Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants.

The Advocates spent the rest of the session discussing their projects (all of which are at various stages of planning) and what types of funders they might approach, with some focusing on capital projects and others on funding for artists and resources. They then started writing their ‘case for support’ to make sure that they have all of the information they require before taking it to partners and then funders. We will be revisiting this at a future session to see how far the Advocates have gone on their fundraising journeys.

Top tips for teachers applying for funding

Following the presentations by the speakers and the discussions that followed, we have developed our top tips for teachers applying for funding:

  • Be proactive rather than reactive and know your mission to avoid mission drift. You can do this by writing a ‘case for support’. By spending time at the start you will have a document that you can cut and paste for multiple applications
  • Create a list of potential funders and apply to a lot of them. Worry later if you gain too much money!
  • It is important to speak to someone based at the funder before you apply to get an idea of whether you will be successful, especially with larger bids
  • Work in partnership, rather than on your own, either with other staff – maybe your school business manager could help? – or a cultural partner who can sometimes apply for money that you cannot, and vice versa. The cultural organisation might also have staff dedicated to fundraising with more time and capacity than you. Where possible name your partners, making sure that you ask their permission first
  • For crowdfunding, source local businesses first (offline) and then target people online - e.g. your social media networks, PTA, school alumni, etc.
  • Stick to the word limits and write your answers in a separate document first as online portals can crash!
  • Gather evidence of past projects and collect quotes from pupils along with letters of support from partner organisations
  • If you are concerned about ethics, write a statement or policy about who you do and do not take funding from, and stick to this
  • Make your project good value for money by including ‘in kind’ staff time, spaces, overheads and resources of around 10% in total. Do your sums to make sure it all adds up and check that what you are applying for is eligible from your funder
  • You usually want ‘unrestricted’ funding so you can spend it how you like, but if you want to protect your money then ‘restricted’ funding may prove a better option
  • Allow for ‘contingency’ of around 2% - this provides you with a small pot of money which you can move between budget lines
  • Finally, ask someone impartial to proof your application, then be confident with your pitch, and you're ready to go!

There will be opportunities for you to hear from the AND Advocates in future blogs and to meet them at A New Direction events – look out for their upcoming Teachmeets, and in the meantime you can find out more about them here.