The Impact of COVID-19 on School Fundraising
28 July 2020
Here at Your School Lottery, we’ve been wondering how COVID-19 has affected the ability of schools to bring in fundraising income. We took to Google to try and find out, but it seemed that no-one had the answer. So we’ve taken the lead and done some research of our own. Our findings are unequivocal; a staggering 94% of schools said that COVID-19 has had a ‘negative’ (22%) or ‘very negative’ (72%) impact on their fundraising. 96% expect the coronavirus pandemic to affect their capacity to raise funds next year. A devastating funding crisis is unfolding in schools across the country. One school even told us:
“Our school has gone into administration and has permanently closed its senior department.”
Over a 2-week period in July, we invited the 1322 schools in the Your School Lottery network to complete a short survey. Many thanks to all 336 of the Primary and Secondary Schools, Multi-Academy Trusts, Special Schools and Pre-Schools that responded. You helped us to answer the following questions:
- How has school fundraising income been affected by COVID-19?
- To what extent have schools been able to continue fundraising during lockdown?
- Do schools expect the fundraising challenges to continue in the next academic year?
- How does the change in fundraising income impact upon schools?
Our findings are summarised below, or you can read the full report here.
Upon analysing the results of our school survey, it came as no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic lockdown and school closures have been a major stumbling block to school fundraising, but the true extent of the problem is shocking:
- 80% of schools have been unable to continue ANY form of fundraising since the onset of COVID-19
- 98% of schools have been forced to cancel key fundraising events
- 99% of schools have raised less money as a result of COVID-19
The timing of school closures and subsequent coronavirus lockdown coincided with the main fundraising season for schools, as many key events such as summer fayres and sports days are dependent on fair weather. This has meant that the anticipated Spring/Summer funding boost simply hasn’t happened this year. Schools told us:
“We normally raise around £10K from our summer events. This goes a long way towards funding many resources within the school.”
“The summer fayre brings in over £5k, that was cancelled. Last year that money was used to buy iPads for the classes.”
How Does This Impact Upon Schools?
UK schools have faced years of growing budget pressures, putting more and more demand on fundraising as a source of income, not to just to buy optional extras but increasingly to fund essentials such as books and maintenance of premises. Research carried out prior to COVID-19 showed that the average school raised £59 per pupil per year in fundraising donations*. Since the start of the pandemic, the schools in our survey report losing as much as 70% of this year’s fundraising income.
A conservatively estimated drop in fundraising income of 30-50% would result in a total UK-wide loss of £150-260million this year alone. In the academic year to July, the average secondary school can expect to be facing a funding gap of £28,467 (£8,319 a year for primary schools). We asked schools how this would affect them. Their comments included:
“Our fundraising was spent topping up a school struggling with budget cuts, and now it’s even worse!”
“We are a very small school of 48 children and every penny from fundraising is vital as budgets are so tight in our county. The money we raise normally assists the school in so many ways, they really will suffer.”
This dramatic drop in income is set against even more challenges. Fundraising donations come chiefly from the parents and the local community of a school, but these communities are facing their own financial struggles. 80% of schools said their community/parents have less household income as a result of COVID-19. The problem facing schools is further compounded by the unforeseen extra costs incurred through the necessity to put COVID-19 precautions in place. One school told us:
“As a small school of just 110 children, we need every penny. We have also incurred additional expenses due to the coronavirus lockdown (such as having to buy a shipping container to store excess furniture in the classrooms). The government have now said that they won't fund additional expenses due to the pandemic. We really are going to suffer financially this year.”
What Does The Future Hold?
A widespread COVID-19 vaccination programme is not looking likely during 2020, so schools are resigned to disruptions for the foreseeable future. After the gaping hole in school finances caused by summer event cancellations, schools are already facing up to the prospect of cancelling Christmas events. They are justifiably worried about another year of fundraising struggles when they reopen in September. Our survey demonstrated just how many schools are concerned about this:
96% of schools expect COVID-19 restrictions to affect their fundraising income next year
But perhaps this will be the catalyst for change. As we all adapt to the ‘new normal’, opportunities emerge for a new approach to fundraising. One school said, “This is all a bit of a disaster really, but it may force some creativity too”. Although 76% have not yet tried new methods of fundraising, some schools report thinking about how they can conduct fundraising without the need for face-to-face events. With so many people having adapted to working from home, the opportunity to fundraise in the virtual world has never looked more attractive. Reacting to the survey findings, Richard Manville from PTA+ (membership body for Parent Teacher Associations) said:
“Although this challenging situation is sure to continue for some time, PTAs are resilient and resourceful, and this comes through in the survey. I fully expect PTAs to develop strategies that adapt to this ‘new norm’ and increase their fundraising through services like Your School Lottery.”
Your School Lottery has been the one glimmer of hope for the schools in our network during this time, enabling them to retain a steady source of fundraising income throughout lockdown. 80% of the schools surveyed said that their lottery had helped them to keep funds coming in. Schools said:
“The Lottery has definitely maintained an income stream for us”
“Although a few ticket sales dropped off through lockdown, it has been our saving grace for fundraising.”
It’s free, easy and risk-free to start a school lottery. If you’re interested in launching a lottery for your school, get started here today.
*Source: Analysis of Department for Education 2017/18 data for England, by the BBC Victoria Derbyshire Show.
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