With income generation continuing to present a challenge for schools, many savvy school business leaders now look to engage with outside supporters and sponsors when it comes to funding new initiatives and projects.
Any fundraising plan for an aspirational project should include multiple routes to funding, from traditional grant funding and lettings income, to crowdfunding and business sponsorships. Engaging closely with community and local business can bring myriad benefits to all parties, but schools should be crystal clear on what they’re looking for from a relationship with a partner business.
You’ll need a clear idea of the type of support you’re seeking – donations or expert advice, for example – as well as what benefits you can offer to the business. Any potential donations or financial support should be linked to specific projects; sponsors are far more likely to engage with a school if they can see directly what impact on the children their input will have.
Some businesses may prefer a low-level, ‘light touch’ association with a local school, whilst others might be willing to offer more tangible, overt support. A business may well be motivated for purely altruistic reasons, or to meet its CSR (corporate social responsibility) obligations.
Either way, it’s crucial that the school understands what it can offer in return – a website entry in a school’s ‘Business Sponsorship Directory’, for instance, or a mention in the school newsletter. Schools also need to understand the sponsor’s expectations, and establish ground rules as to how involved the partner can expect to be in the project they’re supporting.
Schools will also want to consider how the partnership is perceived by the community, perhaps by canvassing the views of the PTA and other parent groups via a questionnaire. Care should be taken when choosing which organisations to approach with sponsorship opportunities, as both parties can be susceptible to reputational damage.
Schools naturally need to apply due diligence with any commercial relationships. The safest and most obvious place to start is with suppliers. Every school will already have trading relationships in place with different suppliers that typically rely on a degree of trust developed over a number of years.
The alternative is to seek out businesses that might be able to provide a specific service or form of support. Parents might also be able to suggest suitable partners. Much may depend on the school’s location; a high concentration of nearby tech companies will offer different opportunities to those in areas situated in traditional industry heartlands.
You could introduce different sponsorship packages for various needs and budgets. ‘Bronze’, ‘Silver ‘and ‘Gold’ packages could allow partner businesses to support the school in return for a sliding scale of promotion and advertising opportunities. These might range from appearances in the annual music show’s programme to repeat mentions in the school’s social media channels.
Hosting a business directory on the school website will give selected businesses an opportunity to raise their profile for an annual fee. There are great examples of education/business partnerships out there, such as the ‘Premium Partners’ initiative run by Castle and Marlwood Schools’ in Gloucestershire.
If enough time, coordinated effort and thought is invested upfront, your school can build lucrative and sustainable relationships with business that have a real, appreciably positive impact on your children’s lives.
Justin Smith is an ISBL fellow and founder of Chameleon Training & Consultancy; visit chameleon-training.co.uk or follow @jus_chameleon.