Five-Minute Marvels: Appleton school artificial pitch

Fundraising School Improvement PTAs England
26 September 2017
£50k for a new sports pitch seemed out of reach at first, but the Friends of Appleton School put their heads together to make the impossible possible!

Who are they?

Appleton C of E Primary School educates around 200 pupils in Oxfordshire. Their PTA, the Friends of Appleton School, create regular fundraising opportunities, and foster links in the school and parent community. 

What did they do?

Attempts were made to raise £50,000 for a new artificial turf sports pitch for around a decade, but none made much headway, until Friends Chair Philip Briscoe decided the group would put all efforts into making the dream a reality. For years the children couldn’t go outside as the turf was degraded,” says Philip. They couldn’t get enough exercise, and so were coming home full of energy – so the parents were definitely behind the project!” 

The Friends made the all-weather pitch their priority above everything else. The team consisted of around 20 people, all following a clear, carefully managed plan. We had people on grants, others on local businesses, community pots, and running the normal activities. And we absolutely played to people’s strengths,” explains Philip, some people preferred the direct contact; others were brilliant at filling in funding applications, for example.” This approach helped the friends appeal to a wide range of donors.

How did they do it?

The Friends developed a really good relationship with The Oxford Times, ensuring that the local paper championed their work, and encouraged the community to donate. Their media courting included roping in the head coach of Oxford United FC (aptly named Michael Appleton!) to open the school’s sports day.

Internal communication was just as important, keeping the school community updated so that everybody felt encouraged.

We wanted to make sure parents could see we weren’t asking them to pay for everything, and that we were getting funds from elsewhere as well.” Every little victory kept parents interested and invested.

The Friends identified and targeted four main sources of funding:

Individuals – The chance to sponsor one square metre of the 1,250m² field for £10 allowed parents and community members to make a tangible contribution. Philip adds, We also set up an online giving page on the BT Donate site, one of the best online giving sites, as charges are very low.”

Grants and foundations – The Friends looked at around 300 opportunities with the help of the Parentkind charitable grants database and Grants4Schools, and whittled these down to 20 whose eligibility criteria matched their needs. Just three of these applications were successful, but this brought in a worthwhile £10,000 after six months of work.” They found that they were more successful with local funds, rather than national funds.

Local businesses and organisationsCold calling was less successful than the grants,” says Philip, but we did get a local house builder to donate. Local builders often have a community pot, and are obligated to spend the money in the community.” Parents and extended family were asked — several times — if their employer had a charitable pot. You constantly have to keep reminding people about the project and its benefits to the children,” says Philip. It probably took us at least three attempts. Don’t give up — be persistent. We received a few thousand this way.”

Traditional – All the while, the Friends kept up the traditional PTA activities like cake sales, raffles, and fairs. In the end, this stream accounted for one third of the total funds.

How did it go?

I still can’t believe it’s done,” says Philip. I have to say last summer, after putting in so much effort, things just didn’t seem to be going anywhere. It wasn’t really until the autumn of 2015 that money started to really come in. I still have to pinch myself that we’ve done it!”

Headteacher Amy Carnell says, The biggest benefit and thing the children enjoy the most is being able to have active lunchtimes throughout the year.” As well as high quality PE lessons, Appleton now provides many opportunities for children to take part in sporting fixtures. This year our girls’ football team proceeded beyond the school level, playing at the South-East Regional finals. We also have a programme that encourages all children to stay active at playtimes, and we can now offer outdoor PE throughout the year.”

With thanks to Philip Briscoe of the Friends of Appleton School.