New Hinksey PTA bring the Safari to Oxford families and raises £2,500

Fundraising Primary Community Engagement England
21 July 2020
When the pandemic forced the New Hinksey C of E Primary School’s summer fete to cancel, the PTA knew that unless they came up with an alternative, they would face a massive hole in their income. This mission to keep funds coming in led to their neighbourhood Safari Walk. We caught up with PTA Chair Ben to find out how part of suburban Oxford was transformed into a colourful jungle…

The summer fete is the biggest event of the year for New Hinksey C of E Primary School and their PTA. It costs £700 to host, and raises around £3,500, so it’s a key part of their fundraising calendar. But, like so much this year, they had to cancel the annual event, and devise a new activity to bring the community together, and raise funds in a safe, responsible way. When I joined there was a small group of people who were the PTA, and they were the people who supported the school,” says Ben. Anybody outside of that wasn’t really aware that there was this mechanism for raising money for the school, and raising awareness of the school within the community. One of the key goals I set myself was to get people with a connection to the school to come along to events and engage with the school and I think we’re getting there.”

Networking know-how

As soon as Ben and the PTA had figured out their alternative, they knew they had to act fast. We’ve got year WhatsApp groups, so the first thing I did was send a message to the year reps saying this is happening, can you disseminate it down into your groups.’ We’ve also got a PTA Facebook page, so we set up an event there and directed people to Facebook. Once we got to about 10 people I built the Safari Walk website — which has a sign-up form — and started funnelling people through that.” Using the website, Ben was able to build up a mailing list as people signed up, which he used to send out regular updates, letting them know how many people had signed up, how the map was taking shape, and donations coming in. The school was still open for some pupils, so Ben sent in details to be included in the weekly newsletter, which he hoped parents would still be reading. 

Word of mouth played an important role too: Walking the dog you’d see people and ask are you taking part in the Safari Walk?’ and then word got around. Once we’d got people signed up to make all the animals, I wrote to the local radio stations and asked if they’d have me on to talk about it for a couple of minutes.” After appearing on Jack FM, the radio station sent Ben a recording of the segment which he shared on local Facebook groups to promote across other local areas. The story snowballed, getting picked up by Oxford Mail and other local media, which helped the PTA get lots of information out while sign-ups came in on the website.

Animal magic

While Ben was busy promoting the event, the children and parents of New Hinksey were hard at work creating a multi-coloured menagerie for everyone to explore. Families had a brilliant time crafting sculptures and making paintings to display outside their homes. Harness the creativity of the parents,” says Ben. There are many who have no spare capacity to engage and that’s fine, but there are others that don’t normally engage who can.”

All the animals were added to a map on the safari website. Anyone wishing to take part could download the app and follow the walk on their phone, or download and print off a map. Over the weekend of 27th and 28th June the animals were set loose as intrepid explorers followed their map to seek out and spot all the animals. Everyone walking the safari route was encouraged to make a donation via the PTA’s giving page.

Don’t stop talking to people, there’s no such thing as over communication.”

Community connections

The catchment area for New Hinksey Primary is quite small and the school has only 165 pupils, so Ben was surprised to see people were logging into the website and donating from as far away as Spain and the USA! Ben even managed to persuade the local estate agent — who’d said they wouldn’t be able to support them this year — to donate £250 and put up advertising boards.

The committee feel they’re connecting more than ever with the wider community. Ben says, We’re seeing a lot more grandparents getting involved, and one of the things I noticed on the Safari Walk was people who went to the school 20-years ago coming along saying we’re here to support Hinksey,’ so we need to work out how we get those people along to our next events.”

The Safari Walk was a huge success, raising £2,500, and with no costs involved, it equalled what they would’ve expected to raise at the summer fete. Ben hopes the PTA will be able to organise another something walk” next year alongside the fete, and that some of the families who took part will become more involved in PTA activities when they’re all back at school. Here at Parentkind, we’re excited to see what Ben and the committee encounter on their next safari…

With thanks to Ben of the New Hinksey School Association

Inspired by New Hinksey’s Safari Walk? Organising your own outdoor extravaganzas?

  • Be sure to promote your event widely, and use as many different outlets as you can
  • Keep an eye out for Parentkind’s Big PTA Walk – coming soon…