Insight: Getting in touch with alumni and businesses

Yesterday was a momentous day for Rocket Fund: Hyndland Primary School in Scotland were lucky enough to be recipients of our largest donation to date! The stars aligned as an alumni member, turned software company owner, stumbled across the crowdfunding campaign on Facebook and felt moved to respond with a large donation.

Read on for some insights on how to approach this kind of donor yourselves, moving outside of your immediate school community and getting more creative with your contacts.

Pete Black of Energysys explains what did it for him. @pb_energysys

1. How did you become aware of the Rocket Fund project that you sponsored? 

I think I saw the notice on Facebook, perhaps in the Edinburgh Evening News feed? Interestingly, I couldn’t find it again when I looked for it the next day, but Google was my friend and I found the Rocket Fund site. I was really interested and keen to support, in part because I run a software company, and because I believe it’s essential that everyone has a core set of digital skills. On top of that, I was born and raised in Glasgow, and attended both Hyndland Primary and Secondary Schools, so there were really multiple points of connection. 

2. Why did you choose this project in particular to sponsor?

I received a really terrific education at Hyndland School, and I believe it was fundamental in allowing me to achieve my goals. The fact that we’re a software company made it even more appealing to support a project that was fundamentally about IT skills. The enthusiasm of the digital leaders was really impressive too. 

3. Have you made donations in the past? If so who to and by what means?

Yes, we make regular donations to the Surrey Care Trust, and one of our directors is a trustee. We’ve also made one-off contributions to charities to which we feel a particular affinity. For example, I’m now based in Edinburgh, and we’ve given to one of the homeless charities here. 

4. Do you have any tips for other schools looking to attract donations from businesses or alumni?

In comparison with the US, our schools and universities are really poor when it comes to tracking alumni. It really should be a higher priority to keep records on the careers and contact details of former students, keeping them in touch with news, and encouraging them to make contributions if they can. There’s no real data protection issue if the nature of the data stored and the purpose is agreed, and I feel it’s just not something we do well.

5. Could you name some practical ways our schools could approach businesses to attract larger donations?

It’s tricky, but looking for that connection is important. So, for example, if you’re seeking donations for a digital fund for a school in Glasgow, I’d use LinkedIn to contact technology business leaders in Glasgow and invite them to contribute. Perhaps an open day at the school to discuss the curriculum, and the benefits of their donation, would help to form that connection and encourage the opening of wallets!

Use LinkedIn to contact technology business leaders in Glasgow and invite them to contribute.

6. What impact do you hope your donation will have?

This is one of the most exciting periods in history for digital technology, with the emergence of cloud computing and AI among many advances that are already transforming the world. Ultimately, I hope that students are going to really see what they can do with technology and develop the digital skills that will prepare them for a fantastic future. Most of all, I hope they have fun!

7. What would you say to other businesses and alumni looking to donate, who aren’t quite sure?

I’d tell them that a small contribution can make a vast difference. Contributing to the lives and development of students across the country will create a lasting legacy that benefits everyone.

8. Why do you think it’s important to support computing in schools in the UK?

Quite simply, the future is digital. If we want to succeed as a country then we need to invest in the digital skills of every single student in the country, no matter their academic specialisation.

Go Hyndland Primary School! Good luck with the next 43 days of your project! Visit their project page here.

If you have any tips or ideas about fundraising for schools, get in touch with us or leave a comment below!