Crowdfunding for Multi Academy Trusts.

Two weeks before we launched our spring term 2019 match funding, Kris Mantle – Fundraising Coordinator for C.I.T Academies was handed a note from a teacher about a new crowdfunding platform for schools… Rocket Fund.

Always up for a challenge and ready to embrace new things, over the next two weeks Kris launched not one, not two, but NINE fundraising projects for schools across their trust. Here are his thoughts about the process…

First things first, would you Rocket Fund again?

“We would most definitely use it again.”

We had used a more generic crowdfunding site previously and found Rocket Fund to be 100% more easy to navigate with a less fussy, more modern and much more simple user journey.

We had a variety of successes over our nine projects some of which were successful and some which were not. We now have a good understanding about why the ones that failed did so and there are things we would do differently, this was almost like a test run.

We definitely plan to use Rocket Fund again in the near future. In fact, we already have a few ideas in the pipeline.

Tell us about your MAT and the projects you ran?

We are based in Lincolnshire and have eleven schools, my task was to fundraise for all of these schools using Rocket Fund, a couple of the schools joined together for a project so there were nine projects in total.

Our schools range from primary mainstream schools though to special schools catering for pupils aged 3 to 19. Some of our schools have high levels of free school needs and their needs and networks are very varied so it was a tricky job getting it right for all of them with a very short two-week turn around.

We ran projects to raise money for items from iPads for a mainstream schools to BeeBots for a rural school and Sensory pebbles for SEND students in one of our newest schools. These were all items which were already on the schools’ wish lists.

As Fundraising Coordinator, I was able to administer the bulk of the projects, with some help from the schools on the ground and also from the marketing team, who helped with getting the word out.

I worked with the schools on the ground to create pitches and project pages and we went from there!

One of the nine project pitches for C.I.T academy.

Did you experience any stumbling blocks?

It really was a very simple process. Initially, we received some push back from some staff members who were not keen to run projects which might ask for funds from our direct community. In a way these initial fears fueled us to take a more active stance on looking outside of our community and asking other organisations and businesses to help us with our funding.

Speaking of which, did you interact much with the local community or businesses?

Rocket Fund gave us a reason and purpose with which to contact lots of organisations and was the perfect excuse to re-ignite previous relationships which we had let slide. It was great to get back in touch with local organisations including The Rotary Club and also with individuals who had been interested in the school previously, and let them know we were running a project.

It paid off and we received a number of donations from businesses and organisations who were more than happy to support various schools with their Rocket Fund projects. We are now back in touch with them and looking forward to nurturing these relationships.

We were also really impressed as a number of organisations caught wind of our Rocket Fund projects on social media and were very forthcoming with making donations!

Tell us about the methods you used to contact ‘the crowd’ during your Rocket Fund campaign?

Once the project was up and running we leaned on social media quite heavily to get the message out and about – which was great. Not only did we use Facebook and Twitter, we also used Linkedin to great effect – especially for contacting local businesses. In the last few days of the campaign we also made a few phone calls to local businesses and sent some emails to drum up a few more donations.

When you run your next Rocket Fund campaign, what will you do differently?

Planning and….planning. We only found out about Rocket Fund two weeks before we launched nine projects, so it was quite a whirlwind. When we do it next time, we will make sure that we have a plan in place which will include lots more interaction with individual schools. I would definitely take more time to speak with teachers and staff in the schools and to get them to help contribute towards the campaign story.

In the interim, as an internal process anyway, we will be getting all of our networks and contacts organised so that when we do have Rocket Fund projects to share, it’s nice and easy!

So, prior to Rocket Fund what methods were you using to raise funds for the Trust?

I’ve been in post for the last 18 months, prior to my being here it was the marketing team’s job to try to organising fundraising, which was really difficult for them to fit in to their already stretched timetable, and was often something that wasn’t given enough focus.

Since I’ve come on board I have been able to focus much more on grants and fund applications – which is our main source of income, my second largest focus is on crowdfunding and this is something I will be building more and more into my strategy in the coming years.

We also have a number of PTA’s spread out over the Trust, they tend to undertake more traditional methods of fundraising, like summer fairs, which are great – but take potentially hundreds of hours to organise – I will certainly be passing them over details of Rocket Fund to use alongside their other efforts.

And lastly what kind of fundraising target do you have for a typical school year?

Well, to put it into context – last year we raised around £100,000 and we are hoping to double our efforts in the next year or so, Rocket Fund is going to come in very handy for my future strategy.

See C.I.T Academies projects here, feel free to get in touch with either Kris or ourselves.