FundStar, a not-for-personal-profit enterprise set up by Tring-based serial entrepreneur David Evans MBE, formally launched yesterday, 5 June, after successful trials to offer schools a strategic and co-ordinated approach to their fundraising activity.
As schools experience a reduction in real-terms funding and increased costs, the pressure to raise money by alternative means is growing. Whilst campaigns for more central government funding continue, schools must consider every route to pay for both the ‘bare essentials’ and the added-value opportunities which will help children to thrive in their education, and many are inviting parents to contribute to the cause.
Step forward FundStar – which makes school fundraising ‘easy, effective and smart’. Mr Evans said: ‘Every school we speak to reports a unique experience of the effects of funding pressures, but what unites headteachers, teachers, governors, trustees and parents are concerns about immediate and long-term damage caused to children’s education. Initiatives to press for more government funding should not stop but it is time for schools to take a more focused approach to raising funds for particular projects they wish to generate funding for that will help them deliver more opportunities for pupils.’
Simply put, FundStar is a potentially ‘game-changing’ approach to school fundraising and, as Mr Evans describes, ‘is a modern version of the collecting tin at the side of the till, but with over 450,000 locations nationwide’. Parents, grandparents and others can register and receive a personalised FundStar prepaid debit card. Cardholders shop in store and online as normal using their FundStar card. Every time they use it to buy something, a micro donation (from 20p to £1 per transaction) is given to the school, and the project, of their choice. Though individual cardholders’ donations may be small, with many people on board these payments soon add up. The FundStar team estimates that an average-sized secondary school can raise £15,000 per annum, and an average-sized primary school can raise £5,000 per annum, enabling schools to buy the added extras that help deliver a quality education for their children.
The latest annual survey from Parentkind, formerly PTA UK, revealed that 43% of parents have been asked to give money to a school fund, with many now routinely making voluntary donations of up to £30 every month. The survey also found that the average monthly amount being donated has increased from a reported £8.90 in 2017 to £11.35 in 2018. However, only 51% of parents know how the money is spent.
‘FundStar essentially makes supporting our children’s education through philanthropy an easy, day-to-day habit,’ Mr Evans said. ‘Increasingly, donors to good causes want to know where their money goes, and how it makes a difference. Not only can FundStar cardholders choose which school should receive their donations, they can choose which project or projects they would like to support. For example, a parent of a sporty child may decide to support the tennis court renovation project. The minibus project may be chosen by someone whose child benefits from outward-bound trips or, if a child would benefit from both, the cardholder can split their donations equally between up to three projects. The donor has complete visibility of, and total control over, where their money goes.’
FundStar is already being used in a number of schools up and down the country. These schools receive a complete support system from the FundStar team including a kit of materials to help them encourage donor participation, practical sessions involving pupils, parents, PTA groups and school staff, and professional fundraising advice. Each school gets a login to their FundStar account so they can see how much has been raised and how close they are to reaching their target. ‘We want to get as many schools involved as possible – primary, secondary and independent schools,’ Mr Evans said. ‘Schools do have a duty to explain that all contributions are voluntary and that parents do not have to contribute if they do not wish to or are unable to. However, we are really excited about the difference FundStar could make to schools and critically to the children and their future.’
One of the first schools to sign up to FundStar is Tring School, a secondary school with academy status, with approximately 1,500 pupils aged between 11 and 18. ‘The ever-shrinking pool of money for education is a real concern and it is short-sighted on the part of those making the decisions,’ said Rod Gibberd, the School’s Business Director. ‘Initiatives such as FundStar can do nothing but help. I was delighted that 24 hours after launching our first fundraising project, a number of parents signed up to FundStar. Donations are already being made to our dining-room furniture project.’