We want to organise a departmental fundraising activity to buy an interactive whiteboard

7th May 2004 at 01:00
Ted Wragg, emeritus professor of education at Exeter University, answers your professional problems, big or small, every week. Ask him for independent advice - or offer some of your own

I teach modern languages in a school with poor ICT facilities. We want to organise a departmental fundraising activity to buy an interactive whiteboard. Any advice?

Ted says

Before you and your colleagues waste hours running round in circles trying to raise money, find out what is available officially. The National Grid for Learning programme finished in 2002, but a paper published last May, Fulfilling the Potential: transforming teaching and learning through ICT in schools, restates the Government's commitment to this area. Check the website - www.dfes.gov.uk - to find out about current and future funding.

Governments blow hot and cold on technology, so you may still be reduced to busking on the streets. But there are important do's and don'ts about fundraising. First, be sceptical about professional fundraisers promising the moon. They may charge a hefty fee which the amount you raise barely covers. Ask for evidence of their successes and phone the schools to check.

Don't volunteer to collect silver paper or jam jars without working out what is involved. It can be a ludicrous waste of time and energy.

Begging money from parents and friends is also problematic in terms of the return and the potential embarrassment involved.

If you involve pupils, make sure what they do is worthwhile. Manufacturing hideously substandard garden gnomes and then suckering relatives into buying them is naff. On the other hand, the Readathon has raised millions for Cancer Research and other worthwhile causes by getting children to seek sponsorship and then read books for pleasure. Think of a modern languages equivalent. Asking children to raise money for their own education can be tricky, especially if parents object, so be careful.

Finally, look out for competitions that offer whiteboards as prizes. A nifty project or slogan might do the trick one day. Even better if your pupils are the masterminds behind it.

You say

It's not your job to raise cash Teachers should teach, not raise money. Donors may be more sympathetic to requests from a parent teacher association or students, who can apply to charitable trusts, lottery schemes, community groups or local organisations such as a Rotary club.

You should also consider registering as a charity and claiming Gift Aid, an auction of promises, and sponsored events. A free copy of useful websites on funding is available from me: janeyhewitt@btinternet.com.

Janey Hewitt, Birmingham

Try a lighthearted threat

It depends on how much time you have, and the income and attitude of parents. One idea is to write a letter along the following lines: Dear Parent, We need an interactive whiteboard for our modern languages department. They cost pound;XX, which we don't have. We plan to organise a fundraising evening, so your children will pester you to provide prizes, bottles and cakes. Then they will pester you to come to the evening and spend a lot of money. They may even pester you to help organise the event.

If enough people send in money, we will drop the idea and you won't be required to do any of the above. How much is it worth to you for us not to hold a fundraising evening?

Yours etc

In my experience, people respond well. And it beats persuading a member of staff to do a sponsored abseil down the Eiffel Tower.

Liz Parkinson, Stockport

Use a bit of persuasive language

A modern languages department could hold a sponsored "vocabulary learning exercise", perhaps called a "Vocabathon". Each year group could be given a vocabulary list which anticipates future lessons, although you should include some familiar words for motivation. Each pupil should then seek sponsorship for every word successfully translated and spelt correctly.

Anthony Ireland, Lancashire

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