DO make sure that the message of your campaign will appeal to pupils, teachers and parents. If you can capture the imagination of the children, then schools will be more inclined to work with the charity again.
DO establish whether schools have long-standing relationships with any other charity, or run annual fundraising events.
DON'T hit schools with a generic direct marketing campaign and expect a significant response. Target a smaller number of establishments with a more focused approach.
DON'T assume that schools understand corporate partnerships. Explain how you work together and how the relationship has enabled you to launch the programme.
Schools provide an active audience of potential future donors for the sector. But, as Annie Kelly discovers, using the right approach to schools is key to a campaign's success.
When staff at Adopt-A-Minefield wanted to launch their first major fundraising campaign, they needed to find a cost-effective channel that would reach people across the UK and generate significant returns over a short period of time.
By deciding to run a national schools campaign, and managing to secure the National Union of Teachers as a partner, the charity's initial campaign will involve more than 500,000 individuals, reach 30,000 establishments and generate around £500,000 in one day. Not bad for a 12-month-old charity staffed by four people.
"By choosing to run a school campaign, we're not only targeting a receptive and open-minded audience, but allowing them to take immediate positive action,
says Alexandra Langelee, director of Adopt-A-Minefield. "A wide campaign asking for small amounts can make a real difference and the numbers of kids involved is an effective way of spreading our message."
The schools fundraising market is a lucrative and highly competitive industry. Last year, the NSPCC alone raised £2 million from its school programmes and has a dedicated network of 50 school organisers managing its education and fundraising programmes. These staff contact around 20,000 teachers and visit 15,000 schools every year.
"Schools are one of our key target areas,
says Denise Derbyshire, national schools manager at the NSPCC. "But launching a project is more complicated than marching into a school and asking for money. It may sound obvious, but you have to try and become a member of the school's community and make sure your involvement has immediate and obvious benefits to the school and its pupils."
A successful school fundraising campaign can reap serious rewards for charities. As well as generating invaluable income, it is also an effective route through to a wider audience of parents and teachers who are inevitably involved in any fundraising activity. Long term it can also build valuable bonds between children and charities, which can be nurtured as the child matures.
To get a foot in the door, many organisations run generic direct mail campaigns to schools across the UK in an attempt to reach the widest number of establishments. However, according to Marina Carter, a former primary-school head teacher and currently a personal and social education co-ordinator, a tightly targeted approach is often needed.
"Obviously a large comprehensive school in an urban centre is going to have very different priorities and cultural framework to a small village school,
says Carter. "With so many requests coming in and so little time to process them, a school must immediately be able to see that the project will have a real relevance to all of its pupils."
Scheduling a campaign around the school calendar is one way to ensure that the school will be able to build the campaign in around regular activities.
Many charity campaigns run at the beginning of the school year when teachers have more time to dedicate to school events, and Christmas and Easter campaigns can also be structured to reflect seasonal issues.
"Christmas is a key time for us,
says Shelter's deputy director of fundraising Liz Monks. "As a homelessness charity, we identified that this is a time when children are very aware of the home and the family, so it's a good time to launch a programme that reminds them that there are children out there who don't have somewhere to go on Christmas Day."
Corporate partnerships can provide the financial backing that a charity needs to launch a wide-reaching school campaign. I Can, a charity for kids with learning disabilities, is set to launch a programme in nurseries across the country asking children to participate in a sponsored singalong. Tesco Baby & Toddler Club, which is joint partner in the scheme, is funding a direct marketing campaign and information resources as well as raising awareness through its in-store magazine.
"As a medium-sized charity there is no way we could have launched a campaign on this scale,
says Jolanta Lasota, director of marketing and fundraising at I Can. "By underwriting the cost of the campaign, it means that all money raised goes directly to our projects, and we've made it a priority to communicate to the nurseries the value of Tesco to the campaign."
Working with a business partner understandably raises issues about bringing brands into the playground. Schools are understandably protective of their pupils and will be quick to shy away from campaigns that appear to be endorsing a product or service alongside a good cause.
However, Peter Hayes, director of education at volunteering body CSV who works with Barclays on the New Futures initiative, says that schools are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of corporate sponsorship.
"We're now seeing an enterprise culture developing in schools, and charities have the opportunity to provide that bridge for young people wanting to take on and lead projects,
In such a sensitive environment, there are a number of issues that charities have to take into consideration when developing a schools programme, most importantly that the messaging is appropriate. Adopt-A-Landmine has taken the decision to rename its food-based "Get Stuffed
campaign after extended bad publicity following the launch of a McAfrica burger by fast-food chain McDonald's.
"The McDonald's example really made us rethink the messaging of our campaign,
explains Langelee. "Do we really want to be encouraging kids to gorge while thousands of other children are starving? We've decided to keep the food theme, but make sure that we completely reposition the campaign to reflect a more considered message."
Recognising the cultural and religious patchwork of British schools is also key to launching an effective initiative. For example, campaigns that encourage children to buy or sell lottery tickets or participate in raffles or tombola's will alienate Muslim parents who will object to their children being encouraged to take part in gambling even if there is no cash incentive or element to the event.
It's also important to consider the community that the school serves.
Many establishments, especially those in rural areas, remain an integral part of a local community, and will often have strong links with local hospices, parish councils or community groups, which may rule out charitable campaigns that don't directly benefit the local area. As schools grow and budgets are cut, many Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) are applying for charitable status in order to raise funds on behalf of their schools and communities.
"Schools are increasingly having to struggle for funding, and this may result in them dropping off some of their charity partners,
And with such pressure on time and resources, charity campaigns designed to enhance classroom teaching will be more immediately attractive to teaching staff, and provide a strong incentive for schools to adopt a charity's cause.
"You have to ask what messages do the schools want their kids and their parents to be aware of?
says Derbyshire. "If a campaign slots in with whatever the teacher is talking about in a geography class, then the campaign will act as a supplement to the educational process."
Similarly schools will welcome campaigns that encourage children to develop a broader outlook on life and encourage pupils and their parents to recognise the value of giving financial support. In this way anti-smoking charities, or those who deal with more difficult issues such as alcohol or drug abuse are able to raise funds and get their message to young people by running tailored campaigns that get pupils talking about "real-life
But although many high-profile organisations such as Comic Relief have the resources and national recognition to get schools interested in campaigns, smaller charities, or those which deal with more peripheral issues, often struggle to get their voices heard.
However, this academic year sees the introduction of the citizenship curriculum, which could potentially build stronger links between the voluntary sector and young people. Brendon Hanlan, who has co-ordinated several successful schools campaigns for the cancer charity Macmillan, believes that it could have an impact on fundraising levels in schools.
"We're going to see a new culture of giving develop,
says Hanlan. "Children will develop a clearer understanding of what charities are and why their support is needed, which is good news for the voluntary sector and society."
THE GIVING CAMPAIGN'S GNATION INITIATIVE TARGETS SCHOOL CHILDREN
Launched at the beginning of this school year, the Giving Campaign's GNation initiative intends to foster a culture of charitable giving among school children and make raising money easier for schools. The campaign has been designed to support the teaching of the citizenship module recently introduced into the national curriculum by promoting the value of giving and exploring the role that charities play in UK society.
"Basically we wanted to produce a programme which would encourage more kids to get actively involved in raising money for good causes,
says Andy Thornton, campaign manager at the Giving Campaign. "We want GNation to become trusted and used by schools and young people, who can use it to build stronger relationships with charities ."
The project came out of extensive discussions between the Giving Campaign, schools and charities on how to boost giving levels among the young.
A free pack is designed to enable school lessons and activities to meet curriculum targets while developing an environment that encourages children to think about giving to others such as a programme to help children design a "rag week
magazine. It also includes self-appraisal modules so teachers and pupils are able to measure the effectiveness of their work or projects.
A central web site will act as an information point for schools and teachers looking to get involved with a charitable cause. Charities will be able to post information about new initiatives and communicate with establishments through GNation.co.uk.
"The site is not intended to be the only channel of communication, but to provide a uniform and trusted route for schools to use to help them cut down on the time and resources needed to establish an effective fundraising campaign,
says Thornton. "It is a crowded and potentially confusing marketplace for schools looking to raise money on behalf of charities.
As well as the teacher information portal, a web site for pupils will be launched later this year. It will contain advice and information for children looking to undertake charitable or volunteer work, and will provide links to places to participate in their local communities. A GNation week led by pupils is planned for next summer.
"It's vitally important for charities to get into schools and effectively target the next generation of givers,
DO'S AND DON'TS
DO make sure that you understand the requirements of the National Curriculum and the time pressure that teachers are under before launching a campaign.
DO make your campaign stand out from the crowd. Schools receive hundreds of charity requests each term, and it's vital that your programme grabs their attention.
DO consult with the National Union of Teachers or other unions to ensure that you are approaching schools in the right way.