How PTFA at school near Leighton Buzzard has managed an extraordinary year of fundraising despite the pandemic

Key events couldn't be held but Wingrave volunteers innovated to keep cash rolling in

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 4:54 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 4:57 pm

Like a lot of charities the Covid pandemic meant Wingrave School PTFA faced an uncertain future – four of the top five fundraising activities held annually were suddenly unable to run and 80% of their fundraising was at risk.

As the pandemic continued, and events in the school could not be held in the autumn term, things were looking grim for the PTFA (Parent, Teachers and Friends Association. The autumn term is usually when two thirds of the yearly fundraising activities take place.

At this very difficult time the PTFA also had a change of chairperson. Suzanne Cuthbert, the new chairperson, encouraged the committee to focus on what they could do rather than what they couldn’t. In just a couple of weeks they had a new plan of how to raise funds during a pandemic year with new, never tried, fundraising activities and doubling down on activities that could still go ahead.

Christmas float

Suzanne said: "We’re in a few Facebook groups where PTAs share their ideas. Towards the end of August a PTA shared that they were selling mini personalised bottles with a carabiner – ideal for hand sanitiser.

"After asking our local community if they were interested we were overwhelmed with the positive response so one of our volunteers very quickly set this up and by end of October we’d raised the same amount we would from fireworks night which we usually organise and run. This highlighted to us that whilst we couldn’t do the activities we would normally do we could look at new ways to raise funds.”

The most successful has been a textile collection after the PTFA noticed in lockdown people were clearing out their wardrobes but charity shops were closed and clothes recycling bins overflowing.

Previously the PTFA had held two collections a year where people drop their clothing donations to the school on a specific date and they are collected and a donation made to the PTFA based on the weight.

Mini personalised bottles with a carabiner – ideal for hand sanitiser

Not wanting to burden the school with collection dates one of the volunteers offered for people to drop their bags at her garage at any time and they were stored ready for a collection. The PTFA also shopped around for a supplier who was local so collections could be more regular and are projecting by the end of their financial year to have increased by 350% the amount the charity makes on the textile collection. Over five tonnes of clothes have been collected over the last 15 months raising money for the PTFA and saving them from landfill.

As the pandemic continued towards Christmas the PTFA were unable to run panto trips, Christmas shopping evenings and the Christmas fair - all big fundraisers. The committee got their heads together and opened an online Christmas shop selling local products that would usually be on offer at the shopping evening and decided to create a Santa float which would travel around the streets of Wingrave with people making donations

Suzanne said: "It was an immense effort to turn a Santa float around in weeks but with funding assistance from Wingrave with Rowsham Parish Council and Travis Perkins and an extraordinary effort from two of our committee, who are incredibly creative and built the Santa float in 3 weekends, we managed to pull it off.

"We asked some local people for their help towing the float, putting us in touch with Santa and walking beside the float. The result was amazing. We raised money for the PTFA from an activity we’d never tried before but more importantly we gave the children of the village the most incredible evening. We now intend to run the float every year.”

The PTFA had been running the Wingrave Scarecrow festival, which took place over the May bank holiday weekend, for a few years. As an outdoor activity and still able to go ahead the committee looked at how they could increase the opportunity with sponsorship and more PR and as a result the festival in 2021 made five times what it did just two years ago.

Other activities never done before that the PTFA have undertaken are a virtual balloon race and branded Christmas puddings.

The extraordinary result of the work the committee has done is that with four months still to go of their financial year they have already passed the fundraising total they would expect to do in a “normal” year.

Suzanne added: “We have some amazing people on our committee all of whom are volunteers and I’m so grateful for their passion, creativity, drive and friendship, we’re one big team who succeed together.

"We’re so excited for next year when we hope Covid is well and truly behind us. To be able to pick the best of what we have done during the pandemic, and add on the events we usually run, imagine what we can achieve not just to raise funds but to bring joy to the children and adults of our community.

"Wingrave School PTFA raises funds to be used by the school to enhance the lives and education of the pupils in the school, the pupils will benefit from all the hard work and that makes us all very proud.”