We talk to Helen Ellis, PTA member at Western Primary School in Harrogate about their Aviva Community Fund bid this year.
Tell us about your bid for the Aviva Community Fund this year.
This year we’ve applied to get funding for sound, lighting and projector equipment for our school. We are a state school, based in an old building, and our AV equipment is old. When we have school performances we have to borrow equipment from other schools. We are excited about the bid as performance is a large part of life at Western Primary School.
You applied to the Aviva Community Fund last year, how did it go?
Yes, last year we put in a large bid for £25,000 towards the playground and we did really well. We got over 10,000 votes and made it down to the last 8 projects in the final. Unfortunately, in the end we didn’t win so we didn’t get any funding. It was so disappointing but it was also a great way to motivate everyone to get behind the cause and it made us really start communicating about our fundraising. We used the local press and radio to get the community behind us, which we’d not done before.
What did you learn?
To pay attention to the criteria! The community part of the Aviva Community Fund is really important. You’ve got to show that you make a positive difference to the community. There are 3 categories: environment, health & wellbeing, and skills for life. We did well at getting lots of votes to get into the final but it just wasn’t enough to be awarded the funding.
That’s why in our bid this year for the Audio Visual equipment we talk about taking it out into the community and how this year we switched on the Harrogate Christmas Lights and performed an Easter Concert for the elderly residents at a nearby home. We hope we have demonstrated how the funding could really improve the local community today, and in years to come.
We are also going for a smaller amount. There are 4 funding levels: up to £1k, £5k, £10k or £25k. There are more awards available for the smaller amounts. Other things to consider are that the project needs to be completed or well underway before 31 Dec 2019 and the award should ideally cover the full cost of the project,
Did you find a parent to help you with the application?
Actually, a few of us got together for a couple of hours and brainstormed ideas just before the deadline. We had an application in by the evening. We have parents in the community who are very hands on with stalls and cake sales. I’m not as present at the school gate as some parents on the PTA and so I tend to help in other ways, things I can do from my desk during the evening.
It’s about using your skills and your time however you can. We’ve found through Classlist we can reach more parents when we ask for help, not just the usual group of helpers. When we send something out we always get offers of help back. It’s not always about the money! We’ve had a tudor costume swap recently as we realised that everyone has these in their wardrobes and it makes sense to pass them on.
How are you getting the parents behind your bid this year?
To start off with we posted a message about our new project on Classlist at 11.00 and by the afternoon we already had 180 votes. It was great. It proves people are out there. Now we’ve got to 815 votes.
Have you applied to other funds or grants in the past?
Yes, we’ve made many applications, some successful, some not.
How do you decide what to projects fundraise for?
We’ve spent years fundraising for the playground, we’ve raised over £50,000 so far and have completed the first phase. This year we wanted something fresh for people to get behind the Aviva vote. We have 3 different fundraising strands: the Playground fund, the Technology fund which the teachers are very keen on (AV Equipment is part of this), and a Library project. With the budget cuts fundraising is very important for the school.
Check out their 2018 project at:
Why not help Western Primary School by giving them your vote?
It’s free to register to vote and you have 10 votes to share between your favourite projects, or you can put them all on one.
Register to vote at https://www.avivacommunityfund.co.uk/voting/campaign/getinvolved. Voting closed on 20 November 2018.
Photo: Western Primary School performing in the community. Top left: Switching on the Harrogate Christmas lights. Top right: Performing at the 1940’s Day at Valley Gardens, Harrogate. Bottom left: Performing an Easter Concert for elderly residents at a nearby home. Bottom right: Creating the Western Primary School Christmas single!