The Harris Federation has nearly trebled fundraising income to more than £3 million this year – with its boss saying the pandemic has made donors “more willing”.
The trust, one of the largest in the country, began fundraising in 2018-19 with £1.2 million to help minimise the attainment gap of pupil premium students.
But fundraising income rose to £3.3 million in the year ending August 2020 and £3.4 million last year, providing tutoring, catch-up summer schools and in-house teams of social workers.
Life is unfair, we want it to be fairer
Chief executive Sir Dan Moynihan, who leads the fundraising efforts, said: “We’ve got an enormous backlog of welfare cases, as do all schools. Some of our schools have got triple the number of cases they had before. There’s no way local services can cope with all that.
“There are so many outside problems that can prevent these children [from succeeding], the purpose of this fundraising really is for us to help with that stuff.”
Harris has raised £3.3 million so far this year and is hoping to hit £4 million – meaning it should bring in nearly £12 million in four years.
“It’s accelerated over the pandemic – people have been more willing,” Sir Dan said.
Funding for tutoring in 10 schools
Annual accounts published last week show the extra cash funded one-to-one tutoring in ten schools, hundreds of laptops and two-week summer schools.
Three schools also have in-house social workers to help join families with local services and “ultimately help education achievements”.
The funds raised are on top of the £1.7 million additional Covid catch-up cash the trust received from the government.
School fundraising is not new, but larger academy trusts now bringing in millions of pounds extra has led to concerns over an uneven playing field.
Recently published accounts from England’s ten biggest trusts show that half engage in the practice and rely on professional fundraisers to boost their efforts.
But Sir Dan said: “Life is unfair, we want it to be fairer and however much funding schools get we can always use more.”
Harris recently advertised for a head of fundraising and partnerships. The £60,000 role is yet to be filled, but Sir Dan hopes to establish a team of four fundraisers in the coming years.
Harris said their salaries would be paid by the money they brought in. In the meantime, Sir Dan leads the efforts himself.
The trust was founded by Lord Harris, a high-profile and well-connected Conservative party donor.
But Sir Dan – the country’s best-paid chief executive on at least £450,000 – said the trust’s sponsor was not used to source donors. Instead, he said, Google was “really helpful” to find potential donors who were invited into a school to see how the cash could help.
“There’s a relatively large number of people out there interested in educational disadvantage and our schools are largely in those places.”
Harris deals with 16 charitable trusts, all of whom want to remain anonymous. The largest single donation so far is £3 million over three years to fund tutoring.
Stephen Morales, the chief executive of the Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL), said there was “nothing wrong” with fundraising. But schools based in the south of England and London were advantaged, and bigger trusts raising cash could “create a level of privilege”.
But Natalie Perera, the chief executive of the Education Policy Institute, said this was not a “new inequality”.
Ark Schools uses professional fundraisers employed by its sponsor charity, Ark.
Last year they raised £8 million for the Ark School Coronavirus Appeal.