Find local grants

When applying for a grant, it pays to look for opportunities on your doorstep, says Nuala Calvi

National funders are often the first port of call for PTAs hoping to access grant funding, but don’t discount opportunities closer to home. If you do a bit of digging, you’ll find many sources of grant income locally, especially if you can demonstrate that your project benefits the wider community. If your PTA is a registered charity, you may be able to access funding pots that your school can’t get.

Take council

Start by contacting your local council to see what sources of grant funding are available – they may have a newsletter you can sign up to. You may be able to bid for funding from the Community Infrastructure Levy, or planning charge, on new developments in your area. For example, in Merton in London the levy pays for the Investing in Neighbourhoods Fund, which last year gave out £750,000. In Manchester, the city council’s Neighbourhood Investment Fund specifically encourages PTAs to apply if they have a project that benefits the local area. Councils usually make any grants they have available quite visible online to encourage people to apply.

Ask if your council has a funding advice team that helps voluntary and community organisations secure funding and aim to build a relationship with your local councillor, they often have their own pot of funding for community schemes in their ward.

Shop around

Get to know your supermarket community champion. Major stores such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s have dedicated people whose job it is to provide funding and assistance to local causes. Community champions at Asda, for example, have worked with more than 2,500 schools on projects from healthy eating to protecting the environment.

Branches of certain national retailers can also help schools in their area with funding from their philanthropic arms. Try the Asda Foundation, Co-op Local Community Fund, Tesco Community Grants, WHSmith Trust and Wickes Community Programme.

Local businesses, particularly those with a longstanding connection to the area, may have their own schemes for giving back to the community. In Leominster, for example, Kingspan Insulation, based on a local airfield industrial estate for more than 25 years, has a dedicated community trust to fund projects that benefit the local community.

Get connected

Contact your local Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) or other voluntary action network and sign up for their regular newsletter or grant alerts. Warwickshire & Solihull Community and Voluntary Action, for example, secured £2.7 million in funding for local projects in just one year. Some opportunities will require a quick response, so it may be worth appointing a grants officer to your PTA committee who is dedicated to monitoring these.

The Rotary Foundation alone gives out almost £10m to education-related projects every year, so get in touch with your local club. In Wolverhampton, for example, the clubs have a Community Fund Scheme with a combined pot of £10,000. It may also be worth approaching your local Lions club.

Community foundations, meanwhile, are vital for connecting you to philanthropic and endowment trusts that offer grants in your area. For example, the Len Pick Trust provides funds for the general benefit of the townspeople of Bourne, Lincolnshire, while the John James Bristol Foundation makes grants to charitable organisations working for the benefit of Bristol residents.

Think outside the box

Discover local grants for your county on our Local PTAs pages. Our list includes many sources you might not have thought of – from a cricket foundation in Herefordshire to a book fund in Northamptonshire and a museum service in Lancashire.

Industries which have an impact on the local environment often have funding set aside to benefit communities affected by their activities, so contact your local landfill site, airport, wind farm or solar farm. Manchester Airports Group, for example, contributes £100,000 a year to its community fund. It accepts applications four times a year for grants up to £3,000.

Even crime can pay – as Halsford Park Primary School in East Grinstead discovered. They were awarded £500 for a rainwater harvesting system by Sussex Police’s Property Act Fund, which distributes funds raised from the sale of confiscated property.

Success story: ‘How we’ve benefitted from local grants’

‘It’s worth seeing who’s in your local area that could help. When the retirement home developers McCarthy Stone decided to build a complex 100 yards from our school, we applied to their community foundation and got £950 towards projects that involved older people.

We spent £350 on new books for a reading scheme where retired volunteers come into school to read with the kids. The rest went towards our allotment scheme, where older people come in to help with projects such as building a hedgehog house.

We’ve also got a cement works down the road, and we’re applying for a £5,000 grant from them for our Key Stage One Playground. It’s good PR for those businesses.

Lots of companies, like banks and insurance firms, offer match-funding schemes. If you’ve got anyone at your school who works for a local branch, get them to apply – it’s a way of doubling your takings at events. We’ve got money from Asda in the past and we’ll be applying to Persimmon Homes at Christmas.

A problem PTAs often face when applying for grants is the requirement for a wider community benefit. As part of our McCarthy Stone grant, we’re planning a community-wide sunflower growing competition and hoping to do a reading visit to a local care home.

It’s essential to show how your project fits the aims of the grant funder. We received £850 from the Asda Foundation’s Better Start programme, which focused on mental health and diversity, when we needed library books that better reflected our school’s changing population.’

Glyndwr Spence, PTA grants secretary at St Matthew’s Bloxam CE Primary School, Rugby (215 pupils)


Further grants information