News & Insights 13 March 2023

Be bold and cheeky: Five secrets to holding a successful charity fundraiser

Ever fancied raising money for charity but had no idea where to start? Never fear! Student volunteer tutor, Rebecca, shares her tips and tricks on how she held a successful fundraiser for Action Tutoring amid a cost of living crisis

Rebecca was looking through volunteering opportunities listed on her Student Union’s website when she stumbled across Action Tutoring. Throwing herself into the experience, Rebecca tutored on three online programmes, supporting pupils in Year 11, Year 5 and Year 7.

It was a nice way to break free from lectures. I really bonded with the pupils.

When Rebecca’s ability to commit to a full tutoring programme reduced in her final year studying English Literature at Newcastle University, she remained determined to find a way to continue supporting disadvantaged pupils beyond volunteering.

I was reading about the attainment gap and thought it’d be nice to make a difference in other ways than tutoring

As the newly appointed Fundraising & Charity Officer for the Student Union’s Creative Writing Society, the answer was obvious: hold a charity fundraiser! Here’s what she learned along the way:

  • Make use of charity resources

Rebecca’s primary point of contact from Action Tutoring was a Programme Coordinator in Newcastle, who worked in partnership with the Fundraising and Marketing Teams to supply her with all the necessary materials needed to support her event. These included pre-written copy about Action Tutoring’s work for use in posters and social media posts, as well as leaflets and posters for use on the big night.

Honestly, there’s nothing they could have done more! Action Tutoring was really helpful and supportive, so definitely a good charity to raise money for!

Rebecca said, reflecting on the support she received.
  • Don’t let inexperience put you off

A self-confessed novice, Rebecca laughs as she tells me the only fundraising experience she had prior to this was a teenage bake sale. First piece of advice?

Don’t be afraid to give it a go!

Rebecca said, in an optimistic tone. 

Ideas often come organically once you commit to the project, which was the case for Rebecca. Toying with the idea of a monologue night, before concluding it would be “a little bit too exclusive”, Rebecca and the Creative Writing committee eventually agreed on the theme of their event: ‘An Evening of Creativity.’

The team quickly called on budding performers to submit their entry pieces.  Before long, they had the Gilbert & Sullivan Society and the Theatre Society on board too for an exciting night which would showcase the talent of budding writers, poets, actors and opera singers alike.

  • Be flexible and persistent

Next on the agenda was finding a location willing to host her fundraiser, which was proving slightly arduous. Rebecca recalls emailing, in her words, a lot of bars and other potential venues across Newcastle but received few responses. Unphased, she decided to change tact and target university buildings.

Her persistence finally paid off when one student union venue, (aptly called ‘The Venue’), agreed to host Rebecca’s fundraiser for free. Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to change your approach if plan A isn’t working out.

  • Teamwork makes the dream work

With performers recruited and venue secured, next was perhaps the most important step; promotion. How did Rebecca and her team achieve this? Collaboration.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help; if people want to help, just say yes. I’m not good at arts, but somebody from Gilbert and Sullivant had experience of making posters so they did that for us, which was very nice! I printed it out and put it all around the university, especially the student union. We also had digital posters in our uni’, and we managed to get it on that as well. Then, we just did a lot of social media!”

Rebecca recounted

To ensure they reached the biggest audience they could, the savvy fundraiser also reached out to similar student societies such as the Film, Writing and Reading Societies, who agreed to promote the event on their own social media channels too. Collaboration proved mutually beneficial for all participating societies as the event, Rebecca explains, “acted as promotion [for them] too.”

  • “Be bold and cheeky!”

Asking for money can feel altogether rather “un-British”, but let’s not forget that the purpose of this event was, after all, to raise funds! Tickets cost £4 for members and £5 for non-members, but where Rebecca’s team really made a difference was in their brave strategy to request that performers also bought a ticket. 

I felt so bad doing it but we said “let’s be bold and cheeky, if people really don’t like it, we’ll change our minds” and people seemed to be quite up for it; because it was for a good cause.

An Evening of Creativity

The big day rolled around quickly and despite pre-show nerves, an incredible 42 students, including three Action Tutoring Programme Coordinators from Newcastle, turned up, all eager to be entertained.

It was quite a little boost to get that number in the end as we weren’t expecting it, what with the cost of living crisis.

Rebecca said, with a grin

Programme Coordinator, Hannah, took to the stage to kick off with a brief presentation giving some context to Action Tutoring’s work and mission before Gilbert and Sullivan actors opened the show with a dazzling operatic performance. “It was really cool and also unexpected because I’ve never seen it before!” enthuses Rebecca.

With performances underway, she could finally sit back, relax and enjoy the show. “It was really lovely to see it all come together….once it had started, there was nothing else I could do,” recalls Rebecca. Overall, the event raised £176 for Action Tutoring, which is enough to provide 29 pupils with session workbooks or cover the cost of 17 volunteer tutor DBS checks!

The hidden benefit of fundraisers

With an endearing modesty and eagerness to give due credit to those who helped her, it’d be easy to underplay what Rebecca achieved, but we shouldn’t. The gruelling cost of living crisis should not be underestimated. Charities nationwide are struggling to raise the funds they so desperately need to support their beneficiaries, while supporting their own increased running costs.

More than raising vital funds, Rebecca and her team helped raise awareness of the increasing challenges and disproportionate educational hurdles facing children from low-income backgrounds, prompting a much needed dialogue on an issue that is more urgent than ever.

The attainment gap between pupils on free school meals (FSM) and their more affluent peers is now at its highest level in a decade. A staggering 29.1% of all pupils in the North East alone are currently deemed eligible for free school meals, with certain areas in the region, such as North Tyneside, recording some of the highest GCSE attainment gaps in England in 2022; a sobering insight into regional disadvantage.

Not only did Rebecca’s fundraiser inspire students living on stretched budgets to engage with charitable giving, but she also succeeded in bringing people together to connect, to laugh, to marvel, to experience live performances again and to reclaim just a bit of the social interactions they had all been so unfairly robbed of after two years of a global pandemic.

This is the hidden benefit of fundraising – the opportunity it provides to ignite social connections, challenge yourself and bring people together to support a common cause. I finish by asking her if she has any final pieces of advice for future fundraisers.

Just go for it! It’s going to work or it’s not and more often than not, it’ll end up working. What’s the worst that can happen?

Become a volunteer tutor with Action Tutoring and help disadvantaged children improve their academic strength and build a better future. With just one hour a week, you can volunteer to tutor pupils in English or maths at primary or secondary level, online or in-person. No previous teaching experience is required and we will provide you with all the resources you need.