There’s around £100m a year in donations former state school students would make to their old schools that currently sits relatively untouched.

The reasons for it are sad and frustrating in equal measure but it’s going to change soon, and amazing things will happen when it does.

£100m works out at around £30,000 for each state secondary school and college in the country. That’s a lot of school trips and breakfast clubs, a lot of kits for sports teams and new music, media and arts equipment that the school didn’t have the budget for.

Private schools and universities have known the value of an effective development (fundraising) function for a long time. If anyone thinks £100m is a stretch number, it’s worth considering that private schools, which make up just 7% of schools nationally, raise around £120m each year in private donations.

But they’re different, right? People who go to them want to give back while state school alumni never would. The data disagrees. At Future First, we recently commissioned some national research through YouGov (who are apparently very good at these things). It hasn’t been published until now, but it tells us that the percentage of state school alumni prepared to give cash to their old schools is competitive with that of private school alumni – around 30% against 39% in private schools. Given the amount of investment private schools make in creating a culture of giving, this is not surprising. 39% of private school alumni are willing to give to their old schools and, within the last 12 months, around 20% of that group have. 30% of state school alumni would be willing to make a donation to their old schools if asked, and yet only 1% of them have.

This is where people who either didn’t like their school or who believe only rich people can be generous try to fight data: ‘maybe they’re just saying that, but wouldn’t really give’. I don’t really know what to say to those people. Maybe it is true, though if I had to bet on prejudiced speculation or data, I’d probably rather at least start with the data.

Here’s a bit more of it: philanthropy is more a practice of the poor than the rich. Statistically, the poorer you are in this country, the more generous you are – the higher the percentage of your income you give to charity. Fact.

Universities raise somewhere around £500m each year from private donations, with alumni the most likely donors. The majority of university graduates went to state schools. As part of our research, we asked YouGov to ask university graduates from state schools if they would rather give a donation to their old school or their old university, they actually said that they would be more likely to give to their old school than their old university.

There are a lot of moving parts and the data doesn’t actually tell me whether it’s really £50m a year or £1bn a year that state schools could be raising.
So why isn’t this happening? It isn’t happening because:

• People are too tied to their prejudices – “poor people don’t give”;
• People are too tied to their own experiences – “I wouldn’t give to my old school” – this may be true but you could raise £100m off 10% of the population pretty easily so even 9 out of 10 people saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean this won’t work;
• We are terrible at fundraising as a country;
• No one is willing to pay for this – it’ll take consistent investment every year for a few years to make proper money, we need a Foundation/philanthropist to step up and pay for it;
• People are worried about inequality – will schools in rich areas raise more than schools in poor areas? There’s a chance that they will though more money for schools in poorer areas is surely a good thing regardless of what else is going on. It’s also worth considering the opportunity for leveraging matched donations for schools in poorer areas through e.g. corporate donors;
• Everyone tries to solve the problem with a website – what we’re talking about is creating a culture of giving, which will be a long and expensive programme.

Why is it happening?

• Some schools are taking initiative and already making this happen;
• Schools have always had a culture, particularly primaries, of bring and buy sales, community fundraising, etc.;
• There are more people than just alumni who want to give – local businesses, trusts and foundations, government grants, rotary clubs and even parents.

Future First is starting to look at fundraising support for state schools and colleges and it’s work in building alumni communities is the first step for any organisation.

Any schools or colleges interested in fundraising please get in touch as we have a best practice guide for fundraising for state schools and colleges at and more guides coming.