Fundraising in a Pandemic

Written by Isabella Bennett, Foundation Director, Sedbergh School

Here at Sedbergh School, we are hugely fortunate to be in a position to help our community and indeed the wider world in a variety of ways.  One such activity is our fundraising programme. 

Charitable giving is a cornerstone of being a responsible citizen, to put the livelihood and wellbeing of others above yourself.  Our pupils achieve remarkable things in the pursuit of helping others, from volunteering at local independent charities to fundraising though their Boarding House for projects further afield.  Yet, much of our School fundraising is based on events, on the power of communities being together in a shared experience.  As our pupils headed home at the end of March 2020, for the first nationwide lockdown, it seemed a given that fundraising would cease.

3 Sedbergh pupils

We all watched in respectful awe, as Sir Tom Moore raised such an astonishing amount for the NHS by walking laps of his garden.  Without online technology, his efforts perhaps would not have made such a transformational impact.  People from around the world were able to donate with the click of a button, his story grew and so did his fundraising.  What an achievement – what an inspiration for all.

The pandemic has hit charities hard, and that includes our School.  Since 2001, we have had a separate Foundation which raises funds for a range of activities, perhaps most crucially for full scholarships for disadvantaged children to attend Sedbergh School.  This is called the Roger Lupton Scholarship Scheme which has raised over £1.6m since its inception, but the pandemic stripped away our ability to fundraise through events and face-to-face meetings.  The calls for help increased beyond measure. 

We launched a Hardship Fund for our Sedberghian community in April 2020 – anyone linked to the School who was financially affected by lockdown could apply – and that included those who lived in our local area. 

Our Hardship Fund broke new ground – it was launched exclusively online, by video, with easy online giving methods.  Video updates from our Principal ensured that all donors were kept abreast of progress and we are delighted to announce that £100,000 was raised within a matter of months, and quickly donated to families in need. 

Only a few months ago, our rugby squad raised £20,000 for a South African charity who focus on improving the physical wellbeing of young people in Cape Town through sport.  The squad’s planned SA tour was a victim of the pandemic, but they came together in true Sedberghian spirit to create a virtual handover of the cheque, premiered on YouTube, with alumni including Will Greenwood getting involved to ensure the ceremony was a success and memorable moment for all.  Without question, the audience of this event was far greater online than had it taken place as originally planned, in person, in South Africa. 

SSFC South Africa Rugby Tour

When we are kept apart by circumstance, never underestimate the power of being able to see a familiar face, even if it is on screen rather than in person.  Use the technology available, be brave and push forward with your fundraising goals – someone, somewhere, is listening to you. 

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