Schools take COVID-safe approach to fundraising

Confectionary stalls are a popular draw at any fete, but fans of the sweet stuff at Villanova College will have to wait until 2021 to get their fix. Photo: Courtesy Tony Rolls

School communities around the South East are having to come up with new and unusual ways to raise vital funds and generate community support thanks to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The state government’s COVID-19 restrictions together with ongoing uncertainty about the virus have led many schools to either cancel or postpone their major fundraising events for the year, leaving them seriously short of funds for planned developments and projects.

But according to Fundraising Directory founder Mandy Weidmann, although times are difficult at the moment, there are still ways to garner community spirit to raise the necessary funds despite the restrictions.

“Events have been a big no-no, and fundraising product drives have been put on the backburner, so many people are doing it tough right now,” Ms Weidmann said.

Ms Weidmann said hope was not lost for schools looking for help.

“There was a fabulous example of a successful campaign in Western Australia – Oakwood primary school sold tubs of Billy G’s Cookie Dough using their new online system,” she said.

Ms Weidmann said Oakwood State School not only managed to sell selling 2201 of the 1kg tubs of the cookie dough virtually, but they also set a national fundraising record, raising a total of $7703.50, which went towards the sustainability of the school.

Ms Weidmann said there were ways schools could carry out fundraising while being COVID-safe and keeping communities close.


Fundraising Directory founder Mary Weidmann is offering creative ways for communities to fundraise through the global pandemic. Photo: Courtesy Deanne Jones

Loreto College Coorparoo is one Brisbane school that is finding alternative ways to raise funds in a COVID-safe way.

The school’s Community Engagement Manager Nicole Early said although many of Loreto College’s annual fundraisers were cancelled, they had some new ideas in the works to continue these activities.

Ms Early said each of the events were designed to allow the students to get together in a COVID-safe manner and raise funds for causes that were important to the school.

One event that required creative thinking was the school’s annual Mission Day, which is a fundraising event that usually features dancing, carnival games and treats for students to enjoy.

“The tradition of Mission Day turned into Mission Week this year,” Ms Early said.

“The essence of Mission Day was maintained, where possible, but [was] spread out across the week and in adherence of the COVID restrictions in place at the time,” she said.

“At a typical Mission Day event, funds are raised through the sale of food as well as sideshow alley activities and games.”

“Instead, this year students were asked to contribute money to support the work in Vietnam by Loreto Australia and South East Asia,” she said.

Loreto College’s annual fundraising dance was also cancelled, but the school decided to hold Ekka@Loreto for it’s students instead, with funds raised going to Mary Ward International, an organisation that prevents poverty through education and community development in disadvantaged communities around the world.

“Ekka@Loreto will be a fun day for students and staff with farm/country themed free dress, Dagwood Dogs and Strawberry Sundaes for sale, as well as COVID-safe sideshow alley activities,” Ms Earley said.


Ekka@Loreto was created as a fun day for students and staff and featured farm-themed free dress. Photo: Courtesy Loreto College Coorparoo

Like Loreto College Coorparoo, St Peter’s Catholic Primary School in Rockhampton has also been affected by the cancellation of major fundraising events.

Caroline Gambling, a learning support teacher at St Peter’s, said her school’s major annual fundraising event was the Caulfield Cup Race Day, which is held at the Rockhampton Jockey Club.

Ms Gambling said the event, which was due to be held in October, had been postponed, while other smaller events had been cancelled.

She said parents played a crucial role in the school’s fundraising activities.

“Small fundraising has gone ahead, like selling ice blocks and craft markets, but parents have not been able to help as they usually would,” Ms Gambling said.

“With no parents allowed in the school grounds more responsibility has fallen on to staff to organise and implement [fundraising activities].”

The St Peter’s fundraising wish list includes providing an iPad for every child, an outdoor multi purpose covered area, a covered bus stop and pick up area, and “senior” shirts for the year six students.

Ms Gambling said the future of the St Peter’s Caulfield Cup Race Day event depended on how Australia was faring with COVID-19 by October.

“If restrictions are applied again it will need to be cancelled as it is a large event – over 1000 – and it is held in a public area,” she said.

Wendy Whitaker, who is a teacher at SCOTS PGC College in Warwick, said the school had had some similar issues with fundraising.

“The P&F does our general fundraising through canteens at sporting events, but these were all cancelled,” Ms Whitaker said.

“We are currently fundraising for a new playground for the junior school, but this has been put on hold,” she said.

“Hopefully a fun or colour run will fund a shade cover for a waiting area outside the dining hall, but if we go back into lockdown again, it won’t happen,” she said.

Ms Whitaker said minor fundraisers had been organised for the school through a professional fundraising company, like the one run by Ms Weidmann.

But not all schools have carried on with their fundraising plans this year.

In early March this year, Villanova College in Coorparoo cancelled their major annual fundraising event, the Villanova Carnival.

The event usually raises upwards of $50,000 in much relied on funding for the school.


Social distancing at a school carnival such as Villanova College’s, which usually draws crowds of around 4000 people, would be nearly impossible. Photo: Courtesy Tony Rolls

Villanova Carnival coordinator Jamie Whitlock said the postponement was disappointing for those in the community who attend every year.

“The P&F [Parents and Friends] usually have a range of other events to raise funds for the school throughout the year, such as the Villa Ball and trivia, both of which have also been cancelled,” Mr Whitlock said.

“But the carnival is special because it brings the school together early in the school year and celebrates the school’s multicultural cohort,” he said.

Last year the event raised funds for the school library, and this year the goal was to raise money to put air conditionings in all classrooms.

Mr Whitlock said Villanova College had ceased all fundraising for the time being, and said it was important to put the community first.

“Certainly 2020 is a fundraising wipe-out for sure,” he said.

“We had considered online auctions and other options, but it is simply not the time,” Mr Whitlock said.

“Parents are focusing on so many other priorities at the moment and putting our hand out now would not be the right thing to do,” he said.

Ms Weidmann agreed that schools would need to be considerate when fundraising at this time.

“There are still people who have spare money out there, many have kept their jobs and are happy to support,” she said.

“Just be gentle, as we don’t want anyone feeling pressured or guilty that they aren’t able to give right now.”

Fortunately, not all schools have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

Forest Lake State High School deputy principal Robyn Ferguson said her school only did limited amounts of fundraising, so things had been mostly business as usual for them despite the pandemic.

“We have only ever undertaken one or two fundraising events each year, run by the student leadership team, for one or two charities, and these are generally free dress days, and this has not changed for us,” Ms Ferguson said.

She said her school was vital to the local community and said fundraising wasn’t something they did regularly.

“We are very happy if the families in our community pay their fees let alone give any money or goods to fundraising,” Ms Ferguson said.

“Truth be told, we as a school give more to the local community than [we] take.”