How to get in touch with school alumni & local businesses

Yesterday was a momentous day for Rocket Fund: Hyndland Primary School in Scotland were lucky enough to be recipients of our largest donation to date! The stars aligned as an alumni member, turned software company owner, stumbled across the crowdfunding campaign on Facebook and felt moved to respond with a large donation.

Read on for some insights on how to approach this kind of donor yourselves, moving outside of your immediate school community and getting more creative with your contacts.

Pete Black of Energysys explains what did it for him. @pb_energysys

1. How did you become aware of the Rocket Fund project that you sponsored? 

I think I saw the notice on Facebook, perhaps in the Edinburgh Evening News feed? Interestingly, I couldn’t find it again when I looked for it the next day, but Google was my friend and I found the Rocket Fund site. I was really interested and keen to support, in part because I run a software company, and because I believe it’s essential that everyone has a core set of digital skills. On top of that, I was born and raised in Glasgow, and attended both Hyndland Primary and Secondary Schools, so there were really multiple points of connection.

2. Why did you choose this project in particular to sponsor?

I received a really terrific education at Hyndland School, and I believe it was fundamental in allowing me to achieve my goals. The fact that we’re a software company made it even more appealing to support a project that was fundamentally about IT skills. The enthusiasm of the digital leaders was really impressive too.

3. Have you made donations in the past? If so who to and by what means?

Yes, we make regular donations to the Surrey Care Trust, and one of our directors is a trustee. We’ve also made one-off contributions to charities to which we feel a particular affinity. For example, I’m now based in Edinburgh, and we’ve given to one of the homeless charities here.

4. Do you have any tips for other schools looking to attract donations from businesses or alumni?

In comparison with the US, our schools and universities are really poor when it comes to tracking alumni. It really should be a higher priority to keep records on the careers and contact details of former students, keeping them in touch with news, and encouraging them to make contributions if they can. There’s no real data protection issue if the nature of the data stored and the purpose is agreed, and I feel it’s just not something we do well.

5. Could you name some practical ways our schools could approach businesses to attract larger donations?

It’s tricky, but looking for that connection is important. So, for example, if you’re seeking donations for a digital fund for a school in Glasgow, I’d use LinkedIn to contact technology business leaders in Glasgow and invite them to contribute. Perhaps an open day at the school to discuss the curriculum, and the benefits of their donation, would help to form that connection and encourage the opening of wallets!

Use LinkedIn to contact local business leaders and invite them to contribute.

6. What impact do you hope your donation will have?

This is one of the most exciting periods in history for digital technology, with the emergence of cloud computing and AI among many advances that are already transforming the world. Ultimately, I hope that students are going to really see what they can do with technology and develop the digital skills that will prepare them for a fantastic future. Most of all, I hope they have fun!

7. What would you say to other businesses and alumni looking to donate, who aren’t quite sure?

I’d tell them that a small contribution can make a vast difference. Contributing to the lives and development of students across the country will create a lasting legacy that benefits everyone.

8. Why do you think it’s important to support computing in schools in the UK?

Quite simply, the future is digital. If we want to succeed as a country then we need to invest in the digital skills of every single student in the country, no matter their academic specialisation.

Go Hyndland Primary School! Good luck with the next 43 days of your project! Visit their project page here.

If you have any tips or ideas about fundraising for schools, get in touch with us or leave a comment below!


5 Virtual Reality Apps for the Classroom

One of the most popular products schools fundraise for on Rocket Fund is virtual reality headsets. We wanted to see what all the fuss is about: What products are out there? How do schools use them? And do the students enjoy them?!

We asked Jamie Feltham of Upload Vr to give us an introduction to VR experiences for education. Here is his roundup of his top 5.

5 Apps That Show What VR Can Do For Education

People love to say that VR is the future of education. But, for all the hype, where are the apps that actually prove this? Well, believe it or not, they’re out there, even if the platforms and ecosystems to properly support them aren’t quite there yet. Below I’ve listed some of my top picks for VR apps and services available now that demonstrate the power of this amazing new technology.

Hold The World

Ever wanted to meet Sir David Attenborough? Haven’t we all? This new Oculus Rift app might not get you an in-person meeting with the broadcasting legend, but it’s certainly the next best thing. Attenborough’s been brought to digital life with photorealism in this amazing tour of some of the most prized exhibits of London’s Natural History Museum. Hundreds of cameras have been employed to make him look every bit as lifelike in VR.

You sit opposite the man himself as he talks over various subjects that you can pick up and inspect in amazing detail. Not only that, but you can enlarge giant skeletons and more, eventually watching them come to life as Attenborough points out areas of interest and fills you in with his unparalleled knowledge. It really is an amazing experience. Find out more here

Google Expeditions

As for VR actually inside the classroom? Google’s already there. Google Expeditions is an educational platform that utilises the company’s exhaustive library of panoramic images and videos that take students on virtual field trips using its simple Cardboard VR viewer. All you need is a smartphone!

With a teacher leading the class via tablet, kids are able to explore Aztec temples, Everest’s peak and much more. Information about each location can be found in every experience, ensuring that kids learn through experience rather than textbooks. There’s also an excellent augmented reality (AR) version of the app that lets you explore 3D models of human organs and more. Find out more here

Operation Apex

Documentaries like Blue Planet do a remarkable job at charting the activities of our vast oceans, but, outside of an incredibly expensive diving trip, only VR can actually bring you there. Operation Apex is a great example of gamifying education, putting you on the hunt for a strange anomaly in the ocean’s food chain that will have you meeting an incredible amount of aquatic life up close and personal.

It’s the actions and immersion that make this a standout piece. You need to learn what types of food fish like to eat and then find and scan that grub in order to feed it to them. More importantly, though, the game carries an important environmental message and a striking moment that shows you why empathy can be just as powerful a tool for education as it can any other type of VR experience. Find out more here

Titanic VR

Of course, VR can also be used as something of a time machine, and that’s exactly what Titantic VR does. There are two parts to this brilliant app. The first is a story-driven adventure in which you explore the wreck of the enormous vessel, learning about its various sections and machinations as well as taking part in the restoration processes that go into preserving and learning more about the Titanic.

The second uses eye-witness accounts to reimagine the fateful day of the crash, huddling you up against desperate passengers in a mad scramble for survival. It’s a history lesson come to life and is filled with memorable moments. See also the same company’s take on the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Find out more here

Titans of Space 2.0

Perhaps the best place in VR to take a trip of our solar system. This sends you on a fantastical trip, soaring over planets and orbiting around the sun, complete with plenty of facts about the inhabitants of the milky way as you explore.

There’s a lot of space exploration available in VR already but Titans of Space stands out from the pack with its powerful sense of immersion and accessible structure.

Find out more here

If you are interested in bringing VR to the classroom, why not try fundraising for it on Rocket Fund?

We’re here to help you make school out of this world!


Ardleigh Green School on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign

Here’s some feedback from Karen Whelan, Year 6 teacher and computing lead, who headed up a very successful fundraising project for her school Ardleigh Green, on why she would most definitely use Rocket Fund again.

  • Money raised: £1,544
  • Equipment purchased: 12 Chromebooks

Why did you want to create a project on Rocket Fund?

Two years ago, we took the decision to use our budget on purchasing one Chromebook per Year 6 student. It was an absolute game-changer and we saw a massive increase in confidence and coding skills. We wanted to extend this service by year group to reach our Year 5s, as we believe it has such a positive effect on learning.

We didn’t have the funds to pay for it from the school budget, so decided to run a Rocket Fund campaign instead!

What did you learn from the experience?

That I’m pretty persuasive! I liked that Rocket Fund was online, it meant that we could share it, spread it, tweet it – get it around really quickly and to a massive audience. It’s an easy way to share what we’re doing. Also, I liked that other teachers could get involved – three of our teachers swam a mile of the Thames!

Every time the parents were around, we’d ask them to donate, we tweeted daily… we annoyed people for a month, but it really worked!

Teachers celebrate completing their swimathon
Teachers raising money for their school

Would you recommend Rocket Fund to other schools and why?

Oh yes, definitely yes.

The fact that you had helpful hints of what to say for each section really helped, as well as having someone on the phone to tell you what will work and what won’t. Having the capability of a video to hook people in was really helpful too.

It wasn’t a difficult process to have to go through, especially if you consider the impact and gain we received. The hardest bit was at the start: writing it, sending it off. Once that’s done, it’s about sharing, building up momentum and getting it out there.

How would you have raised the money without Rocket Fund?

We would have eventually, but it would have taken a long time to save the money. It’s a long-term goal to get Chromebooks for every year group. Raising money through Rocket Fund now means that we have enough for each Year 5 student as well as some for Years 3 and 4!

What do you think were your most successful ways of communicating with your funders?

Our school website was a major channel. ClassDojo (the behavioural software) tweeted a lot, and we made sure we used the same hashtags consistently. We created a cool video and showed it whenever parents were in school for plays, concerts etc. and we explained how beneficial it would be to the students. We went to the local press as well and made sure we provided them with pictures. 

How were your students involved in the project?

They were involved in the video-making and producing some content for social media. I spoke to them a lot throughout the process and got them on-side so that they could help to spread the word and explain to people why we were doing it. They learned a lot about fundraising and also communications.

What would you say to others who were interested?

Choose a realistic target that you can actually achieve – because you can go above that anyway – and really put some effort into sharing it. It can be really successful if you do it, rather than just forgetting about it!

Have you ever used a crowdfunding platform before?

I’d done personal things, races etc, but nothing for school.

Would you fundraise through Rocket Fund again?

Yes! I’m keen to take part in wave 3, to fundraise for the Year 3’s Chromebooks! I want to get the children more involved still, perhaps by doing a sponsored walk…


Creating a drone academy

We chatted to computing lead Bob Baldie, of Forfar Academy, about his Rocket Fund experience.

  • Money raised: £1,544
  • Tech purchased: 7 drones

What did you think of fundraising with Rocket Fund?

We loved the process! It was smooth, there was almost no admin, it was like “Here’s the drones, let’s get cracking”.

Would you recommend Rocket Fund to other schools and why?

Definitely. It’s almost like free money, isn’t it?! You don’t start with any of your own money, you just generate it.

Why did you want to create a project on Rocket Fund?

We are focused on keeping our curriculum dynamic, to engage with the digital skills agenda and prepare our students for the future. In Scotland, computer games are one of our biggest exports with the likes of Chris Van der Kuyl of Minecraft and Rockstar North; we’re interested in capitalising on these inspirations in the classroom and making digital technology relevant to our students. We needed funding to make sure we were able to offer our students a real experience in learning by having the technology which was fit for purpose. There isn’t much educational funding about, so Rocket Fund seemed like a good idea and presented itself to us at a good time.

Why drones?

We were interested in drones as they are such a visual way of putting coding and digital skills into practice, taking things away from a computer screen and into the real world had a massive impact on our class.

What did you learn from the Rocket Fund experience?

When you go to conferences and see demonstrations of 3D printers/drones etc., teacher’s instinct is to think: “that’s great but we haven’t got any money.”

Rocket Fund shows you there is money out there. If you’re prepared to put a bit of effort in, the sky’s the limit! If there’s a will, there’s a way.

What have your students learned from using Rocket Fund?

I’d say get the kids involved! It’s a wider learning opportunity and calls on lots of citizenship skills, especially communication and collaboration, computational thinking and lots of employability skills. It gets them focused on a project which encompasses so many skills and which has the best outcome and offers them a great sense of achievement. It teaches them that if you want something, you work hard for it.

Any issues with using Rocket Fund?

Nothing. It was straightforward, especially compared to other crowdfunding platforms that I have used previously which were clunky and made me feel like tearing my hair out. I didn’t have any issues with Rocket Fund.

Imagine a world with no Rocket Fund?

Raising funds would have taken twice as long. I would’ve had to raise more through enterprise (selling keyrings, cakes etc) as well as trying to get in touch with different sponsors and benefactors. Rocket Fund gave me a real-time focus, it felt like “we’ve got a chance of doing it – let’s pull out all the stops and do this.”

So what was the overall impact of Rocket Fund for your students?

Before the project, we only had three drones. Now we have 10, enough for the whole class.

It enabled us to scale up our activities – students are now working in pairs on the drones instead of sharing one between seven. Making this technology available in state schools starts to close the attainment gap for those from lower-income families and offers students experiences they would otherwise not have. Drones are a rich man’s toy and less than 50% of our students would be able to afford them at home.

What would you say to others who were interested?

It’s a no-brainer! Free money! You can realise what you want to do when money isn’t an obstacle. No more “I can’t do that because I’ve got no money”.

To take a closer look at this project and others visit our Rocket Fund project pages.