4 Things Every Afterschool Program Should Do to Become Sustainable

In uncertain economic times, here are four things that every program should know to build toward financial security.

UpMetrics Executive Director Stephen Minix cut his teeth as a coach and athletic director in South Los Angeles, at Locke High School, where he learned the importance of being prepared for changes in funding structure and building a strategy for continued success. Here, he outlines four ways, based on his experience, that every afterschool provider can become more sustainable/less at the mercy of sudden budget cuts.

1. Data matters, no matter how small the group.

Who is in your program? What are their demographics? All must be a priority for ASP programs—not an afterthought.

  • When I was running programming for Green Dot Public Schools, my focus was primarily on the end-product for kids — i.e., programming. In hindsight, the infrastructure involved in running a quality, data-driven ASP is as vital as the end product. I should have prioritized data strategy and data review, and built in checkpoints throughout the year to allow for program revisions (based on data).
  • Data strategy is as important as the programming, because if done correctly, it will offer you insights into your program, allow you to make data-driven decisions, assist in fund solicitation, prove outcomes, etc.

2. Building a network of support is key.

There is no sense playing ‘hero ball’ and trying to run the ASP on your own. Reaching out to community-based organizations to leverage additional resources is vital.

> The key is to make strategic and intentional connections that will help advance your pursuits to run quality ASP.

  • Slippery slope: Some providers bend and ply with any funding that is out there and mold their program to fit the parameters of accepting the funds. For example you might have a soccer enrichment program but find out that BLANK medical foundation is providing $50k for programs as long as they incorporate health screenings, vision screenings, and parent meetings. Although this seems innocent so long as it fits with your goals/mission as and ASP, it can derail the flow of your program.
  • Police, YMCA, Youth Centers, Libraries, Wellness Centers, Occupational Centers, Parks and Recreation, etc., are all likely collaborators in youth development.

> Authoring a thorough community needs assessment at your school/facility and surrounding neighborhood is critical to give you guidance on what is available or needed to service your stakeholders.

  • Focus on crime statistics for the hours of 3–6pm (or when your proposed program is operating).
  • Gang influence in your area: Speaks to the likelihood of impacted transportation of kids, fearful of walking in their own neighborhoods. Also, learn incarceration rates for the age of stakeholders you propose to serve.

Employment opportunities

  • Are there opportunities for internships or other forms of professional development that would work with your program?

Educational opportunities

  • What academic components can you potentially build into your programming?

Philanthropic activity

  • Community service can be a great way to connect your program with other communities and enrich your participants’ appreciation for their environment, by getting them outside of their comfort zone. A perfect example of this comes from Chicago’s Lost Boyz baseball and softball program.

3. It’s a political game.

ASP leadership must become professionally active. In other words, be there or be square.

  • Attend school board meetings.
  • Read school board meeting minutes to get an idea of the priorities of the school/org so that alignment of ASP can be more easily facilitated.
  • Be your own advocate.
  • Market your program for its effectiveness, needs, and areas of ‘shine.’
  • ‘Squeaky wheel gets the grease.’

4. Knowledge really is power.

Getting involved in local level ASP advocacy (county office of education, working advisory groups etc) is essential. Not only will it make you more informed about what is going on, it will also give you more of a stake when it comes time to make decisions.

  • Allows for you as the face of the program to have legitimacy at the decision-making table.
  • Keeps an ear to the policy street so you know what is coming and can better position your program for success.

You can read more about how Stephen got started as a coaching, mentor, and teacher below.

And for more resources on how to learn from your data, build sustainability into your program, and grow your resources, check out our Knowledge Base here on Medium.

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