Sustainability: it’s an ongoing struggle in the nonprofit world. Afterschool and summer learning programs are no strangers to writing sustainability plans and working tirelessly toward this goal. For many, sustainability is elusive. For all, it’s hard work.
In November, I had the opportunity to hear from three 21st CCLC-funded afterschool providers in Colorado who have achieved success in sustaining at least portions of their afterschool and summer programs.
One of those project directors, Maria Ortiz, served as an Afterschool Ambassador in 2013 and manages a program in Poudre School District. Located in Fort Collins, Colo., the district is home to one of the first 21st CCLC-funded afterschool programs that I ever visited as a program officer at the U.S. Department of Education.
I remember being impressed during that first visit back around 2001, and hearing Maria speak again recently only strengthened my initial impression. Maria has been part of the afterschool program in Fort Collins from the beginning and has done a tremendous job finding and cultivating local champions and applying for new grants to keep the program going for more than 15 years!
Tips for sustainability success
Maria and her two counterparts, Clarice Fortunato of Englewood School District and Jovita Schiffer of Boulder Valley School District, offered many valuable insights, including these eight key sustainability tips:
Sustainability for 21st CCLC grantees
For 21st CCLC grantees in many states, handling the “step-down” of funding can be a significant challenge. In Colorado and many other states, the 21st CCLC grant amounts decrease over the life of the grant period—for example, years 1 and 2 might be fully funded at the requested amount and then year three is funded at 90%, year four is 80% and year 5 is 60% funded.
The panelists shared three strategies to help alleviate this challenge:
The three project directors were enthusiastic that at least partial sustainability is possible—their stories were inspiring and their energy was boundless. But all three recognized that federal support for afterschool was essential to get their programs going initially and to maintain some of the key aspects of their programming.
Local communities can do a lot to support afterschool and summer programs, but federal funds help those local dollars stretch much further. Visit our Action Center to learn how you can help protect federal funding for afterschool.
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