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8 firsthand tips to win the sustainability battle

By Jen Rinehart

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:



An insider's guide to funding afterschool: Year-end appeals

By Michael Burke

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the latest installment of "An insider's guide to funding afterschool," a blog series by Mike Burke, Director of Development at the Afterschool Alliance, featuring strategies to successfully fund and sustain out-of-school time programs. Check out the first, second, third and fourth installments.

Photo via Flickr.

As the calendar year draws to a close, many of you are busy with year-end fundraising campaigns. Because many people wait until December to make their tax-deductible donations, the year-end appeal is a great opportunity to engage your donors with highlights of the past year, as well as an opportunity to look forward to the coming year. If your afterschool program reached significant milestones, or has exciting plans to expand or begin a new initiative in the coming year, the year-end appeal is the perfect time to ask your donors to continue and/or increase their support.

In the digital age, there are many different approaches to how you can go about conducting your year-end appeal. Don’t discount the traditional direct-mail letter—it’s still an incredibly effective method for raising valuable funds. Some programs may opt instead to engage donors through email or social media.

Whether you are engaging your donors through direct-mail, via email, or using a combination of both, there are several key things to remember as you wrap up your year-end campaign.

Compare your year-end appeal to other campaigns

You’re probably receiving a lot of appeals from other organizations in both your mailbox and your email inbox. Take some time to examine their requests for support and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you like in their request for support?
  • Is there anything in their messaging that rubs you the wrong way?
  • Do you feel connected to their mission? If so, what makes their messaging effective? If not, what are they lacking?
  • What makes their appeal stand out from so many others?
  • The bottom line: Would you give to them?

Then, take what you’ve learned and use it to refine your own outreach.

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learn more about: Marketing Sustainability


An insider's guide to funding afterschool: The business of corporate fundraising

By Ed Spitzberg

Thanks for tuning in to our blog series, “An insider’s guide to funding afterschool.”  This series has been popular, and I want to make sure we’re answering questions you have. To that end, if you have questions you want answered, send ‘em my way at I’ll pick some of them to answer in a blog later this year.

So now that you’ve connected your donors to your mission, leveraged your resources, and done your prospect research, it’s time to break down the types of funders potentially available to you and start looking at how best to convert them to donors.

In general, there are two categories of donors: individual donors (private individuals, whether giving $5 online or $5 million to endow a new building) and institutional donors (government, foundation and corporate donors). Today, we’re going to delve into the latter, specificaly corporate fundraising.

Corporations, like other types of donors, give out of philanthropic desire to improve their community, their region and the world. But unlike other types of donors, corporations also have an additional motivation: serving their business interests. Therefore, as a fundraiser, it’s vital to always think like a business and understand their business interests when talking to corporations.*

While there are many different ways that corporations support afterschool programs (and more ways than I can cover in one blog entry, as corporate social responsibility is a complex and evolving area), we’ll focus on two main ways corporations can become partners.

Corporate marketing vs. corporate foundations

Most corporations have part of their budget set aside for marketing, and that marketing can take the shape of advancing your organization if you are giving the corporation a way to reach a larger or newer (or larger and newer) audience. To tap into this corporate marketing budget, you must not only develop relationships with the marketing staff, but you also must develop a specific idea and have a very good understanding of what you have to offer as a nonprofit:  access to your students, access to your families, access into the community, alignment with your wonderful work and brand… You need to understand all that—with numbers—so that you can make sure they understand it, too. So whether you want to partner with the local dry cleaner or a national grocery store chain, know your offerings, your reach and your impact.

Corporate foundations, on the other hand, while also focusing on the parent company’s business needs, often take a more high-level view of their mission. While often less concerned with eyeballs (though not necessarily unconcerned), they may care more about addressing broader societal challenges that also impact their work and future—e.g. filling their employment pipeline with a skilled workforce, or encouraging healthy eating for a manufacturer of healthy snacks. As with other private foundations, know their guidelines in advance to make sure your organization or your project fits. Also make sure to understand the business needs that are driving their priorities, so that you can communicate how your project strategically and effectively fits their goals.



An insider's guide to funding afterschool: Tips for prospect research success

By Michael Burke

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the third installment of "An insider's guide to funding afterschool," a new blog series from the development team at the Afterschool Alliance, featuring strategies to successfully fund and sustain out-of-school time programs. Check out the first and second installments.

As Grants Manager at the Afterschool Alliance, my role is to research, explore and help cultivate funding opportunities, and prepare and submit grant proposals to a wide array of potential funders.

One of the challenges your development team likely faces is: “How do we most efficiently maximize our fundraising efforts with limited time and human resources?” One key step is setting time aside to conduct thorough prospect research.

Why Research?

Because of the sometimes complicated nature of putting together a quality and persuasive grant proposal, it is important to target potential funders with the greatest chance of success. Taking the necessary time to find out whether the donor is a good fit will result in a higher chance of success once you have submitted your proposal.

Instead of spending time crafting grants cold, it is far more effective to spend that time researching those donors that:

  • Fund, or have a history of funding, afterschool programs
  • Provide funding for programs in your geographic area
  • Have a philanthropic focus on areas such as STEM or health & wellness that align very well with your program focus

After you’ve narrowed your prospect list by the criteria above, don’t forget to:

  • Look for personal connections: Spend some time researching whether your organization has a connection to a potential donor (e.g. perhaps a member of your Board of Directors was once an employee of a prospective corporate donor).
  • Revisit old research: If you have lost a funder who has refocused their philanthropic efforts or put a prospect aside because it doesn’t seem to fit, do not just assume that the donor is gone forever – spend some time researching whether the donor has pivoted back to an area that aligns with your program.

Fundraising Resources

You can find valuable research resources at:

The following digests can also keep you up to date with what is happening in the world of philanthropy, and can highlight donors that might be very strong potential funders for you:

Prospect research takes time, just as preparing a grant proposal takes time. Setting time aside, however, on the front end to identify the strongest possible targets will maximize your human resources so that your development team has the best chance of success in acquiring the necessary funding for your afterschool or summer leaning program. 

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learn more about: Sustainability Community Partners


Weekly Media Roundup: May 25, 2016

By Luci Manning

To Bridge the Gap (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas)

Joyce Willis, educational programs manager for the Clinton Foundation, makes the case for summer learning programs in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette: “Summer learning loss, also known as the ‘summer slide,’ affects nearly every student in the country…. This education loss is even more severe for students from low-income families who fall nearly three months behind in the summer…. That’s why it’s important for communities to come together and create opportunities for our students—all our students—to have access to quality educational and literacy programs.”

Organizers: Program for Inner-City Kids is Difference Between Life and Death (WHO, Iowa)

A ten-week summer program is attempting to transform Des Moines’ poorest neighborhoods into safe places for kids. “Doing More in the Core” is providing grants to non-profits and community organizations that offer activities for young people from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. throughout the summer, a time when police say youths are most likely to get into trouble. “Everybody’s home situation isn’t the best,” Oakridge Neighborhood site coordinator Stephen Williams told WHO. “Giving them an opportunity or a place to go or services that they can benefit from or learn from may help save a life.”

“There’s a Lot of Devastation,” After-School Programs Brace for Budget Cuts (KFOR, Oklahoma)

Oklahoma City Public Schools’ looming budget cuts will start affecting students this week as summer programs try to handle the cutbacks. Struggling students will lose out on tutoring, fun activities and meals thanks to the $30 million in planned reductions. “So, the kids will be home alone, a lot of them or out getting in trouble,” Boys & Girls Clubs CEO Jane Sutter told KFOR. “It’s a very economically challenged area of our community. There are not a lot of options for those kids. So, not only will they not get a nutritious meal probably during the day, they won’t have positive activities to help them grow and learn…  It is really time for our state leadership, our community leadership, everybody to make kids come first.”

Shaking up Fitness (Austin American-Statesman, Texas)

Middle school students throughout Austin are learning that biking and running are more than just ways to stay fit – they’re a way to build confidence, make friends and, most importantly, have fun. Boneshaker Project runs youth exercise programs at recreation centers and schools throughout the city, fulfilling its mission to foster a lifestyle of activity and movement. The nonprofit targets middle school kids, according to founder Todd Reed, because it’s an underserved age group when it comes to these sorts of programs. “We all realize there are more resources available to elementary kids than middle school kids,” he told the Austin American-Statesman. “There’s a gap there, at a time when kids are very impressionable.”



An insider's guide to funding afterschool: Connecting donors to your mission

By Ed Spitzberg

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the second installment of "An insider's guide to funding afterschool," a new blog series by Ed Spitzberg, Vice President of Development at the Afterschool Alliance, featuring strategies to successfully fund and sustain out-of-school time programs. 

So now that you’ve leveraged the resources you have (see last month’s post), let’s talk about how to link donors to your organization.

What’s the best way to connect donors to your organization?  Well, personal relationships are important, sure. But you want long-term gifts… gifts that are tied to the organization, not any one individual. You want donors to have a relationship with the organization.

And what makes a relationship between a donor and your organization? Many things of course, but most important (and most obvious if you’ve peeked at the title of this post) is connection to your organization's mission.

So, how do you make this connection?

  • Stories about impact – Share with donors about specific kids (without identifying information, of course) who have benefited from your program. How did they participate in your program? What changes did they have in their lives after participating in your program?
  • Chance to observe program – Even better than stories: have them see your work, meet your kids and understand firsthand the impact you make.
  • Chance to participate in program – And even better than observing is participating. They can volunteer to be a mentor, serve on the board or enroll their own children. 
  • Persistently friendly communication – Make sure they know the work you do throughout the year. Call, send e-mails, etc. Persistence is good. Annoyance isn’t, so make sure you have a good feel as to where to draw the line.
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learn more about: Sustainability Community Partners


Ensure your organization complies with new labor rules

By Irina Zabello

Last Wednesday, May 18, the Labor Department issued a new final rule that may have implications for your program and program staff. The Afterschool Alliance will be sharing links to the latest webinars, briefings and guidelines for the new ruling as they appear. Whether or not your organization is subject to these changes will depend on your state laws.

What are the changes?

New overtime rule

The Department of Labor has announced a final rule that will substantially increase the minimum salary requirement for certain employees to be considered exempt from overtime. The new rule takes effect December 1, 2016, and is expected to extend overtime protections to 4.2 million more workers. To comply, employers may either need to raise exempt employees' salaries or reclassify affected employees as non-exempt and pay overtime when applicable.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires virtually all employers to pay most employees at least the federal minimum wage for each hour worked, as well as overtime pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. The FLSA allows for exemptions from these overtime and minimum wage requirements for certain "exempt" employees. To be considered exempt, these employees must generally satisfy specific salary and duties requirements:

  • Meet the minimum salary requirement;
  • With very limited exceptions, the employer must pay the employee their full salary in any week they perform work, regardless of the quality or quantity of the work; and
  • The employee's primary duties must meet certain criteria.
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learn more about: Sustainability


Afterschool Spotlight: Innovation Zone

By Robert Abare

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present this Afterschool Spotlight, part of a series featuring the stories of children, parents and providers of summer and afterschool programs. Click here to view the previous installment. Have a story to share? Email Robert Abare at

For Levi Myers, a 16-year-old 10th grader at Greenbrier East High School in Lewisburg, WV, life revolves around music. He’s started bands with his friends—playing everything from punk to reggae—and he has a dream of becoming a professional music critic one day.

Levi didn’t initially think that his high school’s afterschool program, SPARC (which stands for Spartans Collective), could help him further explore his love for music. “When I first heard about the program, I thought it would be sitting around and staring at books,” he said.

One of the guitars designed by students in the Innovation Zone afterschool program.

Instead, through SPARC’s classes in guitar building, Levi found his initial assumption was far from accurate. “The guitar classes were really fun,” he said. “They also taught me about the inside mechanics of guitars, soldering, circuitry and how to get stuff done on time.”

The SPARC program is part of a larger afterschool program of Greenbrier County Public Schools, funded by the West Virginia Department of Education’s Innovation Zone program. The afterschool program, which operates at two middle school and one high school, has two focuses: academic achievement and entrepreneurship. The Innovation Zone afterschool program is in the process of seeking additional support from the federal government’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative.

The Innovation Zone program supports students’ academic achievement through tutoring, ACT and SAT preparation, and credit recovery for struggling students. Last year, 37 students successfully graduated thanks to the credit recovery and failure prevention aspects of the program.

Vicky Cline, Director of Technology and Testing for Greenbrier County Schools and a leader of the program, explained that the programs’ entrepreneurial focus allows students to discover practical ways to apply the lessons they learn in school. “The goal is for students to gain business and interpersonal skills that they can use later in life,” she said. “We want our participants to realize that they can become major contributors to West Virginia’s economy, and that they can help our community become more self-sufficient.”