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JAN
13
2017

IN THE FIELD
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7 tips for connecting with newly elected officials on social media

By Rachel Clark

As elected officials take office in communities across the country, we in the afterschool field have an important opportunity to introduce ourselves to newly elected officials, reconnect with reelected policy makers, and remind our representatives of afterschool’s impact in the communities they serve.

The first things you should do: familiarize yourself with winning candidates’ priorities and stances on the issues, write introductory letters to newly elected officials, and invite policy makers to visit your afterschool program.

But as you wait for your letters to be delivered or to get a visit scheduled, reaching out to your representatives online is an easy and effective way to put afterschool on their radar. Here’s how:

  1. New to social media? Learn the basics. Our social media resources include introductory Facebook and Twitter tipsheets, popular hashtags in the afterschool community, and two webinars on social media strategy.
  2. Find out how to get in touch with your representatives. Find social media handles for your local policy makers in our interactive database. Simply enter your program’s address to see if the local, state and federal officials who represent you are active on social media and how you can reach them.
  3. Make it clear that you’re a constituent. Policy makers’ offices receive thousands of letters, emails, and social media messages each day, so they generally only have time to acknowledge and respond to residents of their own districts. If your city and state aren’t publicly available on the social media profile you’re using for your outreach, it won’t be clear that you’re a constituent, and your message is much more likely to be ignored.
  4. Tell the stories of the people who are impacted by your program. Collect short anecdotes from students, parents, teachers, local business leaders, law enforcement officers, and other community partners explaining in a few words why afterschool works for them. Tell your program’s story through their testimonials by sharing those quotes with elected officials on social media.
  5. Run the numbers. Policy makers want to know how issues affect their constituents. Supplement personal stories from your program with America After 3PM statistics from your state to drive home the widespread demand and support for afterschool programs in your community.
  6. Mention your federal or state funding streams. Does your program get funding through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, the Child Care Development Fund, or other federal or state funding streams? Be sure to note that in your outreach to emphasize the importance of these investments (e.g. “With support from Community Learning Centers, kids in [program name] are performing better in math.”).
  7. Have a specific ask. Your outreach should drive toward a goal—ideally, getting an elected official or a member of their staff to visit your program and see afterschool in action! When you connect with policy makers on social media, try to include a few words inviting them to see afterschool for themselves. Afterschool Ambassador Brent Cummings successfully used this tactic to secure a site visit from a U.S. Senator!  

We know from academic research and surveys of congressional staff that policy makers are listening to constituent voices on social media. In one survey, 80 percent of congressional staff reported that getting their attention takes fewer than 30 posts or comments about an issue! For state and local officials, the threshold to get afterschool on their radar is likely even lower.

With online outreach, a small investment of time can make a big impact and help lay the foundation for a long and rewarding partnership with your representatives.

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learn more about: Advocacy Marketing
JAN
3
2017

IN THE FIELD
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4 ways you can connect with newly elected officials

By Elizabeth Tish

Tempe, AZ Mayor Mark Mitchell poses with students of Broadmor Kid Zone

This month, elected officials around the country step into office. This is an important time to reach out to your newly elected officials and remind them of afterschool’s role in your community, district or state. Offer to be a resource on the issue, and invite them to come see your program firsthand.

Not sure where to start? Here are some basic tips for reaching out to your representatives at all levels.

  1. Review statements, platforms and media coverage to make sure you understand the winning candidate’s position. Find a way to connect afterschool to their passion. Is their chief concern is creating jobs in your community? Tell them how afterschool offers workforce development opportunities.
  2. Write the official to offer to be a resource on afterschool, and to set up a site visit to a local program. You can use our sample letter to get started. It is often helpful to provide information about the impact of afterschool in your community—and it’s easy to do so with data points about afterschool in your state from the America After 3PM dashboard. Facts combined with relatable anecdotes can work together to create a strong narrative about the impact of afterschool. If you work with a program that receives 21st Century Community Learning Center funding, you should also be sure let them know about the impact it has.
  3. Invite the official to visit an afterschool program. When Afterschool Ambassador Kim Templeman contacted Congressman Tom Cole to visit her program, she called and left emails with his office. A representative from his office visited her program, and then encouraged the Congressman to attend too! During his visit, Rep. Cole saw firsthand what afterschool looks like, and Kim was able to show him the direct impact of federal funds on her program. This type of personal interaction can help any official understand more of what you do and how you do it—whether they represent you on a federal, state or local level. Before the official leaves, make sure to give them materials to take back to their office so they can start making the case for afterschool. Check out our advocacy basics to learn more.
  4. Stay in touch! After your visit, write the official to thank them for attending, and reiterate any points that you think are important for them to remember. You might also think about thanking them publicly, through social media or a blog about their visit. This is a good place to provide photos and stories, so those who aren’t able to physically attend your program can see what it looks like as well. Don’t forget to follow up, so that when you need support, you have a warm relationship to ask for it.

Want to make an impact while you’re in the process of reaching out to officials? Contact Congress, sign the petition, or write your newspaper.

Want to learn more about the impact of the election?  Read about education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, how the election played out at the state level, and the new Congress.  

DEC
26
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Looking back at 2016 in the afterschool field

By Rachel Clark

2016 was an eventful year for the United States and the world, and the changes that were set into motion this year are impacting the afterschool field just as they’ve affected communities across the country.

As we look ahead to the year to come, take a moment to bid farewell to 2016 and look back at some of the biggest moments of the year.

  1. Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Election Day was easily the most consequential moment of 2016 for our country. Take a look at our early analysis of what the Trump Administration could mean for the afterschool field.
  2. A new Congress was elected. Though Donald Trump’s victory was the biggest story on Election Day, the afterschool field should pay close attention to the 115th Congress, which is set to make big moves in the next several months. Learn what afterschool advocates should look for in the first few months of 2017.
  3. New research highlighted the wide-ranging impact of America’s afterschool programs. This year, we finished up the 2014 America After 3PM series with our first-ever special reports on afterschool in rural America and afterschool in communities of concentrated poverty. New reports also highlighted the impacts of afterschool STEM and the state of computer science education in afterschool.
  4. Lights On Afterschool partnered with two NBA teams to kick off the 2016 celebration. In one of our most exciting Lights On kickoffs to date, we joined NBA Math Hoops to celebrate afterschool with a Math Hoops tournament before the Golden State Warriors faced off against the Sacramento Kings in San Jose, Calif. The tournament winners—and the beginning of the national rally for afterschool programs—were even recognized at halftime!
  5. Notable shifts occurred in state legislatures. With party control switching in seven chambers and voters in two states passing three ballot initiatives that could impact afterschool funding, November 8 was an important day at the ballot box for many states.
  6. President-elect Trump announced his nominee for education secretary. Betsy DeVos, a philanthropist and former chairwoman of the Republican Party of Michigan, is a longtime school choice advocate whose family foundation has supported local afterschool providers in the past.
  7. Diverse partnerships brightened Lights On Afterschool 2016. From the tenth annual lighting of the Empire State Building in honor of afterschool to a Senate resolution recognizing the celebration, partnerships at the local, state and national levels made this year’s rally shine.

What was the biggest moment of 2016 for you and your afterschool program? We want to hear from you! Share a photo of your favorite or most important memory on Instagram and tag @afterschool4all for a chance to be featured. 

DEC
23
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Celebrating our AmeriCorps VISTAs' 2016 accomplishments

By Andrea Szegedy-Maszak

Members of the VISTA team gathered on the National Mall in September.

For the last five years, the Afterschool Alliance has been a proud sponsor organization for nationwide AmeriCorps VISTA projects. VISTA, which stands for “Volunteers in Service to America,” is a 50-year-old service program with the central mission of alleviating poverty through capacity building for nonprofit organizations. VISTA members are considered full-time federal volunteers during their one-year term of service.

Our VISTA program—and the scope of our VISTAs’ work to support the afterschool field—has grown significantly over the past five years. Most recently, we’ve added VISTAs dedicated to supporting the STEM Ecosystem Initiative, as well as VISTAs focusing on mentoring opportunities for young men of color. Read on to learn more about our VISTAs’ work and a few highlights from 2016.

Our VISTAs’ major highlights from 2016

Oklahoma STEM Ecosystem VISTAs Sabrina Bevins and Aleia McNaney have taken on leadership roles in the planning of a Women in STEM book club and event series surrounding the release of the film Hidden Figures, culminating with a screening of the film. Sabrina has signed on a number of female STEM professionals to mentor young girls in Tulsa over the course of the program.

Thanks to Sabrina’s successful partner outreach, Cox Media has agreed to run four radio campaigns in promotion of the program, and a local theater company has donated a screening room that seats more than 400. Aleia has been spearheading communications efforts for the Hidden Figures program, including designing promotional materials for a book drive held Tuesday, November 29 in support of the book club.

New Jersey Meals VISTA Jaimie Held has been making strides in expanding afterschool and summer meals for kids and families in Newark, N.J. Jaimie created partnerships with local food banks to host afterschool and summer meals open house events in 2017. She also scheduled an afterschool and summer meals open house in January 2017 at Newark’s Bolden Student Center to recruit new afterschool and summer meal sites.

DEC
19
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool Spotlight: PIECES After School Program & Burlington Police Department

By Elizabeth Tish

This post is presented as part of the Afterschool Spotlight blog series, which tells the stories of the parents, participants and providers of afterschool programs. This post is also an installment in our new Afterschool & Law Enforcement series, which explores the ways afterschool programs are partnering with police to keep communities safe and growing strong. Our latest installment of the Afterschool & Law Enforcement series focused on Lights On Afterschool event that fostered a new connection between the NYPD and a New York City afterschool program.

A police officer out of his uniform, running a flag football club in sweatpants and a t-shirt. Detectives mentoring students in a Crime Scene Investigation club. Female police officers talking with girls about what it’s like to be a woman in law enforcement. These are just a few glimpses into the ongoing activities spurred by the collaboration between PIECES, an afterschool program in rural Iowa, and the Burlington Police Department.

The partnership began in 2013, when PIECES afterschool program director Jackie Swink approached the local police department to support her application for a 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) grant. Around the same time, Major Darren Grimshaw and the Burlington Police Department were having internal conversations about new ways to engage with the community. This confluence of events led to a strong partnership between the two organizations—ever since, officers have been present in the afterschool program, connecting with students and working to build relationships and trust to break down barriers between youth and the police.

Today, PIECES offers programs at two middle schools and an elementary school in rural Burlington, Iowa, serving about 70 students at each site. PIECES offers diverse programming for students, with an emphasis on developing community partnerships—in addition to the police department’s involvement, partners include local hospitals, grocery stores and banks. As Major Grimshaw explained, “It gives all of us an opportunity to sit down with these kids and get to know who they are.”

Major Grimshaw and officers in the department are involved with PIECES in a variety of ways and at varying levels that suit the mutual needs of the officers and the program. The school resource officer, who splits his time between the two middle schools, is a consistent presence with his daily participation. Other officers come and go, either informally stopping by or using shared interests to develop lasting bonds with the students, like the investigators who host a CSI club night to teach students the basics of fingerprinting and crime scene investigation.

DEC
5
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Achievement gap covered at children's opportunity town hall

By Jodi Grant

On October 17, I joined leaders from across the country in Las Vegas to discuss the opportunity gap. I learned more about what organizations like the Children’s Leadership Council, Children’s Defense Fund, the National Council of La Raza and many more are doing to close the children’s opportunity gap. You can watch a recording of the Town Hall and find a full list of partner organizations here.

What does afterschool have to do with the opportunity gap for kids?

  1. There isn’t enough supply to meet the demand for afterschool – for every child in an afterschool program, there are two waiting to get in.
  2. Families with higher incomes spend 7 times as much as lower income families on afterschool programs, which results in about 6000 hours of learning loss between kids from low-income families and high-income families by the start of sixth grade.
  3. Poverty can live anywhere, even rural communities – for every child in a rural afterschool program, there are three waiting to get in.

Thank you to Every Child Matters for inviting me to be part of this group to discuss this important topic. You can join the conversation on Twitter using #KidsOpportunity. Children deserve all the resources necessary to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to get ahead. 

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learn more about: Equity Events and Briefings
NOV
17
2016

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New campaign encourages older adults to show up for kids

By Elizabeth Tish

Afterschool programs use many community partners to be successful, including adults in the communities they serve. Adult engagement with youth-serving organizations can offer a great benefit for both the organizations and youth involved.

Today, the Generation to Generation campaign is being launched by Encore.org. The campaign will mobilize 1 million people over the age of 50 to show up for kids, support innovative pilots to bring generations together in ways that make lives better for all, and amplify a positive conversation about intergenerational collaboration in America.

Generation to Generation will tell the stories of those already improving the lives of young people and will mobilize more adults 50+ to do the same through paid or volunteer roles. The campaign will work with a coalition of partner organizations who are already doing youth-focused work and could benefit from an infusion of experienced talent - organizations like Playworks, Jumpstart for Young Children, the Boys & Girls Club of America, MENTOR, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Strive for College. Community-wide efforts to create intergenerational impact zones are planned in Los Angeles, San Jose, Boston, Seattle and elsewhere.

How can you be involved with Generation to Generation?

  1. Take action. Are you an adult over the age of 50 with an interest in using your experience to serve youth? Act now – find out if any local organizations are looking for volunteers.
  2. Get social. Join the Afterschool Alliance and Encore.org in celebrating today’s launch of the Generation to Generation campaign and stay tuned for more opportunities to engage with this mission.
  3. Share your story. Are you an adult over 50 with a compelling story about how you support young people? Submit your story and read others' inspiring stories about the impact they're making. 
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learn more about: Youth Development Community Partners
NOV
1
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Evaluating afterschool: Evaluation as a mission-driven investment

By Robert Abare

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the second installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which turns to program providers in the field to answer some of the common questions asked about program evaluation. Be sure to take a look at the first post of the series, which explores evaluation lessons from Dallas Afterschool.

This post is written by Jason Spector, senior research & evaluation manager for After-School All-Stars, a national afterschool program serving more than 70,000 low-income, at-risk students across 11 states and the District of Columbia.

The After-School All-Stars of South Florida celebrated Lights On Afterschool 2016 with the Miami Marlins.

I recently left a meeting thinking I’m no longer doing the job I was hired to do. But for a professional evaluator of afterschool programs, change is a good thing.

When I joined After-School All-Stars (ASAS) to launch our national evaluation department two and a half years ago, my primary goal was to measure and support ASAS’ outcomes as the organization entered into an expansion phase. While I currently maintain this responsibility, our national evaluation team is now focused on examining program quality as opposed to outcomes measurement. Why the change? Simply put, we realized our top priority was to boost our quality, because when we do, the impact and outcomes will follow. 

This type of a shift is not an easy decision for a nonprofit to make. As nonprofits move toward more advanced outcomes measurements to satisfy increasingly savvy funders, leaders everywhere are faced with some critical questions:

  1. Should I deepen my organization’s investment in evaluation?
  2. What can I expect to receive in return?

These questions carry an assumption that an investment in evaluation is inherently not an investment in your organization’s mission and programs. Furthermore, many program leaders assume that evaluations must yield large positive outcomes in order to attract new funders and compensate for the “cost” of not putting dollars directly into program operations. But this logic fails to consider the many benefits evaluations afford organizations. 

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learn more about: Evaluations Guest Blog