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Easy Valentine's activity: Share why your students love afterschool!

By Rachel Clark

This month, we’re celebrating the millions of reasons to love America’s afterschool programs, and we want to see why you and your students love afterschool!

Joining in can make for an easy and fun activity for your program in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. We’ve already seen programs in Washington and Alaska invite students to participate, with some unique and creative results.

Taking part is simple. All you have to do is:

  1. Download the toolkit.
  2. Make copies of the included We Love Afterschool sign.
  3. Ask students (and parents!) to fill them out.
  4. Snap photos of the finished product and share them on social media with the hashtag #AfterschoolWorks!

Ready to get started? Download the toolkit now.

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learn more about: Afterschool Voices Marketing


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


When talking about social and emotional learning, what language works best?

By Dan Gilbert

We all know that high quality afterschool and summer learning programs provide kids with the skills that they need to succeed in school and life. While the concept sounds simple, finding the best way to describe these skills and their development is anything but. Some people use phrases such as "social and emotional learning (SEL)" or "character development." Others refer to "21st century," "noncognitive" or "non-academic skills." With such a wide array of terms available, it can be hard to know how to best describe the set of skills youth develop in programs.

New research commissioned by the Wallace Foundation provides some helpful insights. For the study, EDGE Research performed desktop research, interviewed more than 45 leaders in the field, held focus groups with parents, and surveyed more than 1,600 professionals in the field. Their findings provide a valuable lens on how educators, afterschool and summer program leaders, policy makers, and parents think about these skills and what terms and messaging frames are most useful in communicating their value.

Key findings

Unfortunately, there is no “silver bullet” term for describing these skills.

Two terms—"social and emotional learning" and "social-emotional and academic learning"—are suggested as the likely best options because they were relatively familiar and clear to the audiences with which they were tested, and were generally viewed in a positive light.

The most compelling messaging strategy is to frame the skills in terms of how they benefit children by naming specific outcomes. For example, you could describe how developing social and emotional skills helps children succeed in school and in life by providing them with the ability to manage their emotions, build positive relationships, and navigate social environments, which allows them to fulfill their potential.

Interested in learning more about the study and the other terms and messaging frames that were tested? Read the full analysis and download the webinar recording on the Wallace Foundation website.

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learn more about: Marketing Youth Development


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.



Need help speaking afterschool STEM-ish?

By Anita Krishnamurthi

Do you think afterschool programs are a great place to engage kids in learning about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)? Do you have trouble sometimes convincing others to share your enthusiasm for it? If so, check out our new website: the Afterschool STEM Hub! Not only do we think it’s gorgeous, it has LOTS of tools you might find useful to tell a compelling story and inspire enthusiasm for STEM in afterschool.

The site offers compelling talking points you can download, Powerpoint slides you can present, and infographics you can print, share, post, pin, and tweet. It even features an animation you can use to show why afterschool programs are such crucial partners in STEM education. All of these resources are rooted in research and developed with guidance from the Frameworks Institute, an organization with great expertise in communications and messaging. So you can be assured: we have tested the words, values and metaphors we suggest you use to make a compelling case for afterschool STEM programs. 

The afterschool STEM Hub is a collaboration among afterschool leaders and stakeholders to provide coordinated messaging that impacts advocacy and policy, and that helps ensure the important place of afterschool programs in the STEM learning ecosystem. Led by the Afterschool Alliance, the STEM Hub is funded by the Noyce Foundation and includes the following organizations: 4-H, Association of Science-Technology Centers, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Cornell lab of Ornithology, Every Hour Counts, Exploratorium, Girls Inc., National Afterschool Association, National Girls Collaborative Project, Program in Education, Afterschool & Resiliency (PEAR), Statewide Afterschool Networks (represented by Oregon After School for Kids and Indiana Afterschool Network), Techbridge, The After-School Corporation, University of Virginia, and the YMCA of the USA.

Though the site has just been released, we will continue to update it with new resources through the coming months—so remember to look out for any announcements posted on Afterschool Alliance publications. For now, feel free to click your way to, grab the resources that work best for you and start speaking STEM-ish today! 



Upcoming webinar: Engage policy makers and the media in your Lights On Afterschool celebration!

By Dan Gilbert

This Wednesday, September 16, at 2 p.m. ET the Afterschool Alliance is hosting a new webinar to help programs use Lights On Afterschool as an opportunity to engage and build relationships with policy makers and the media. Register today!

We all know that policy makers and the media can be critical allies for afterschool programs, but it’s not always clear how best to approach them when looking for support. Policy makers at every level play a vital role in expanding the resources available to support afterschool programs, and high-profile events like Lights On Afterschool provide a great platform to tell them the story of afterschool and show them the great work that programs do.

There are a wide variety of ways to engage policy makers in celebrations: from inviting them to events as speakers or participants to asking them to issue proclamations, any connection is a good one! Light On Afterschool provides an excellent chance for political candidates to speak to constituents about their commitment to afterschool. The presence of candidates can also raise the profile of your event and increase media attention.

Light On Afterschool events also provides a wonderful opportunity to generate positive news coverage of your afterschool program, and to remind the public of the need to provide sufficient funding for afterschool. Reporters seek out stories that affect the community and will want to tell readers, viewers, and listeners about threats to afterschool programs.

In this webinar, our speakers will discuss a wide variety of proven strategies and considerations to keep in mind when reaching out to policy makers and the media to make sure that your Lights On Afterschool event makes a big splash! Register for the webinar now, and be sure to register your Lights On Afterschool celebration.

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learn more about: Advocacy Events and Briefings Marketing


Weekly Media Roundup  November 12, 2014

By Luci Manning

MentorPlace Program Truly a Worthy Investment (Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio)

Through the MentorPlace Program, Deer Park (OH) students are gaining the confidence to believe they can accomplish great things.  The afterschool program, a collaboration of IBM, the University of Cincinnati, The Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative and Deer Park City Community Schools, pairs IBM employees with middle school students to promote science and technology careers and work through personal issues.  Jeff Langdon, superintendent of Deer Park Community City Schools, told Cincinnati Enquirer, “The closing ceremony was so rewarding when we witnessed the confidence and pride the mentors evoked from our students.  The real-world connection was powerful in linking our students’ learning to their plans for the future.”

12 Computers Donated to Utica's Underground Café (Utica Observer-Dispatch, New York)

In poorer neighborhoods, it’s not uncommon for school to be the only place where youth have access to 21st century technology, and UnitedHealthcare is trying to help.  The group is donating 12 computers to Utica Safe Schools to establish a computer lab at its Underground Café teen center.  The Underground Café, open only to Thomas R. Proctor High School students, also offers an afterschool program, a drop-in center during school breaks and summer for recreational activities, opportunities for college preparation through increasing leadership and resiliency skills, and service learning projects.  Officials told the Utica Observer-Dispatch that the program “helps transform the experiences and perceptions of teens in Utica by creating venues for leadership, civic engagement and create expression.”

Nonprofit to Lock Up Business Leaders for a Good Cause (Brunswick News, Georgia)

Some local Georgia business owners might see the back of the police car this week, but it’s all for a good cause.  The Nonprofit C.I.A. (Children In Action) will be locking up business leaders, nominated by their employees, for their “Most Wanted” fundraising campaign.  Those nominated will be escorted by a Glynn County police officer and a child from the afterschool program back to the “jail” at C.I.A. headquarters, where they will be photographed, booked and held until they can post a $500 bail. All bail money will go directly to the Christian nonprofit’s operations fund for the year.  C.I.A. founder and director Allen Benner told Brunswick News that while in “jail,” he plans to speak to business leaders about his vision for C.I.A.’s future and discuss possible collaborations. Benner said he hopes allowing children to accompany officers on the round-up will help them build trust.

A Different Process': Artfigures Studio Provides Foundation, Inspires Creativity in Sculpture (The Citizen, New York)

Janie Darovskikh’s Art After School program held an unusual pumpkin-carving event on Oct. 30. Rather than simply scooping out the inside and cutting out a face on the front, the students researched their designs for the pumpkins and used the sculpting skills they learned in Darovskikh’s afterschool classes to make creative, colorful masterpieces, even using toothpicks to reattach pumpkin chunks as ears and other appendages.  Darovskikh explained to The Citizen that she teaches art based on her life philosophy: give students some initial lessons to provide them with a solid foundation, and then free them to explore their own creativity and figure out their own style through trial and error. While some students stick to one idea throughout an assignment, other students run through a few different ideas before completing their finished project. “Everyone has a different process,” Darovskikh said. “They don't always turn out how you envision them all the time.” For example, she described an assignment in which one student created an alien mask, another built a unicorn head, and a third designed a cartoon-looking bumblebee. In Darovskikh’s class, children are given the freedom to create whatever they can imagine.