An insider's guide to funding afterschool: 5 steps to partnering with foundations


An insider's guide to funding afterschool: 5 steps to partnering with foundations

Running a successful afterschool program is half the challenge. You’ll need great educators, interesting curriculum, and engaged young people and parents. Finding funding for your program is the other half of the challenge and for some, the most daunting. Many programs struggle to maintain and grow their funding streams to ensure children and youth continue to receive vital academic and social enrichment while supporting working parents. For better or worse, it is up to the individual programs to find funding for the services that are most important to their community. 

There are myriad ways to raise funds, but for this article, we’ll focus on working with foundations. Here’s how to get started:

Step 1 – Find funding

Develop a list of institutional funders with a history of funding in your community (including community foundations) or state.  Rank them in terms of:

  • Current funders of your organization (donors);
  • Past funders of your organization (lapsed donors);
  • Organizations with a connection to your organization (a staff member of your program may know a board member of the organization), foundations you have reached out to in the past, or those that have contributed to similar afterschool programs (prospects); and
  • Institutions that state in their materials an interest in afterschool/education (suspects).

You can find prospects by tapping into your supporters such as board members and community leaders, as well as through any free search engine. There are also fee-based online tools such as the Foundation Center Online.

Step 2 – Create a budget

Determine the amount of funding you need to run/expand your program and create a detailed budget of expenses such as staff costs, meals, supplies and field trips. Knowing what the total afterschool program budget is allows you to solicit foundations with a higher capacity to give, as well as reaching out to smaller foundations to support the individual activities.

Step 3 – Develop a pipeline

A pipeline is your list of donors, lapsed donors, prospects, and suspects and includes pertinent information such as contact information, giving priorities, application deadlines and actions you are taking in the relationship building process.

For example:



Contact Name

Giving Priorities


Next Action

Proposal Due Date

Funding Decision


XYZ Foundation


Jane Doe


Phone call introduction

Follow up with proposal


Declined or approved

Invitation to visit program sent

Note: You’ll need between 9 months and 1 year to fully realize a gift.

Before reaching out to the foundation, thoroughly investigate their website and materials for the following information:

  • Who is the program manager with the education portfolio?
  • Determine their giving priorities and average gift by reading their annual report and Form 990.
  • Determine when they accept proposals and how their process works.
    • A foundation will state how to initially reach out to them. It could be an LOI (letter of inquiry), an email, or proposal submission. For foundations which do not accept unsolicited proposals, this is an opportunity to begin nurturing a relationship through an email introducing your organization and outlining areas of synergy with the foundation.
      • Feel free to send a short email to the program manager asking for a short introduction call.

Your goal is to move entities through the pipeline; from suspects to prospects to donors.

Step 4 – Submit proposal

You can find some great tips on proposal writing here.

Step 5 – Stewardship

Continue building your relationship with the foundation whether or not you received funding.  Provide a regular stream of program-related content and invite them to events, site visits, etc.

In conclusion, remember that fundraising last three seconds – "will you write a check?" Development, the process of cultivating a prospect or stewarding a donor, is never ending. Because it is less expensive to renew a donor than to bring a new one on, building and maintaining a relationship in a strategic manner will pay off in the long run for your program.

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