How to host an inspiring site visit


How to host an inspiring site visit

For the next two weeks, Congress is in recess and policymakers are back in their home states, meeting with constituents. Make the most of the break and ensure your elected officials, both newly-elected and veteran, know afterschool works for your community: organize a site visit and invite them to see afterschool’s impact firsthand.

Recently we heard from Dawn Marie Johnson, the afterschool program director at the Summit School in rural South Dakota. During Sen. John Thune’s visit to Summit, the students themselves proved to be their own best advocates, making the case for the program that impacts them every single day. The story of Summit School provides a great view into the decisions and relationship-building that go into a successful site visit—read the whole story here.

Tools and tips to make your site visit happen

To start planning your own site visit, head over to our “Host a successful site visit” page. You’ll find a step-by-step timeline, helpful do’s and don’ts for a great event, and sample invitations for your members of Congress.

And the field itself has excellent insights about how to ensure site visit success. Explore a toolkit from a statewide afterschool network. The Indiana Afterschool Network’s toolkit contains tips, techniques, and templates to make a site visit a success, including how to pitch your site visit to local media to boost your event’s profile.

Tactics for a strong event

As you reach out to offices and plan your visit events, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Do your research. Having insight into a policy maker’s platform makes it much easier to design a visit that will persuade them: if a policy maker has repeatedly expressed concern about childhood obesity, highlighting the work your program does to encourage healthy eating and physical activity will resonate!
  • Find your champions. Student spokespeople are amazing advocates, but don’t forget to invite parents, program staff, school officials, and other individuals who are best equipped to represent your program. Ask them if they’d be interested in attending the visit, give them some background on the official who will be present, show them a basic schedule, and encourage them to prepare for a conversation.
  • Showcase your best—and most photogenic—programming. STEM learning sessions and other academic enrichment are often the top picks for visits, because they’re visually interesting, hands-on, and spotlight the learning opportunities in out-of-school time. But be sure to include your policymaker in snack time and other opportunities for socializing with students and parents. The opportunity to let an elected official talk with their constituents about the importance of afterschool is not to be missed!
  • Follow up after the visit. Be sure to send a thank-you message after the visit and stay in touch with your representative. Having a strong relationship with your elected officials is key to the long-term wellness of your afterschool program.