Afterschool Funding Forum I

A Q&A with outside experts on sustainability

Welcome to the first edition of the Afterschool Alliance online Funding Forum. In this online chat, the Afterschool Alliance taps outside experts to respond to your questions on funding sources and sustainability strategies for afterschool programs. Topics range from funding for arts to the right mix of funding sources to typical program costs.

What is the recommended mixor a target mixof private and public funding for the average afterschool program?

There is no single formula that fits every afterschool program. Programs need to determine the mix of public funding, parent fees, foundation support, corporate contributions and in-kind donations that suits them, the families they serve, and the resources available.

Securing a mix of funders is one of the most important things a program can do. A diversity of funding sources ensures that the loss of one or two funders won't close a program down. As we all know, grant rules can change… as can the interests of foundations, businesses and even agencies. Programs need to be prepared for the unexpected and think creatively about all the sources they might tap.

We advise programs to visit for information on afterschool funding sources. Also check out the Funding Tools section of the Afterschool Alliance Web site. There are new tools to help in your search for funding, including an exercise to help plan for program sustainability.

I've heard that I should seek out in-kind donations. Can you give me some examples that would be helpful to my afterschool program?

In-kind contributions can play a major role in a program's funding plan. They might come in the form of employee volunteers, facilities, or donated supplies from local businesses. Building relationships can also result in additional assistance, such as a partner university agreeing to conduct a program evaluation, a business donating help with your organizational plans, or a local cable station donating video equipment or studio time.

Discounts are another avenue to explore. For example, Discount School Supply gives a 10 percent discount to any afterschool program that orders supplies from them. Programs just need to enter "A4A" as a promotion code when shopping at or 1-800-627-2829. Local businesses may be willing to offer you a similar discount for snacks or supplies. Build relationships with vendors, and don't be afraid to ask!

What are some funding sources that you'd recommend to an afterschool arts program?

Arts supplies can be expensive, so donations of goods help visual arts programs enormously and these types of programs need to think creatively about how to get supplies. One way to start is build a relationship with an art or office supply store, and request donations of paper and other supplies. Also, approach museums or art institutions in the area. For funding, a good federal resource is the Arts Learning Program of the National Endowment for the Arts. Many foundations support all types of arts education. For more information about foundations, visit the Foundation Center at

What is the average operating budget for afterschool programs annually, by student?

It varies quite a bit depending on the cost of living locally. Most calculations we have seen average about $1,500 per child per school year to run a high quality program.

How can an afterschool program best gain support (either logistical or financial) from area schools?

Building relationships with principals and superintendents is an investment well worth making. Partnerships with schools can certainly ease transportation issues for a program, and offer access to federal funding streams such as 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Schools benefit, as well. Afterschool programs can reinforce and support the lessons of the school day and provide enrichment activities that the school many not be able to offer.

Start with a face-to-face meeting to talk about ways you might support each other, or arrange a tour of your program so the school official can see what you are doing.

What federal program offers the largest grants?

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) is the largest funding source dedicated solely to afterschool programs. Grant funds total almost $1 billion and support programs serving 1.3 million children and youth. The U.S. Department of Education disburses the funding to the states based on a formula, and the states take that amount and determine the grant amounts to programs, how many years a program is funded, and how many sites are funded. There are currently more than 9,600 sites that receive 21st CCLC funding. To learn more about 21st CCLC in your state, and the rules for applying, look for state liaison contact information on our state pages.

Another major funding source for afterschool care for school-age children is the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). 700,000 school-age children from low-income families receive assistance from CCDBG in the form of vouchers that can be used to supplement or pay for before and afterschool care, as well as summer programs.

Is there any federal funding available to for-profit afterschool programs?

For-profit entities, along with non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, and local education agencies, can apply to become providers of supplemental education services, or SES. Funds for SES come through No Child Left Behind and are required to be offered by Title I elementary or secondary schools in their second year of School Improvement or Corrective Action. Potential providers must register with their state education agency.

How has the funding landscape changed in the past few years? Is it getting easier or harder to attract support for afterschool?

Well, there is good and bad news. The bad news is that afterschool programs are not getting all the support they need, and the budget cuts and freezes imposed in recent years have hurtand even closedmany programs. That said, support for afterschool programs is only growing stronger. Americans know these programs are important. In fact, nine in ten Americans think afterschool programs should be available to all. The creation of the Afterschool Congressional Caucuses is also a good sign of support.

But to make afterschool a national priority, we need to do a better job of making sure all our leaders know about the benefits of afterschool programs and the real need for these programs. Everyone can help get the word out. Learn how you can make a difference: start by reaching policy makers.

We are a rural before and afterschool program for middle school students. We were initially funded by 21st CCLC and when the grant expired, we were able to keep going but serve 25 percent less children a day, and currently, we are able to serve only 10 percent of the school population. We have reached out to local businesses and corporations, but there are many of us going to the same well. What funding sources do you suggest, and where do we find them?

There is a challenge in funding for rural schools where the need is great yet the school does not qualify for Title I. You have definitely taken the right steps in reaching out to businesses. Is there a way for your program to partner with other groups also asking for money from these same sources? Initiate a community meeting with a few groups and a specific proposal for them to consider. Sometimes pooling resources provides more opportunities for all involved.

There are also some good resources for rural education on the Internet. Two to check out are the National Rural Education Association and the Rural School and Community Trust. The Foundation Center is a good place to research foundations that might have a specific focus on funding rural programs.

We'll also use this opportunity to ask other rural programs to tell us what they've done, and tricks that helped them be successful in finding funding.

Thanks for reading Funding Forum. We welcome your feedback.