Strategy 1: Set up a site visit
Inviting policy makers to visit your afterschool program is a powerful way to help them understand your program’s value. Site visits have positively impacted many afterschool programs. For examples, check out our site visit case studies.
Lights On Afterschool is a great way to introduce candidates and elected officials to the world of afterschool. Candidates want to be visible in the community and Lights On Afterschool is all about building and demonstrating community support for afterschool programs. Invite the candidates to speak at your Lights On Afterschool event or issue a proclamation in support of afterschool programs. Check out our Lights On Afterschool Event Planning Kit for event ideas, sample materials and more.
Below are some suggested steps, a timeline and a sample schedule for a site visit.
Step 1: Find the home district address and phone number for your elected officials. You can find contact information at www.house.gov/writerep orwww.senate.gov.
Step 2: Identify a few dates during the next Congressional recess when you could host a tour of your program and write a letter of invitation. This will be helpful to have on hand when you call the district office.
Step 3: Call the district office. Tell the person who answers that you would like to schedule a tour of your afterschool program for the policy maker. You may be connected with a legislative aide or a scheduler.
Ask if the policy maker could attend a tour during the next Congressional recess. Provide multiple options for dates and times. Be sure to mention that staff and parents will be on hand for the visit and offer to invite media as well. Offer to send your letter of invitation and more information about the program. Encourage the policy maker to bring staff members. If a policy maker is not available, see if a staff person can make the visit instead.
Keep in mind that elected officials' schedules can change without notice. Several days before the visit, call to confirm the event and be prepared to reschedule.
Step 4: Before the visit identify youth, parents, program staff, school officials and other convincing spokespeople for your program. Ask them if they could be available for the visit and give them background material on the policy maker. Share the basic schedule for the visit and clarify their roles. Make sure to invite your school's principal and consider inviting school board members. Send a media advisory to invite press and prepare a news release for the day of the event. (For tips and samples, check out Program Toolbox, Media or see Lights On Afterschool .)
Step 5: On the day of the visit, be sure that someone waits outside the building to greet and direct the visitors to the right location. Have program brochures or copies of a program profile on hand. Be sure the policy maker gets to hear from the youth. Let the policy maker ask the youth questions or facilitate a discussion about what youth gain from the program. Ask parents to share their perspectives on the program's value. Have the principal talk about students' increased attendance and improved behavior.
Strategy 2: Call, write or fax Congress and the President
Enter your zip code in the "Contact Congress" (NEEDS LINK) box to send a letter about the most current federal policy related to afterschool, and/or;
Write to your policy makers. Use one of the Sample Letters below to write to your U.S. Senators, Representatives and the President about the value of afterschool in your community:
You can look up contact information for the President, or for your policy makers using your zip code at www.house.gov/writerep orwww.senate.gov.
Call or fax Congress. Ask school leaders, parents, community members, mayors, and police chiefs to send a message about the importance of afterschool programs. Find the address, phone and fax numbers for your Members of Congress by entering your zip code in the Contact Congress box on the left or click here[DG4] .
· Sample script for calling Congress. A phone call is one of the most effective ways to voice your concerns to Congress. You can call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to reach the offices.
Email, write or call the President. Be sure to make your voice heard on this matter by calling, writing or sending an email to the President. Use the sample letter or call script, or use or our legislative action center to send an email in seconds!
Strategy 3: Organize a letter writing campaign
Organize friends, colleagues and community members to write Congress or local elected officials. Afterschool benefits the entire community, from parents to youth to community members, so all of their voices need to be heard. Parents, grandparents, caretakers, teachers, and community partners can all help you set up letter-writing parties to help your community’s voice be heard by policy makers.
Parents and community members have a vested interest in afterschool programs. Parents not only see the direct benefits programs have on their children, but also depend on afterschool to provide a safe and constructive place for their children while they are at work. Community members can see the positive influence afterschool has on kids and the community. A letter-writing campaign presents an opportunity for you to communicate directly with policy makers about issues affecting afterschool in your community. Policy makers don't know how important afterschool programs are unless people tell them.
Here are some tips to get started:
Create a flyer letting parents and community partners know how important it is to send letters to their elected officials.
Provide refreshments if possible (maybe there's a local grocery store, deli or café willing to donate).
Have a sign-up sheet so you can contact those that attend in the future. Consider using the Afterschool for All petition as your sign-in sheet.
Print Sample Letters for everyone who will attend prior to the meeting so people can use them to structure their letters. It is essential that they include their name, address and phone number in the letters.
Provide pens, paper, envelopes and, if possible, stamps. Perhaps these materials can be donated from an office-supply store or local company willing to make a donation to help support afterschool programs. After attendees address and stamp the envelopes, collect them and put them in the mail. Encourage attendees to complete the letters before they leave the meeting.