As a researcher and grant writer for the Park City School District, Kent Bonacki works tirelessly to demonstrate to other organizations the great need for more after school programs. Aside from being a source of childcare for working parents, these programs play a key role in developing local youth. Even though these programs are as important as formal training in school, they can be challenging to fund.
What Afterschool Programs Accomplish
Before seeking to secure adequate funding for afterschool programs, it is important to understand why they work. Children and teens left to themselves do not often prioritize their well-being and growth. In fact, a lack of strong after school programs contributes to crime and violence.
They Keep Kids in School
According to Jodi Grant, executive director of Afterschool Alliance,
The research is clear: children in quality afterschool programs are more likely to come to school and stay in school, more likely to hand in their work and get better grades.
These programs nurture a greater interest in activities that will challenge them mentally and emotionally. They learn to develop edifying hobbies, and this transfers into the classroom. Also, Kent Bonacki explains that many of these programs supervise kids while they do their homework and provide tutoring, as needed.
Supervision in the Form of Mentorship
Kids in afterschool programs are able to work closely with the workers and volunteers. These form into mentor relationships that can inspire today’s youth to create short and long-term goals for their lives. They can also begin learning mature relationship skills that will eventually empower them to become mentors one day themselves.
While many afterschool programs might focus on academics, there are no tests or pressures naturally created by the classroom environment. This informal setting can often unblock learning difficulties that will help kids in the classroom. It can also help them learn to enjoy subjects that they initially thought that they hated. Kent Bonacki adds that many children are shy or afraid of appearing dumb if they ask a question that they believe is simple during class hours but in an informal environment they can ask them without fear of persecution.
Lastly, informal learning tends to be more hands-on. Therefore, after school programs focusing on STEM or computer programming skills allow kids the opportunity to see how their school work intersects with real life.
Most afterschool programs run off tuition payments from parents and guardians. Unfortunately, many children that would most benefit from these programs come from impoverished families. The trick for after school nonprofits is to secure funding from more sources in order to make their services more affordable.
That’s why Kent Bonacki is focused on grant writing. He works hard to match his district’s afterschool programs with as much funding as possible.
There are a number of county, state, and federal organizations that seek to fund local afterschool programs. The trick often becomes making one’s proposal stand out from the other proposals. If possible, networking with people within these organizations is also a great way to raise awareness for one’s afterschool program.
It is a good idea for afterschool program directors to understand how their costs and benefits rank against other after school programs. A great place to begin that research is with the recent Wallace Foundation Study. Sadly, many programs run on low budgets, because they feel that they have to. As a result, they don’t ask for the full amount of money that would best help them.
Local, wealthy business owners are often more than willing to donate to good causes in the community. Also, regional and national chains accept grant or funding requests from local nonprofits. Directors should research the different available foundations and grants that these organizations manage, as some of them donate more than others.
When putting together a formal proposal in an effort to gather funding, grant writing is key. This kind of writing is not very easy, and it requires someone that knows the area’s demographics and has the ability to tell a story with the numbers.
Those that are interested in providing funding to after school programs want to know how effective the nonprofit is. If these parties are not convinced that their funds will be put to good use, then they will be inclined to donate the money elsewhere.
Helping contributors see a return on investment is not about creating monetary profit. Rather, it is about the tangible difference that an afterschool program makes for that community. Numbers that demonstrate better grades, lower crime, and even impressive projects built by the kids are great ways to demonstrate that ROI to potential donors.