“Evidence-based policy can be a game changer for people and communities in need. When we know what works best and act on it, we achieve better results.”
After-school programming can have a life-changing influence on children. From decreasing participation in criminal activity to improving education outcomes and building positive life skills, thoughtfully-crafted programs do much more than reduce the number of latchkey kids. They provide structure, support, and supervision that can help children succeed in the classroom – and beyond. Before your nonprofit can launch its own program (or sustain an existing one), you’ll need to write an effective after-school program proposal to secure funding.
Here are four tips to help you write your next after-school program proposal.
Define Your Demographics
There are an infinite number of children who can benefit from an after-school program. Before writing your proposal, figure out your organization’s target demographic. This allows you to provide the best support for your community’s needs. To get started, meet with school officials, parents, teachers, or childcare professionals. In short, your fellow citizens are your best resources. Together, you can determine where there is a need for a particular type of after-school program in your community.
Perhaps you’re writing an after-school program proposal to help K-12 students improve their grades. Maybe you need more funds to support low-income students. Focus on who needs what in your community. In doing so, your organization will be better equipped to meet the needs of your constituents. Most importantly, you’ll exceed the expectations of your funders.
For example, the Drop After Dark program in Milwaukee focuses on homeless youth. By providing a safe and fun place for homeless students to spend the night, with better food, movie and game nights, and more, the program was able to attract homeless youth without stigmatizing the experience. The result: happy kids, and a much better understanding of how many homeless youths needed Drop After Dark’s help.
If your goal is to build a successful, evidence-based program (and to make sure you can capture sustainable funding), you need to build a robust profile of your target community with depth and details.
Develop Your Goals and Objectives
Proposals should clearly state the program’s goals and objectives. This makes it easier for funders and grantmakers to measure program success and make funding decisions.
Let’s say your goal is to reduce summer-learning loss for local elementary schools. In your proposal, include details about how you plan to achieve this goal. This might include tactics like starting a student-run tutoring service within your program, and engaging student volunteers to help your organization teach local youth from June through September. In theory, this will reduce academic attrition.
Defining clear objectives will help your nonprofit be better equipped to set expectations and measure success. Teachers, parents, and funders will have a clear understanding of who your program serves and how it will help the community. Not only does this give you better stakeholder buy-in from the beginning, it also helps you build trust. This foundation of transparency and improved communication is crucial to your program’s success in the future.
Leveraging Technology to Help Your After-School Programs Succeed
Technology gives nonprofit organizations an edge in capturing funds for after-school programs. This is especially true today, as more and more funders are expecting programs to follow an evidence-based practice. Increasingly, funders are analyzing nonprofit programs and allocating funds based on performance. Using technology to gather and report on relevant data allows nonprofits to prove the positive impact of their efforts with more than anecdotal stories and secure more funding for their after-school programs.
Having robust outcomes-based tools demonstrates your ability to meet compliance and reporting requirements. And it also demonstrates your organization’s commitment to driving social change. Having the ability to measure program impact instead of simply reporting outputs helps organizations gauge how their efforts helped constituents, which in turn, improves their ability to capture funding. In addition, it can help in the formative process of planning your next after-school program proposal.
Case management software gives you the tools to capture and analyze data, like program activities, attendance, and services, as well as track student outcomes. And it can help guide the metrics you’ll use to gauge success by informing your defined goals in measurable, attainable outcomes. Knowing that your case management software is tracking the same key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics month over month will ensure consistency and robust evaluation.
Remember: An After-School Program Isn’t Static
Technology is an invaluable tool to support your program once it’s up and running. And it’s also one of the best resources to help you develop ideas for new after-school programs. By harnessing the power of the data you now have at your fingertips, you can hone in on potential new program ideas. Identifying key activities and defining the intended outcomes of your program gives you a leg up in the proposal-writing process. It also gives you a clear map to implement your program and train your staff and volunteers.
The next time you write an after-school program proposal, be sure to define your demographics, set measurable goals, and lean on technology to help iterate positive constituent outcomes. In doing so, you’ll ensure you’re leading a successful and well-funded initiative.