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After School Programs

So you want to start an after school program?

Before your vision of happy children clustered around a craft table becomes a reality, there are several basic questions that must be answered.

What is the need?

Just as companies establish themselves by determining target markets and product demand, afterschool program planners must answer specific questions to help shape their vision of what is needed. Many times people are misguided in thinking that, just because a service is needed in the community, the community will step up and support it. There are not enough resources to fund every good idea, so most donors look for a carefully thought-out plan that has a good chance of success and longevity. Some questions to ask:

  • Is there an existing after school program that serves the area?
  • Was there a previous after school program that failed? If so, why?
  • What is the target area? (District-wide? One school? One neighborhood?)
  • How many children are involved?
  • Where will it be located

Who is going to pay for it?

Attach a price tag to each item in your imagined program and develop a detailed budget. Staff and space are obvious expenditures, but watch out for the hidden costs! Consumable items like snacks, craft materials, and office supplies are often under-budgeted.

  • Parents: While parents will vary in their ability to pay, all parents should contribute money (within their means) and time. When you start collecting payments, use a tuition billing program— like our sponsor’s, EZCare– to streamline (or even fully automate) the process.
  • Grants: While grants at the federal and state level are not dependable long-term sources of support, partnering in grant applications with other youth-serving organizations may be a possibility; potential partners include parks and recreation departments, schools, libraries, and law enforcement.
  • Foundations: Local foundations dedicated to serving youth, healthy communities, or the arts may be a source of funds.
  • Local business and civic groups: Local businesses and civic groups receive repeated requests for support, so it’s important to research their giving history and make sure you fully outline your mission while presenting your idea.

Who will help support it?

An established base of supporters is needed to build an after school program. Just as individual giving is important for board members (see “Board Guide”), it’s essential that supporters give money and time to the program and actively fundraise for it.

Supporters can be parents of children who use the after school program, representatives from local businesses, civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other interested community members.

Establishing a long-term relationship with supporters and donors is crucial to the success of the project. Regular contact, timely updates, and sincere appreciation go a long way in retaining the supporters who are the lifeblood of the organization.

How should the program be structured?

A successful and meaningful after school program will be able to teach and train children rather than just entertain them. This does not mean that after school programs can’t be fun; just as adults unwind after a long day of work, children need a place to unwind after the challenges of the school day. Structure, not chaos, is the key.

The FindYouthInfo Program Directory provides examples of evidence-based programs whose purpose is to reduce delinquency or and other problem behaviors in young people.

You can search for programs by risk factor, protective factor, or keyword. Through the Youth Topics series, the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs provides information, strategies, tools, and resources for youth, families, schools and community organizations related to a variety of cross-cutting topics, including:

Map My Community is a tool specifically designed to assist you in locating community resources to build and strengthen your youth program. Get ideas for new partnerships, identify gaps in your community, and learn about resources to avoid duplication of effort. Start Mapping now!


Having too many Volunteers is a good problem to have– but a problem nevertheless. The inability to manage volunteers can disrupt operations, reduce overall output of the group, and leave volunteers even with the best intentions feeling unneeded, risking that they would not volunteer again. Thus, it is vital to manage volunteering.

Managing your Afterschool Program

Whether you utilize volunteers or hire staff, you will need to manage your student enrollment, instructors, permission slips, emergency contact information and a whole heap of other records depending on the type of program you are running and what state you are operating in. Bookkeeping in and of itself is quite an endeavor, particularly if you are operating on a combination of grants, tuition and other types of subsidies or donations.  There are a wide variety of childcare program management software packages out there. We like the fully online system of EZCare Childcare Software, made and supported by our sponsor, SofterWare, a company that has been helping child care programs run more efficiently for over 35 years.

Finding Funding Sources

The Funding Information Center provides tools to help you build and sustain your programs and activities. You’ll find funding ideas as well as strategies on how to apply for federal grants.

The following is an example of a success after school program you may want to contact:

Kids Learning After School (K.L.A.S.) is a program in Pennsylvania that serves Chambersburg Borough children and their families. It is a licensed school-age child care facility and is part of the Chambersburg Area School District. It serves children in grades 1-5 at the Chambersburg Recreation Center. The program operates on all school days, Monday through Friday from when the afternoon school bell rings until 6:00 PM during the school year. Program content includes academic assistance (tutoring, homework help, and mentoring), personal and cultural enrichment, service-learning, recreation and a nutritious snack every day.

Additional Resources:

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program is a key component of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. It is an opportunity for students and their families to continue to learn new skills and discover new abilities after the school day has ended.

The focus of this program, re-authorized under Title IV, Part B, of the No Child Left Behind Act, is to provide expanded academic enrichment opportunities for children attending low performing schools. Tutorial services and academic enrichment activities are designed to help students meet local and state academic standards in subjects such as reading and math. In addition 21st Century Community Learning Centers Programs provide youth development activities, drug and violence prevention programs, technology education programs, art, music and recreation programs, counseling and character education to enhance the academic component of the program.

About 6,800 rural and inner-city public schools in 1,420 communities–in collaboration with other public and non-profit agencies, organizations, local businesses, post-secondary institutions, scientific/cultural and other community entities–are now participating as 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

The National Community Education Association host free regional workshops to assist schools with their grant applications for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program and the National Institute on Out-of-School Time provides research and materials to assist applicants for 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants.

Federal Resources for Educational Excellence

More than 30 Federal agencies formed a working group in 1997 to make hundreds of Federally supported teaching and learning resources easier to find. The result of that work is the FREE web site. For an overview of what’s available here at FREE, please visit the site map.

Each month new teaching and learning resources are added.

  • FREE brochure, which you can use to help others learn about the FREE website.

Also, the U.S. Department of Education (ED), on behalf of the FREE Working Group, was selected in 1997 by the Government Information Technology Services Board to support federal agencies that would partner with teachers to develop online learning materials and learning communities around agency resources. The project, known as the “Consortium for Education,” would also document the lessons learned from these partnerships. Here are descriptions of the work by 10 teams supported under the Consortium for Education project.

The Department of Health and Human Services offers multiple means of assistance for out-of-school time care for children. Agencies like the Administration for Children and Families provide federal programs that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services funds a number of Nutrition Programs that provide after-school snacks such as the National School Lunch Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention supplies resources, funding opportunities, and publications to assist people working with adolescents and youth.

The following is a soup-to-nuts collection of after-school resources points parents and providers to funding assistance and useful information to help expand programs, enhance learning and create sustainable high-quality programs.

Afterschool Alliance is working to ensure that all children have access to affordable, quality afterschool programs. Afterschool programs are critical to children and families today, yet the need for programs is far from being met. is a website connecting classrooms in need with individuals who want to help.


Ask Kids: A children’s version of Ask Jeeves in which the answers have been pre-approved for kids.

Kids Click: A web search guide for kids designed by librarians with 600+ subjects.

Yahooligans: A Yahoo search tool vetted for kids ages 7-12.

Awesome Library: Includes 37,000 specifically reviewed academic resources for students. The official children’s web resource for the United States government which includes educational resources specific to age groups.

HowStuffWorks: A resource that explains a multitude of subjects in an easy to understand manner with lots of illustrations.

Go Gooligans: An educational and academic search engine geared towards kids and teens.

Education World: This site searches 500,000+ suitable websites for students and teachers.

KOL: An AOL version for kids complete with weather, news, games, and search options.


Pics4Learning: A copyright-friendly library of images great for finding images and charts for student projects.

American Memory: A comprehensive search of the Library of Congress’s historical resources.

The Why Files: This website promotes itself as “the science behind the news” and offers simple to understand, scientific explanations of current media stories.

Scholastic: A useful article titled ‘Too Much Homework?’

IPL Kidspace: A searchable database of academic information for kids including Health and Nutrition, Science and Math, and Computers and Internet sections.

Refdesk Homework Helper: A comprehensive list of homework help sites divided by elementary school, junior high, senior high, and even college.

Homework Tips: A listing of tips for motivating kids to do their homework including tips on concentration, proofreading, time management, and research.


Internet Safety: A set of safety tips from the FBI for young Internet users.

Kid Safety on the Internet: A slideshow of safety tips from the Police Notebook.

Tips on Protecting a Child on the Web: Tips for parents and teachers on steps to take in keeping children safe online.

Internet Safety Guide: An in-depth guide to keeping kids safe on the web including open communication with the child, use of blocking or monitoring software, and warning signs to look for.

Tools for Families: A listing of tools to prevent online dangers including filters, monitors, and special browsers.

Parent’s Guide to Hate on the Internet (PDF): A tool for teaching parents how to deal with hate speech online.