The demand for high-quality after school programs continues to rise, and rightfully so.

The After School Alliance’s recent America After 3PM research found that 10.2 million children participate in after school programs, and another 19.4 million would participate if a program were available. With studies showing the benefits of after school program participation – boosts academic performance, decreases risky behavior, promotes physical and emotional health and more – the numbers will increase steadily. 

How can program leaders help meet the demand and ensure their program is equipped to serve students for years to come? The answer is sustainability, or implementing strategies and best practices that ensure long-term success. The following list provides tips and tactics for sustaining your after school program:

Address a need. Ask yourself what the children in your community need most. Are they lacking STEM awareness, skills for college readiness, or social-emotional development? Identify an area of need and design program initiatives to help meet that need.

Find multiple funding sources. The average annual cost of running a high-quality after school program is between $3,450 and $3,780. Those costs vary considerably based on location, grade level, attendance model and other factors. Program leaders must find and secure a variety of funding streams in order to sustain program initiatives.

Build strong partnerships. Partnerships with schools, universities, companies, and other community organizations can serve as additional funding streams for after school programs. In addition to monetary donations, programs can receive in-kind gifts like fitness equipment, supplies, or computers to continue to serve students.

Leverage marketing tools and strategies. Marketing your after school program can help spread the word about your offerings while also reinforcing the value of high-quality programs. With tools like social media, an email newsletter or a blog, you can share stories, photos and videos to promote your program initiatives and demonstrate program success.

Hire a qualified and passionate staff. The quality of a program’s staff largely impacts the program’s effectiveness and success. A well-trained and knowledgeable team that is enthusiastic about their role can also motivate students to learn and engage in your program activities. To learn more, check out 5 Strategies for Hiring Quality Staff.

Attract and retain students.  Provide age-appropriate activities and initiatives that inspire, excite and engage kids. The most successful after school programs provide enrichment activities that support the regular school day and help students learn in fun, unconventional ways. 

The after school field is constantly changing and its dynamic nature can affect programs’ sustainability efforts. By incorporating these strategies into your program model, you can ensure your program withstands any unforeseen challenges and achieve long-term success.