Program Sustainability and Growth

A quality program establishes a strong partnership with families and communities in order to achieve program goals. A quality program understands that families and communities play an important role in supporting and fostering the healthy development of young people. Creating effective collaborations with families and communities is approached with the understanding that they are assets and partners in the program’s learning environment. Creating partnerships with families and the surrounding community is an ongoing and multi – faceted effort. Specific steps are taken to ensure that information and programs are offered in multiple languages and formats.

Indicators & Performance Levels

(Click on the indicator to expand the performance level examples, or download the full set of indicators and performance levels here.)

A quality program:

Performance Levels
Rate your program in each of the indicators using the following system:

1 Must Address and Improve / Standards Not Met
2 Some Progress Made / Approaching Standard
3 Satisfactory / Meets Standards
4 Excellent / Exceeds Standards

Organizations are expected to strive for a satisfactory performance level (3) on all of the quality indicators.

Over time, programs should continue to strive for an excellent performance level (4).

1. Has a written statement of mission and goals.

Performance Level 1
The program mission and goals are unclear or have not been written at all.

Performance Level 2
The program has a written statement of mission and goals. The statement is published or shared by request. Staff members and stakeholders are informed of the program’s mission and goals on an ad hoc basis. Few staff members demonstrate awareness of the mission or goals.

Performance Level 3
The program has a clear, written statement of mission and goals. Staff members and stakeholders are informed of the program’s mission and goals and reminded of them regularly; staff members generally demonstrate awareness of them. The program’s mission and goals are posted at the program site.

Performance Level 4
The program has a clearly written mission statement with directly aligned goals to achieve it. Staff members and stakeholders are aware of the program mission and goals and align all activities and actions with the goals and mission. The program’s mission and goals are posted at the program site, and are printed on all program materials such as posters and brochures.

2. Employs staff who understand and embrace the program’s mission and goals.

Performance Level 1
Staff members are not aware of the program’s mission and goals or disagree with them.
Performance Level 2
Staff members are informed of the program’s mission and goals during or following the hiring process. Staff members are asked to embrace the mission and goals.

Performance Level 3
Staff members clearly define and explain the program’s mission and goals during the hiring and training process and provide a written copy with several examples of them in an employee handbook. Staff members are regularly reminded of the importance of understanding and embracing the mission and goals. Staff members are expected to incorporate the mission and goals into their work. Professional development, supervisor support, and employee performance goals are clearly communicated and linked to the program mission and goals.

Performance Level 4
The program’s mission and goals guide the recruitment and hiring processes. Potential staff members are asked multiple questions regarding experience, qualities, and beliefs that are directly connected to the mission, values, and goals of the organization. Staff members are asked to sign a statement demonstrating their commitment to follow the mission and goals of the organization. Staff members receive a copy of the mission and goals in an employee handbook and they are posted throughout the program space. The site director regularly communicates the importance of understanding, embracing, and demonstrating awareness of the mission and goals. Staff members are expected to incorporate the mission and goals into their work, through daily performance, planned activities, and communications with youth, families, staff members, and supervisors. Staff members are asked to give feedback on the mission and goals and share related best practices on a regular basis.

3. Involves participants, families, staff, and board members in long-term decision-making and planning efforts.

Performance Level 1
The site director or executive staff members conduct long-term decision-making and planning.

Performance Level 2
The site director and executive staff members conduct long-term decision-making and planning. The site director occasionally involves other stakeholders in informal conversations around program planning and decision-making.

Performance Level 3
The site director is committed to shared decision-making within a team approach. Training is provided to stakeholders to assist them with their shared decision-maker role. The program has clearly defined goals and objectives, and plans and makes decisions based on these goals, which are included in program literature. Staff members are encouraged to work collaboratively to plan, develop, and strengthen programs. Staff members, youth, families, and board members or executive staff members are viewed as resources and as instrumental to the sustainability of the program. Stakeholders are invited at different points to reflect, plan, and participate in the decision-making process.

Performance Level 4
The program goals and related decisions are collaboratively made by multiple stakeholders. Information on the importance and role of stakeholder involvement and shared decision-making is clearly communicated in all program materials, reviewed during staff meetings and program orientations for families and youth, and are posted at a central location at the site. Training and user-friendly information is provided to stakeholders to assist them with their shared decision-maker role. Stakeholders are invited at different points to reflect, plan, and participate in the decision-making process. Staff members can articulate how their activities and decisions support program goals and take initiative to identify areas of continuous improvement.

4. Develops a long-term plan for sustaining the afterschool program.

Performance Level 1
Program funding is secured for one year at a time. The program relies primarily on one source of income, such as a government contract or private grant.

Performance Level 2
The program has a short-term sustainability plan, and uses a two-year funding plan. The program relies mostly on a few sources of income, such as a government contract or private grant. The site director has some personal relationships with staff from other organizations, but no partnership agreements are in place.

Performance Level 3
The program has a long-term sustainability plan, and uses a multi-year funding plan. The program secures income from multiple sources, such as government contracts, private grants, program fees, or funds raised. The site director has formal relationships with other organizations with partnership agreements to show mutual support between programs. The program also uses a marketing strategy to publicize the importance of the program in the community.

Performance Level 4
The program has a long-term sustainability plan, with a multi-year funding plan. The program relies on multiple large and small sources of income, such as government contracts, private grants, program fees, or funds raised. The site director regularly seeks and often secures unrestricted funds that can be used for general and/or specific purposes. The site director has formalized relationships with the staff from other organizations with partnership agreements to secure in-kind resources. The program uses a marketing strategy to publicize the importance of the program in the community, and an advocacy strategy to encourage public officials to support the program.

5. Accesses resources within the community by seeking support from and building relationships with local businesses and institutions.

Performance Level 1
Relationships with local businesses and institutions are undefined or non-existent.

Performance Level 2
The site director tries to build or maintain relationships with one or more local businesses or institutions. Resources from these organizations are small, one time, or occasional.

Performance Level 3
The site director and some staff members build and maintain relationships with several local businesses and institutions. Resources and support from these organizations are occasionally offered to the program. In addition, the site director coordinates an annual campaign to ask these organizations for goods, services, support, and financial support.

Performance Level 4
The site director and other staff members maintain strong, ongoing relationships with most local businesses and institutions, clearly communicating the relationship between community support, afterschool programming, youth success, and workforce preparation. Resources from these organizations are targeted to specific agreed upon need areas with progress and results clearly communicated back to the provider. In addition, the site director coordinates several campaigns each year asking local organizations for goods, services, and financial support.

6. Forges relationships with advocates for program quality and availability, such as community leaders, businesses, and elected officials.

Performance Level 1
The site director’s relationship with potential afterschool advocates in the community is undefined or non-existent.

Performance Level 2
The program is connected with a few community leaders, businesses, elected officials, or other advocates. The site director knows the advocates and contacts them regarding program concerns. Local advocates know little about the program.

Performance Level 3
The program is connected with several community leaders, businesses, elected officials, and other advocates. The site director maintains regular relationships with, advocates, and communicates information on program strengths, achievements, needs, and concerns on a regular basis. Local advocates are aware of and support the program. The site director and several staff members belong to a local afterschool network of providers.

Performance Level 4
The program is closely connected with many community leaders, businesses, elected officials, and other advocates. The site director and other staff members maintain regular relationships with advocates and regularly communicate information on program strengths, achievements, needs, and concerns. One or more advocates from the community sit on the program advisory committee or board. Local advocates are aware of, informed about, and clearly support the program’s mission, goals, objectives, and activities. The site director and several staff members are actively involved in the local or regional afterschool network of providers and belong to one or more statewide and national organizations. The site director collaborates with other community groups to advocate and to provide advocacy training to community members.

7. Has an effective marketing strategy that publicizes the program and its achievement within the school and broader community.

Performance Level 1
The program advertises its services on an ad hoc basis. Most publicity is received through word of mouth. There is no public information about the program’s achievements.

Performance Level 2
The program regularly advertises its services using a single strategy (i.e. newspaper or internet advertising). Publicity is received through word of mouth and a program website. There is some public information about the program’s achievements, but it is not recent or updated information.

Performance Level 3
The site director has a strategic plan for how to publicize the program. The program regularly advertises its services using multiple strategies. Publicity is received through word of mouth, a program website, open houses, and in other ways. There is public information about the program’s achievements which is shared with program stakeholders annually.

Performance Level 4
The site director uses a strategic plan for how to publicize the program that was created by staff members, participants, and other program stakeholders. The program regularly advertises its services using multiple strategies. Publicity is received through word of mouth, a program website, open houses, and in other ways. There is public information about the program’s achievements which is shared throughout the year with program stakeholders and with the broader community.



Taking Action, Suggested Stakeholders, Try This!, and Tips for Success

RIGHT NOW: ADDRESSED WITHIN THE FIRST 30-60 DAYS OF ASSESSMENT.  
A planning committee made up of staff, participants, families, and board members is established. A point person is assigned to work closely with the facilitator to monitor progress and keep the committee on task. Program documents are revised to include program goals.THIS YEAR: ADDRESSED BY THE END OF THE PROGRAM YEAR.
An experienced facilitator is engaged to guide and coach the organization through a strategic planning session. The site director attends leadership trainings. Program goals are clearly defined, and efforts are taken to ensure stakeholders buy in to program goals. The committee identifies realistic benchmarks for achieving goals. Ongoing staff meetings are scheduled to share lessons learned and to revisit the plan.

NEXT YEAR: ADDRESSED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW PROGRAM YEAR.
A formal orientation is held to revisit program plans and to accommodate the changing needs of participants, families, and the organization. Formal mechanisms are developed to encourage feedback from all stakeholders including staff. Designated check-in times are identified as vehicles to empower stakeholders and staff to inform the process, share concerns, and make revisions to the program plan as needed. There is a mutually supportive exchange of ideas and strategies for moving the program forward.

The following stakeholder groups may be appropriate to involve in surveys and focus group discussions around this element:

  • Program Administrators
  • Program Staff
  • Other

A great program should not be a well kept secret. Use your successes as an opportunity to reach out to stakeholders, who include families, funders, community partners, local politicians and businesses, to tell them about your program. Use some of the time you invest in sustainability planning to develop an effective marketing strategy and revisit that strategy at least once each year. Consider using multiple mechanisms for getting the word out about the program, such as:

  • Develop a brochure that describes your program and its goals.
  • Translate the brochure into the languages spoken by your community.
  • Send out a press release when something exciting is happening at your site.
  • Create a newsletter and distribute it to all your stakeholders.
  • Create a website for your program and highlight upcoming events, awards, and news.

Sustaining your program is not simply about generating new dollars. It requires taking several approaches to cultivating relationships, finding a niche, diversifying funding sources, and being adaptable to changing trends. Sustainability planning should be a team effort. It requires a constituency and a common vision and strategy. Here are some steps to help your program achieve long-term sustainability. Steps Towards Sustainability:

  • Increase program visibility through unique marketing and outreach efforts in your community and with key stakeholders, such as school administrators, local elected officials, and other community leaders.
  • Build ongoing support among your constituents – don’t wait to contact them only when you need them!
  • Diversify funding and in-kind support by having a large pool of donors and volunteers.
  • Be willing to invest in systematic changes, such as a new data management system or a strategic planning consultation.

Research, Tools and Templates, and Resources

  • The Cost of Quality, The Wallace Foundation
    The Quality Out-of-School Time (OST) Programs Cost Calculator is an online resource for calculating the costs of quality afterschool and summer programs and learning about how to develop programming and build citywide systems that support high-quality aft programs.
  • Strongnonprofits.org, The Wallace Foundation
    Website with resources for nonprofit financial management.
  • A Toolkit for Funding, Connect for Kids
    Links to funding opportunities for a wide variety of programs.
  • Connecting Business with Afterschool, Afterschool Alliance
    A number of research-based tool-kits designed to foster business relationships for afterschool programs.
  • Sustainability Toolbox, Afterschool Alliance
    The road to sustainability workbook.
  • The Road to Sustainability, Afterschool Alliance
    Sustainability planning tools.