How to Advocate for Partnerships with Your Organization

Your afterschool, summer, and expanded learning programs are an essential part of recovery and will be more important than ever as students, families, schools, and community partners, and other critical stakeholders work together to address learning loss. Principals and local leaders will drive decisions about how schools reopen and how they work with community partners. Collaboration between out-of-school time and in-school time is more important than ever.

We want to be sure families and schools are aware of the different ways your program can help during this crisis – and engage them in supporting you. We have provided some simple tools to help you show school leaders how they benefit from working with afterschool providers and how much families rely on your program.

Step 1

Educate Yourself

Before taking action, make sure you’ve developed a strong understanding of this opportunity, the types of evidence-based programs and practices school districts will be looking to implement to address learning loss, and the Network’s statewide advocacy strategies, which will support your local advocacy efforts. At a minimum, we recommend reviewing the following: 

Step 2

Build Your Case

Build your case for why school districts should partner with your community organization to provide afterschool and summer learning programs for their students. Here are the big questions you should consider and document your answers to:  

  • Youth served: Who do you serve now? How can you expand – who can you serve/where and how many students? 
  • Quality/impact: What youth outcomes does your program support? It will be important to focus on how your program supports the development of academic, social, and emotional skills. It will also be important to have data/evidence to prove this. Other key questions, based on the U.S. DOE guidelines: 
    • Do your curricula/activities align with the New York State education standards and your school districts’ curriculum? 
    • How/does your program target youth needing additional support? 
    • Does your program staff include certified teachers? 
    • Does your program offer youth any certifications or other benefits upon completion? 
    • What does your process for evaluating and improving the quality of your program look like? Do you utilize the Quality Self-Assessment (QSA) tool?  
  • Community support/engagement: How does your organization also provide essential services and support (eg, transportation, healthy meals) to students and families? How did your organization step up to serve families throughout the pandemic? 
  • Operations: How are you currently operating (i.e., program format and length)? How are you planning to operate this summer/next school year? How flexible can you be (eg, for summer programs, can you offer both partial and full day options?)?
  • Funding required: What is the cost of your program? What are your anticipated additional costs related to COVID-19 and operating safely in-person (e.g., PPE, social distancing, etc.)? Please consider that programs offered through community partnerships should be free for all families. 
  • Proposed partnership: How can your organization/programs support district goals? How can you and your district set and achieve shared goals for students? 

Step 3

Reach Out

  1. Identify key stakeholder relationships and potential connections to decision makers 
    • District leadershipSuperintendents, chief instructional officers or staff, chief innovation officers or staff, principals, or even afterschool directors where school districts may already have some internal infrastructure for afterschool and summer learning programs 
    • Regional afterschool networks: The New York State Network for Youth Success supports the capacity-building of afterschool programs at the local level through 15 regional afterschool networks. Regional networks help share best practices and coordinate local professional development resources for programs and providers. Regional networks also provide effective means to distribute information and engage programs and parents on state and local policy issues.
    • Local businesses: Afterschool and summer programs prepare the workforce of tomorrow and supports the workforce of today – local business and chambers of commerce are helpful advocacy allies and connections to your school districts 
    • Collective impact/philanthropic organizations: Everyone will benefit from creating more, stronger partnerships between schools and community organizations – collective impact organizations, coalitions, private funders, and parents/caregivers may all be helpful connections to your schools and school districts Keep families you serve informed about ongoing opportunities and how they can engage in outreach efforts.
  2. Reach out to everyone you know

Step 4

Educate Stakeholders and Decisionmakers

Once you’ve scheduled a meeting with your school districts, local businesses, or collective impact/philanthropic organizations, prepare for the conversation and equip yourself with supporting materials:

Talking points

ESSER III conversation guidelines and talking points

Thank you points  to wrap up your meetings and/or use in follow-up emails

Summer learning talking points from the National Summer Learning Association with four key messages about summer learning programs’ power to make a difference for kids as they recover this summer. These messages can help organize your thoughts for meetings and follow-up emails with state- and local-level decision-makers.

Partnering with Schools to Reopen and Meet Students’ Needs: Communicating about the value of afterschool: This reopening contains some important talking points that will help afterschool leaders identify and communicate specific ways programs can help schools. The document includes messages you can use to make the case for involving afterschool leaders in discussions about protocols and schedules that are being developed for instruction, transportation and safety procedures in the coming school year.

Afterschool and STEM: This tool has STEM-specific talking points for learning recovery and workforce. Use these messages for engaging with policymakers and education leaders to make the case for partnership and funding.


Fact Sheet: Expanding Learning and Supports For All Students Afterschool and Summer Programs Are Essential for Equitable Recovery: A handout that shows how afterschool and summer programs accelerate learning with unique academic, social and emotional supports.

Fact Sheet: A Summer for Learning and Recovery: A factsheet summarizing the benefits and research on summer programs that explains how they help accelerate learning and meet kids’ needs. Emphasizes messaging about equity, highlights role programs play in addressing hunger, and includes research-based strategies for successful summer programs.

Afterschool Programs: We’re Here to Support Your Students: This handout highlights the ways afterschool programs can partner with schools to reopen and meet students’ needs. Include/attach this handout in your email/letter to schools/school districts.

Any additional, compelling marketing materials your program has! 

Afterschool Outreach One Pager

*Also, visit the Afterschool Alliance American Rescue Plan page for new and current resources.*

Step 5

Keep the Conversation Going

Follow up with all stakeholders and align on next steps. Some school districts are already releasing RFPs now, in anticipation of funds, and some are preparing for future RFPs. It is imperative that these meetings and conversations happen now so that community organizations and afterschool and summer learning programs are every school district’s priority when it comes to budgeting and formalizing partnerships. 

The Network is here to support you. We would love to learn more about your local outreach efforts and hear what else would be most helpful for you at this time. Please email us at to connect or request additional guidance.  


Empire State After-School Program data now available on the map! The KWIC map tool provides the ability to map the full range of KWIC data like afterschool programs, as well as school and demographic data at many geographic levels.  This tool can inform your advocacy work in several ways including:

  • identifying local data to help make the case for high-quality afterschool, summer, and expanded learning programs in your community
  • analyzing available resources and identifying resource gaps in your community
  • identifying potential partnerships you can leverage to provide high-quality afterschool programming to students.

This toolkit was adapted from an original toolkit created by  TXPOST (Texas Partnership for Out of School Time), a member of the 50 State Afterschool Network.