The 2002 passage of Proposition 49 in California provided a $428 million increase in funding for the state’s After School Education and Safety (ASES) Program, funds that would allow the state to more than double its program offerings.
However, when it became clear in 2006 that funding would soon be released, there arose a concern that the field wouldn’t have the capacity to use the funds, particularly in areas serving high-need (i.e., high-poverty, low academic performance) schools.
To address this concern, FowlerHoffman, with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund, developed a rapid outreach campaign called Act 4 After School. The primary goal of the campaign was to ensure that community advocates in high-need districts receive timely information on the new funding as well as resources and information to help them ensure that their districts apply for funds to provide after-school programs at their schools.
FowlerHoffman began by assessing the interest levels in applying for ASES funds within the 75 California school districts with the largest enrollments in high-need schools. Calls to the targeted districts revealed that, as of May 2006, only 12 of these 75 districts were committed to applying for all or most of their high-need schools.
Next, FowlerHoffman developed a multi-tiered outreach strategy to move these districts toward applying for funds, with special emphasis on the 15 districts with the largest percentage of students enrolled in unfunded, high-need schools. Local stakeholders were recruited as advocates for the grant application process. In a few instances, the campaign itself worked directly with school district staff and organized meetings and information-sharing events with local after-school leaders.
The campaign worked intensely with Bay Area Partnership for Children and Youth, Children Now, CalSAC, Boys & Girls Clubs, Save the Children, THINK Together, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, and STAR Education in supporting outreach to these high-need districts to ensure they had the necessary information and technical assistance to apply for the grants. The campaign capitalized on these groups’ relationships and communication networks, providing them with fliers, e-mail newsletter items, talking points, and other materials to distribute to their members and allies.
The campaign worked with other organizations including the California PTA, California Friday Night Live Partnership, Central Valley Afterschool Foundation, PICO California, California Alliance of YMCAs, California School Boards Association, CCS Partnership, League of California Cities, Camp Fire USA, California Afterschool Network, Afterschool Alliance, the National Assembly, and the California Park and Recreation Society, encouraging them to spread the word to their members or hold member workshops.
The hub of the campaign was www.act4afterschool.net, which featured the latest news from Sacramento, links to resources for program providers needing technical assistance, and a web-based toolkit and advocacy guide. The campaign sent out regular “E-lerts” through the website to keep the advocates and the field up to date on the progress of the legislation and the release of the grant application.
The campaign-style approach to rapid outreach was a success: the grantee lists released in January 2007 revealed that 75 percent of the high-need schools in the largest 75 California districts were slated to receive ASES grants.