SUSTAINING AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAMS IN RURAL MONTANA By Co-Presenter: Kathy Woodford, Alberton Afterschool Board President Main Topics: I. FINANCIAL RESOURCES II. STAFFING & VOLUNTEERS III. ACTIVITIES The area’s covered in this session were financial resources; staffing and volunteers and program activities. Claudette Morton gave an overview of what the state of afterschool programs are in Montana and I presented specific examples of what we’ve done in Alberton. These areas were then open to the floor for discussion. The following is a compilation of this information. I’m the President of our Board of Directors for the Alberton Afterschool Program. I’ve been involved with the program for two years. My back ground is in fundraising. I’ve been working for non-profits for over 20 years. I worked for 6 years at the RMEF, as photo coordinator, in development, and was the Director of membership services. I currently work at Montana Public Radio as the Director of Corporate Support at the University of Montana. Alberton is a small community located 30 miles west of Missoula. We have approximately 1200 residents and the school is grades Kindergarten through 12 with about 200 students. Many of our parents work in Missoula. A lot of people are moving into the area, because housing prices are so high or for the quality of life since Missoula is getting so big. Either way, it puts a strain on the town’s resources. I moved to Alberton from Missoula 3 years ago, and became involved with the program 2 years ago. There was one in place for 3 years with funding from the 21 st Century Community Learning Center grant. However, when funds were cut from that program, our program was suspended. That’s when I was asked to write a grant to try to get it restarted. We have about 80 kids from grades K – 4, which is our primary enrollment age. This year, we enrolled over 40 students, which is half of the kids in this age group, with 20 -25 kids attending on a regular basis. The program is offered free of charge because we don’t want to exclude any kids due to financial hardship Our total budget is about $40,000 with about half being in-kind donations. The program is held in the schools cafeteria, so the school supplies our facilities, administrative and janitorial support; office supplies; and liability insurance. In order to be covered by the school’s insurance, we deposit all of our funds into the school’s account. We have a separate line item and the money is used exclusively for after school expenses. We ask parents to provide snacks and activity supplies. So, we’re operating on a show- string budget. And we don’t offer transportation, we don’t go on many field trips and we have to be creative when coming up with program activities. We have a four member Board of Directors, who oversee the budget, staffing and program activities. I’m the President; our VP is a teacher who acts as a liaison between the school and the program and helps come up with program activities; a secretary and a treasurer. Our staff is a program manager and two assistants who work two or three days a week/each. I. FINANCING The way we got started was that I applied for a grant from the Steele-Reese Foundation. They gave us $25,000 to get the program up and running. It was a one time deal and we can’t ask for funds from them again. However, I believe they are working with the Montana Community Foundation, and you maybe able to reapply for those funds. We’re primarily funded through grants at this point. For larger grants, that are $5,000 or more, you need to look at state-wide, or national companies and foundations. The grants we’ve had success with and that were listed during the session were: The Steele-Reese Foundation Washington Foundation PPL Montana NorthWestern Energy Montana Out of School Time grant Safe and Drug Free Schools Title V School Food Program REAP Forest Service Montana Arts Council National Endowment for the Arts City and County funds Parks and Recreation Montana Community Foundation For the larger asks, apply about 6 months in advance. A lot of places run on a bi-annual schedule and they have deadlines in the spring and fall. The larger the ask, the more time you’ll need to get through the cycle. I spoke with one of the Director’s at the Washington Foundation. Steve Laurance, and he said that they don’t mind giving smaller grants of $5,000 or so, to individual programs, however, they prefer that smaller programs combine their efforts into a bigger ask and distribute the funds that way. It makes the entire process easier to manage. I’ve found most applications are available on-line. They’re easy to fill out and send in and the paperwork on the back end is easy to manage. A word of caution. I’ve also heard that there’s a lot of paperwork with the 21 st Century Learning grant. You may want to check out reporting procedures before getting too involved with some grants The smaller grants, for $500 to $1,000, can also be found on-line and are usually simple applications to fill out. You need to keep your ears open to businesses and foundations in your area who are offering grants. Grant are available at places like: Mineral County Community Fund Town Pump Blackfoot Telephone Walmart Jerry Metcalf Foundation Gear Up! Home Depot Target Lowes JC Penny Missoula County Community Fund Other organizations Local foundations Tribes Seniors Indian Education for All Ready to Go Grants Gifted and Talented Program I found out about some of them through the newspaper, I looked at their website, I also do the Community Calendar at the station and see where other youth organizations are getting funds from. So visit other youth organization websites or get their newsletters and see who’s supporting them and check out those businesses. Even look at the jerseys on local sports teams to see who’s supporting them. This year, we put together a Sponsor Program. We sent out letters to local residents and businesses asking them to sponsor the after school program. In return they will get a certificate and they got a mention in a press release in the newspaper. We mailed about 600 letters and received over $2,000. A lot of those funds came from businesses in Missoula, not Alberton. We had our board members contribute names of people and businesses they thought might support our program. This list included companies who do business in Alberton. For example, real estate agents, product suppliers, like who delivers the milk and clothes and food and feed to the stores in town. Contractors, the garbage companies, utility companies, businesses the people in town work at, a car dealer that someone bought a car from recently, banks, insurance companies, and stores in Missoula. We also got names from the business who are members of the Missoula Chamber of Commerce. And don’t forget other local organizations like the senior center, the town council, the PTA, churches. They all may want to contribute. Almost all of the bigger stores and business have a charity program. Regarding other fundraising efforts, don’t get involved with a fundraiser that’s beyond your ability to carry out. Make sure you don’t spend to much up front and can’t recoup your costs and that you have the man power to do the activity. For example, we had a booth at Railroad Days and sold cotton candy, and after renting the machine and buying ingredients, we didn’t sell enough to cover costs! We also have looked at making a cookbook. But the costs for make 200 is over $500. We would need to sell over 60 of them, just to break even. I like the idea, and maybe we can do it with another group, but I’m hesitant to put that kind of money into it at this point. A smaller event we did was a split the pot at a varsity basketball game. The kids painted their numbers on t-shirts and played a game at half-time and we sold tickets. We made about $160 and the parent who won the pot donated the money back to the program. So it was easy and we made some money. Some fundraising ideas include: Garage sale Community Day at Herberger’s Selling stuff like Christmas wrap or cookie dough, cookbooks (don’t compete with other groups in town) Cards like Albertsons, Target, Schwann’s Chocolate Extravaganza Christmas store II. STAFFING & VOLUNTEERS Small town, have a very limited pool of qualified candidates. Make sure you hire people with a background in child care or education, otherwise it turns into babysitting! Salaries range from $9.50/hour to $15 and even $20 and hour, depending on what duties the program manager or director has to do. Plus, depending on their work experience. Some are salaried, but the consensus seemed to be that hourly works better. Some positions are fortunate enough to offer insurance, as well. Claudette mentioned the state MUST insurance program for teachers. VOLUNTEERS Parents, senior citizens, other groups like the American Legion, churches. Look to other businesses and organizations. We have a gal from Turning Point in Superior who just starting coming in with little programs for the kids; also, we have a retired lady from the American Legion, who does activities once a week; also a local musician who’s volunteered to come in a play the guitar with them; REI came out and did a “leave no trace” demonstration. I’m also a part of Americorp and receive money to pay off my student loan by doing volunteer work. Our Americorp and VISTA programs are offered through the UM Office of Civic Engagement. They pay $1,250 toward my student loan for 450 volunteer hours and $1,000 for 300 volunteer hours. They are 2 year terms. Other volunteers may be retired teachers, parents, seniors, through parks and rec., school substitutes, other youth groups like 4-H, and Upward Bound. There is also a website the Western Montana Volunteer Network. III. ACTIVITIES We meet right after school and the kids have snack, get help with homework and then do activities. Our weekly activities are: Library; computer lab; gym; Friday is movie day (since school is out at 2). Tuesday our volunteer comes in with a project. We try to have monthly themes and do art projects and get a speaker to come in or go on a field trip relating to the topic. We also have a karaoke machine and board games, yu yi go contests. Cooking, knitting, Claudette stressed giving kids options for activities. One good idea is to have a big box of unique items and costumes that kids can use their imagination playing with and dressing up. We have different themes each month and have activities and guest speakers relating to that theme. For example, Talent month, which included skits (difficult due to inconsistent attendance) and Karaoke with the idea of inviting a guest musician or someone from a drama club. Helping Hand Month, and a firefighter visited the school and talked about safety issues and show us his truck. Other guest speakers could be from the Red Cross; Sheriff’s department; smoke jumpers. Earth Month, which includes visits to our community garden to help plant (we harvest in the fall and made Salsa last year). REI came to do a demonstration on outdoor ethics. This can include hikes; trips to a farm; go to the park and fly kites.\ Celebration month, end of the year party, make a gift for Mother’s day, and give out awards. In February, we made valentines for the seniors. Another ideas is to make valentines and then visit the post office and mail the letters and have a tour. Since Alberton is small, field trips are very limited. You need to be creative and tap into what the community has to offer. We have a bookstore, antique store, coffee shop, restaurant, post office, store, railroad museum. The American legion, Senior Center, Pizza Parlor, farms, and nature trails. A volunteer fire department and sheriff’s department. Need to be creative in thinking of how these businesses and community can be used for activities. Another suggestion was to have the program be the meeting place for other youth groups like Boy and Girl Scouts. Another was to use Title I to get homework done. Some one mentioned places like The American Kennel Club has a lot of information and project supplies to work with dogs. You can find other resources for specific projects, just look on-line, such as birding; pond life; science projects; astronomy; the weather, etc… Make sure you develop a good relationship with your local newspaper for press releases so the community knows what you are doing. After two years, our program is really coming together with volunteers, activities, funding. I can be reached via my website at WoodfordConsult@hotmail.com.