The advent and impact of after school programs on the nonprofit sector

To put this topic in context I believe it would be helpful to understand the evolution of nonprofit organizations’ afterschool programs as part of Out of School Time (OST) initiatives.

Part one of a two part series.  aa3_pa_parents_want

The following are exerpts from my manuscript: Mission Driven Management. Mastering Your Role as a Nonprofit Manager in the 21st Century.                                                                      

What are the goals of out-of-school time programs?

Out-of-school time program goals and content can vary considerably, but generally most programs seek to engage youth and provide learning, enrichment, and leadership opportunities designed to support their academic success and overall development”. (United Way – Out of School Time Kit)


A bit of related history.

The earliest iteration of formal out of school time programs (circa early 1990’s) focused on latch key students and the need for some organized effort to provide them with a safe space between 3 – 6 PM. At the local level, school districts and their nonprofit partners had to address the unique concerns of the parents and the community surrounding each school site.


The evolution of the OST field.

OST programs made an important shift with the creation of a new federal government initiative: the 21st Century Community Learning Center legislation.

Impact of this funding/program shift on the nonprofit sector.

The evolution of the afterschool field has created a demand for new workers, an increased role for government (primarily school districts and city/county organizations that focus on education and social services) and a ‘cottage industry’ of training, consulting and evaluation organizations.

One of the results of this ‘cottage industry’ phenomenon included the creation of national organizations designed to look at the Big Picture. These government agencies and national organizations began to focus on quality control issues and the creation of standards for best practices (including certification and credential/certification efforts).


Workforce standards and the OST field.

School districts, county offices of education, city government (primarily social service agency funding nonprofit sector organizations) have to varying degrees begun to establish quality control standards, best practices and training projects for after school programs and staff.

 Based on past history I believe that the establishment of credentialing and certificate requirements for direct service after school staff will eventually become an requirement that agencies and managers will have to address.


Challenges for agencies providing after school programs.

After school agencies and programs are affected by the same economic model as the nonprofit sector (as a whole). In general, staff in the nonprofit sector are paid less than their counterparts in the public and for profit sector. In the after school field this economic reality is exacerbated by the staffing patterns established by many providers.

Given the fact that after school programs generally operate from (approximately) 3 – 6 PM, direct service staff positions are frequently part time. Often these part time positons do not include the benefits provided to full time staff. Part of the reason for this is that funders (especially the government actors) establish re-imbursement rates that don’t give after school agencies the capacity to provide benefits to these part time staff.


Management challenges.

For managers of after school programs the challenge of fully staffing their direct service positions is ever present. Due to the economic realities a majority of after school programs are understaffed and/or staff have other jobs to pay their bills. Even with the additional of ‘on call’ or ‘floater staff, managers of many programs struggle to keep their programs fully staffed throughout the year.

Effective planning (e.g. having on call staff available to cover gaps) is essential. However even with on call staff, managers often find themselves covering for absent staff. This `fact of life’ is universal and its impact on managers is problematic, since time spent covering direct service responsibilities is time away from their management responsibilities.

Maintaining a fully staffed workforce is especially important in after school programs because they often require a specific student to staff ratio, which must be maintained on a daily basis.

It is my belief that the inclusion of certification/credentialing requirements for these part time staff will only add to the difficulty of organizations (and managers) to recruit and retain direct service staff.


Coming soon: Part two – Some unique aspects on managing after school programs

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