It can be challenging to advocate for afterschool funding during the state budget debate. By cultivating relationships with your elected officials throughout the year, you will be in a position to make a stronger impact on their budget priorities.
During the end of June and beginning of July, the officials will be in their district office conducting constituent business. This is the time to inform your officials about afterschool, to help them understand the importance of it to your community.
The purpose of these meetings is for you to introduce yourself and your afterschool program. Be prepared to address the following topics.
Your background. How did you come to work in afterschool? Why is afterschool so important to you?
Your organization or program’s background. How long has it been in operation? What services does it provide? Where is it located? Has it grown since it was first founded?
Funding. How many federal and state dollars does it receive? Has funding suffered during the recession and economic recovery? Share the impact of the FY state budget on your program if such information is available.
Your program. How many children are enrolled in the afterschool program? How do parents benefit from afterschool programs? Has enrollment fluctuated over the past few years? Why is it important for your community to retain this program? What kind of activities are they involved in while enrolled in the afterschool program?
Your homework. Before making contact, learn key background information. Visit the official’s website. Be sure to know if they are part of the Afterschool Caucus. Also, states and many local municipalities have websites where you can find information on elected officials.
Be specific. When you call, email or meet in person, tell the official why you are there and what you want. Your interaction might only last a few minutes. Be sure to mention you are a constituent.
Establish yourself an expert information source. Elected officials have limited time and staff, and many competing issues to consider. That is why advocacy is so important. You can fill their information gap and become their “expert.”
Bring materials to leave behind. Leave your elected official with a profile of your program and any other materials that describe your program’s benefits for kids and families in your community.
Follow up after a meeting. Send a personal thank you note to the official and staff for their time. If you promised information, be sure to send it as soon as possible.
Think you have to know everything. It is okay to admit you do not know something. Rather tell them you will find out and get back to them.
Burn bridges. Work to find some sort of consensus and always leave on positive terms.
Forget elected officials work for you. You should be courteous but not intimidated.
Encourage policymakers, funders, community leaders and media to participate in a facility visit. Build support in your community and make sure your program is around for the long haul.