4 Federal Grants for After-School Programs


High-quality after-school programs serve an important purpose in our communities. Research shows they improve everything from educational outcomes and school attendance to social and emotional learning. 

Despite clear benefits, such as better academic performance and a decreased risk of negative behavior, after-school programs struggle to meet demand: for every child in a program, two remain on a waiting list. One of the reasons that programs struggle to meet demand is that scaling services to meet greater numbers of attendees requires significant capital, which is hard to find. However, a variety of grants exist to support after-school programs. A few of the most common grant types include:

  • Foundation grants
  • State grants
  • City grants
  • Federal grants

This blog provides an overview of federal funding, including the most beneficial grants for after-school programs.

Types of Federal Funding

According to the Afterschool Alliance, more than 100 sources of federal funding exist for after-school programs. Each of these funding sources falls into three main categories:

Entitlement Funding

Entitlement funding serves every individual who meets eligibility requirements. Federal or state agencies administer the grants offered by entitlement programs. The National School Lunch Program, which provides nutritional low-cost, or free meals and snacks to after-school programs, is a well-known example of entitlement funding.

Competitive Funding

Competitive funding offers support for targeted after-school programs. The government awards these funds on a competitive basis based on the program in question. With the competitive method of funding, programs must submit an application for grants. Based on the program’s application and the number of applicants, grant distributors allocate funding to the selected recipients (there is not always a predetermined award amount for competitive grants). An example of competitive funding is AmeriCorps VISTA, which offers a grant that provides funding to run after-school programs.

Block and Formula Funding

Block and formula funding provide grants at an amount that is determined by a formula based on a community’s population, poverty rates, and demographics. Similar to competitive funding, meeting eligibility criteria for a block or formula grant doesn’t guarantee funds. 21st Century Community Learning Center grants (21CCLC) are the most prominent of this type of grant available to after-school programs.

Prominent Federal Grants for After-School Programs

Nita M. Lowery 21st Century Community Learning Centers

The 21CCLC Program is the only federal funding source dedicated exclusively to supporting after-school programs. The Nita M. Lowery 21CCLC Program primarily supports students in programs that advance academic achievement. 

Every year, Congress establishes the amount of funding available for this 21CCLC program. This total is divided between all states based on the state’s current share of Title I funding for students with low-income. State departments of education award and manage these three-to-five-year competitive grants. Public and private schools, as well as community-based programs, may apply for 21CCLC grants.

Allocation of 21CCLC funds are based on the competitive grant applications and priority is given to community-based organizations that provide out-of-school-time (after-school and summer) learning programs to students attending schools with high levels of poverty and public and private schools that do not perform well on standardized testing.

While 21CCLC funds are awarded for 3-5 years terms, having the grant renewed after the initial term is not a guarantee. Creating a sustainable funding plan is the best way to make sure that a program is able to serve the community for years to come. The most successful programs have no more than 30 percent of funding coming from a single source after their first year. 

Child Care and Development Fund

The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), formerly known as the Child Care and Development Block Grant, provides funding to help low-income families with childcare for children up to age 12. As with 21CCLC, schools and public, private, and community programs meet eligibility standards to apply for CCDF grants. 

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) provides funding to support families in need with children. The TANF program aims to reduce the number of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and promote two-parent households. TANF funds can be used for a variety of services, including income assistance, education and job training, transportation, and child care. Up to 30 percent of TANF funds can be transferred to CCDF, ultimately increasing the state’s ability to fund after-school programs 

Title 1 (of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965)

Title 1 funds provide support services for students who are disadvantaged in standard school systems and can apply toward a variety of initiatives, including after-school programs. Both school districts and other local agencies can apply for Title 1 funding, administered by the state. A combination of Title 1 and 21CCLC funding can help to stretch the dollars and provide additional services to support multiple after-school programs and initiatives.

Looking Ahead to Drive Long-Term Program Sustainability

Many after-school programs rely on federal funding sources to stay afloat, but finding a federal grant is only the first step. 

Diversifying funding sources early allows after-school programs to create paths for long-term sustainability. Forward-thinking educational grants management plans help programs proactively manage their funding. As a best practice, no more than 30 percent of funding should come from a single source, so diversifying funding creates a path towards long-term sustainability. 

Looking for guidance on setting a program up for lasting success? Download our ebook for a step-by-step guide to securing and managing grants for after-school programs.

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About The Author

Paige Kummer is the marketing specialist for TransACT Communications. Her previous experience includes working as the Deputy of Communication in the Texas House of Representatives during an active session as well as a Customer Success Manager for a fin-tech startup. She utilizes her knowledge of social media, software as a service (SaaS), and love of learning to grow TransACT’s social media footprint across all 12 brands serving both K-12 and post-secondary education institutions. Paige also works as an account manager for the ActPoint KPI, which supports district and state business leaders nationwide in their efforts to manage costs and drive resources back to the classroom.