Best Practices for Community Engagement Across the Country


Out-of-school-time (OST) programs benefit from community support, and engaging with community partners is a critical part of any program's funding sustainability plan 

Knowing what information to share and how to engage community partners in a meaningful way can be challenging.   

During the webinar "Engage Community Partners to Grow Your OST Program," hosted jointly by AfterSchool21 and the National AfterSchool Association, participants shared how OST programs operating virtually found ways to conduct positive community partner engagement. 

How do You Engage Partners in Your Community? 

Webinar participants shared examples of how they communicated tangible benefits to parents and community members. Many of these ideas led to a new relationship with other community groups or local businesses. 

Download the Webinar

Successful Community Engagement Examples

  • Partnered with Sodexo and the cafeteria staff to distribute and prep food for all participants. This built a new relationship with families.  
  • Banded together with other childcare centers to create large outdoor activities at the local parks for all the participants. 
  • Worked with the foodbank and county extension office to provide online cooking classes to give participants exposure to culinary arts. 
  • Worked with other non-profit organizations like Project Management for Change which provides project management support for nonprofits. 
  • Provided Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) kits via mail or drop-off that help children and teens learn the fundamentals of any subject. 
  • Partnered with another nonprofit organization like the Little Bit Foundation to support monthly food drives at public school locations. 

Being Sociable with Social Media 

Participants were clear that they create sharable content to educate the community about what their program does and the families they serve. 

  • Broadcast on Facebook Live – cooking demonstrations, science experiments, and field trips. 
  • Use Zoom to provide free Zumba or Mexican traditional dance programs and link them to the program’s Facebook page.  
  • Create fun videos and share through Instagram Reels.   
  • Post events and pictures of activities such as summer camp videos and pictures of parents enrolling their children.  
  • Sharing pictures of real people, such as parents signing up their children for summer camp, is more engaging and fun than stock photography. 
  • Posting weekly staff dance videos to create a personal connection.  

Engaging community partners can grow an OST program, cementing the program’s critical value within the community and help children thrive socially and academically. 

AS21 is the most customizable and advanced after-school program data management software available. Use AS21 for grant-funded or non-grant-funded programs to report on student outcomes and share actionable data. Schedule a demonstration with our team today to find out how we can help your after-school program. 


About The Author

Alyssa Thornley has spent her career working to support schools and communities in providing opportunity to all students. In positions as a teacher, professional development coordinator, and as a volunteer, she has focused on the community’s role in education, and in designing efficient programs that work for diverse needs. Alyssa leads TransACT’s customer engagement and market strategy efforts, and works to ensure innovative programs, guidance, and thought leadership from across the country’s districts are being shared and spread.