A good proposal for an after-school program anticipates the questions and concerns of potential supporters, providing forward-thinking details as if the program already is in operation. Relevant information ranges from broad to specific, from target outcomes to day-to-day procedures. Make sure to follow any specific proposal guidelines provided by the school, district or funding organization to which you are applying.

Research and Development

The first step in writing your proposal is assessing the extent to which an after-school program is needed. The best way to do this is to conduct a needs assessment survey. This is a physical survey distributed to members of the community. Sample questions include asking parents to choose the type of child care they need, days and times that they would utilize child care and the payment they consider reasonable per week per child. Once parents' needs are clarified, establish a mission statement and a list of objectives. The mission statement should summarize what you want to accomplish with the program, establishing a general vision and philosophy, with the objectives providing a more detailed breakdown.

Program Overview

The program overview should lay out the who, what, where and why. The who is the demographics of who the program will serve and what partnerships, if any, will be formed to manage the program. The what can be a concise list of goals for the participants, both direct and indirect. An example of a direct goal for a program targeting poor students living in high-crime areas is to teach students conflict-resolution skills, whereas an indirect goal might be to improve school attendance and graduation rates. For the why, provide evidence that there is a need for this particular after-school program as well as references to city or school officials who support the proposal. The where can be a brief description of the facility.

Program Description

A good program description is clear and concise, grouping information under subheadings. For example, under the title "Project Design," summarize the number of students served, over what number of weeks and for how long each day. Then, list the target outcomes for participants. For example, "The program will lower students' risk for substance abuse and their involvement with the juvenile justice system." Under "Proposed Activities," provide an overview of what activities will be offered and how students will be selected to participate. Under "Student Activities," outline a day-to-day schedule and produce a detailed description of each type of activity under the appropriate subheading.

Financial Information and Supplemental Materials

Including an item-by-item budget demonstrates a high level of organization. You will need to consider one-time start-up costs, ongoing operating expenses as well as operating income. Start up costs include renting, buying or sharing a space, the cost of written materials used to train staff, the cost of becoming a licensed child care program, and of course, equipment, either for student activities or janitorial and administrative duties. Operating costs include, but are not limited to, staff salaries and professional development, supplies and transportation costs. It's best to generate income from a variety of sources, such as parent fees, fundraising events and donations. If possible, supplement the proposal with letters of support from the school or city, curriculum maps, evaluations of previous programs you've led and/or sample student work.