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January 4, 2023

Do you ever feel like students and potential partners would line up around the block to be part of your program — if they just knew about the activities and opportunities you offer? It can feel like you’re shipwrecked on a vibrant island, waiting to be discovered.

Getting Off the Lone Island

Good news! There are simple ways to market your program to students and families, reach out to potential partners, and connect with the community. You don’t need a marketing degree — just some planning and creativity. And it won’t bust your budget, thanks to free or low-cost technology tools. Y4Y gathered the essential know-how and compiled it in an online professional learning module, along with a zip file of tools and templates for a quick start. Marketing and Outreach is our newest Quality Program Quickstarter (QPQ) module. In an hour or less, you’ll learn the basics of how to establish a social media presence, create eye-catching flyers, and more. Earn a Y4Y certificate of completion in the process! Keep reading for a taste of what you’ll learn.

Gathering Your Crew

To sail away from your lone island, connect, and grow your program, you’ll need to reach out and find the right crew to accompany you on your adventure. Here are some examples of how outreach strategies can help you achieve program goals:

Program goal 1: Recruit and retain staff

Outreach strategies:

  • Ask people you know, like a school principal or administrator, to help you recruit high-quality teachers.
  • Contact the education department at a local college or university to see if they have students who might want to work or volunteer in your program. Some colleges offer course credits for volunteer hours.

Program goal 2: Develop and strengthen relationships with community partners and organizations

Outreach strategies:

  • Ask partners to “donate” a guest speaker.
  • Perfect and practice an elevator speech, which is a short speech that explains your program in a compelling way and tells why a potential partner might want to join your crew.

Program goal 3: Intentionally design activities that provide what students and families need — and want.

Outreach strategies:

  • Have students and families complete an interest inventory. They’ll feel heard, and you’ll gain valuable information. Y4Y has surveys for elementary students, secondary students, and families.
  • Use a catchy title, logo, and color(s) to “brand” your program and make your marketing materials easy to recognize.

The Message in the Bottle

Outreach may help you engage a crew to help you get off the lone island, but marketing is the “message in a bottle” with a map that leads to brighter horizons. The message needs to convince people that your program has value. Here are some ways to “bottle” and deliver messages to market your program:

Social media

Email newsletters

  • Use newsletters to keep partners and families informed about program events and successes.
  • Keep it short and simple and include a “call to action” where appropriate, like “Sign up today!”

In-person events

  • Host an Invite-a-Friend Day. Encourage students to give someone a golden ticket and bring that person to your program.
  • Use an end-of-the-year awards banquet as an opportunity to show off the progress your students have made.

Infographics/charts/photos

  • Use visual elements to tell your program’s mission, story, and accomplishments as you communicate data and information to families as well as school and community partners.
  • See the Y4Y Marketing and Outreach Tool Kit for templates and examples to get you started. If graphic design isn’t your strong suit, there are free programs and templates online, and some programs like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint have templates and graphics you can use.

On to Brighter Horizons

If you’re not sure which way to steer your ship off the lone island, make the Y4Y Marketing and Outreach module your compass. Download and customize the accompanying tools for a smooth journey. If you think marketing and outreach involves dozens of moving parts that you can’t quite pin down, don’t worry: The module breaks it down step-by-step. That means you can spend less time researching and more time putting your plan into action. On to brighter horizons!