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Best Practices: Sponsor Retention
Keeping good sponsors in SFSP is just
as, or sometimes more, important than locating and signing on new ones.
A national SFSP study issued in April 2003 found that approximately
eight percent of sponsoring organizations did not return to the SFSP the
following summer. Reasons for this ranged from local personnel issues
to sponsoring organizations having difficulty remaining financially
viable over the course of the summer. The following is a collection of
strategies from several States who found success in retaining their SFSP
Review these ideas and adopt the strategies that seem reasonable to you
and compatible with your program. If you have a best practice strategy
you would like to share please contact your
Effective training is the
foundation of a successful SFSP sponsor. Making sure sponsors fully comprehend their
responsibilities before they operate the program is critical to
their success. Several States have taken innovative approaches, and
developed many tools which you may find helpful, here is just a few:
Training Themes. To keep sponsors engaged and interested is important in delivering
effective training. The Arizona SFSP provides a series of themed
training sessions across the State to get sponsors excited to begin
their program outreach. In 2004, the theme was Hawaiian Luau,
which helped get everyone thinking about summer. Themes can be carried
through with decorations, refreshments, training games, and even
attendee clothing and/or accessories.
Administrative Review Forms. To help prepare returning sponsors for the coming summer,
the Pennsylvania SFSP provides them with the administrative review forms
prior to their program’s operation. Providing these forms, along with a
PowerPoint presentation explaining them, complements formal training and
helps sponsors clearly understand what is expected of them. When
reviews take place during the summer, sponsors are more likely to meet
Online Training. In Colorado, the Department of Education offers its
experienced sponsors training through an online training module. Sponsors have been very receptive to this alternative to classroom style
training, as they no longer have to spend the money and extra time
traveling to receive training.
Open communication between
the State agency, sponsoring organizations and sites can lead to success
in operating the SFSP. Here are a couple of ideas that may help to open your
lines of communication:
Exit Interviews or Debriefing. When a sponsoring organization drops the SFSP, it is important for the
State agency to understand why. After a State understands the problem,
it can develop strategies to correct the issue through enhanced training
or the development of tools designed to prevent reoccurrence of the
original setback. Some State agencies are now employing the use of a
survey form in an effort to extract better information from the exiting
Meeting with Decision Makers.
Communication can also take the form of program promotion. In
Virginia, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of USDA obtained the services of a former President from
the School Nutrition Association to meet and discuss the merits of
administering the SFSP to local school officials. Information on basic
program requirements was shared but the former President highlighted the
number of un-served children in the area and the potential reimbursement
amounts that could be a revenue source for the school district should
they administer the SFSP.
By meeting with
decisionmakers, such as the School Superintendent or other high ranking
officials within the school system, a careful and well-planned
presentation of the facts concerning need and potential lost funding may
lead to more school systems administering the SFSP.
By providing outreach
assistance and support, States can recruit new SFSP sponsors and help existing sponsors
expand their programs. Here are a few innovative and successful
Giving a “Call Out”. Many school districts
have “call-out” phone systems, which leave automated messages at
students’ homes to inform parents and guardians of various issues. In
Arizona, a school district sends “call-outs” to all of the households in
their district to publicize the SFSP.
Publicity through other State agencies. The Texas SFSP coordinates with the State Medicaid agency
to publicize the SFSP. Medicaid beneficiaries receive a SFSP stuffer in
their June mailing called Fuel Up for Summer Fun! The stuffer,
printed in both English and Spanish, provides basic information about
the SFSP, a 1-800 SFSP hotline number and the Texas SFSP website. Texas
reports that the SFSP Medicaid stuffer generates about
95 percent of the calls
that they receive through their SFSP hotline number.
Ready-to-use outreach materials for sponsors. In addition to training materials, Virginia SFSP has developed some
ready-to-use outreach materials for sponsors to use. For example, they
provide sponsors with a brochure to help recruit new sites. Similar to
the USDA brochures, Virginia’s colorful recruitment brochures provide
basic information on the SFSP as well as contact information for
interested sponsors or sites.
State agencies can initiate partnerships with a wide range of public and
private partners. Anti-hunger advocacy organizations, food banks,
after-school associations, Cooperative Extension, and other State and
local organizations that care about the health and well-being of
children can help support the maintenance and expansion of SFSP sponsors. Below are a few examples of successful
Anti-Hunger Advocates. In Oregon, the State
agency works with the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force, which
conducts outreach to promote the State’s 1-800 number that refers
callers to local SFSP sites. The two also partnered to organize a video
conference with Oregon’s Governor to promote both summer food and
afterschool suppers and snacks.
End Hunger Connecticut received a grant in the Summer of 2004 from the Hartford County Bar
Association and Share Our Strength, which they then turned
into $500 “Recreation Connection” mini-grants to five large SFSP
sponsors. One sponsors used the money to purchase sports equipment and
another raffled off gift cards from sporting good stores. The sponsors
stated that the grants help increase participation at their sites.
Cooperative Extension. Virginia, the
Cooperative Extension staff offers nutrition education to children (and
attending parents) at SFSP feeding sites and food safety trainings to
sponsors’ food service staff.
Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association.
As part of the Montana
State agency’s partnership with the association, Cowboys visited SFSP
sites to talk to children about the importance of good nutrition and
physical fitness. This partnership provided an additional resource for
SFSP sponsors and helped attract children to their sites.
assistance to new and existing SFSP sponsors offers additional support to help ensure their
success in the program. Here are some examples:
Mentoring by Field Monitors.
SFSP believes the best way to correct problems is to prevent them in the
first year of operation; therefore, all new sponsors are assigned a
mentor from the State agency’s monitoring staff. This mentor assists
the new sponsor the first week of operation, checks paperwork and
recordkeeping requirements, helps solve any concerns with site reviews,
and helps the sponsor prepare for their administrative review. Mentors
are also assigned for returning sponsors with new staff, and larger
sponsors should specific problems arise. Staff also provides one-on-one
assistance in preparing budgets with new sponsors.
The Oregon SFSP
provides technical assistance to sponsors when their claim for
reimbursement is submitted. The State agency reviews each claim to
check if the sponsor is receiving expected reimbursement or costs. If
the costs reported are not high enough to receive the meals times rate
amount, State agency staff will call or visit the sponsor and provide
technical assistance. Many sponsors, especially non-profits, do not
account for all the money they spent when filing the claim. When
sponsors lose money, States lose sponsors. This State agency has found
that technical assistance as an integral element of the claims payment
process can reduce those loses.
Assistance for Camp Sponsors. The Virginia SFSP has compiled a Guide for Camp Sponsors in the
Virginia SFSP. The Guide is not intended to replace USDA’s
Administrative Guidance for Sponsors, but is intended to supplement
it. The Guide for Camp Sponsors highlights those areas of SFSP
administration and operation that relate specifically to camps and
further expounds on some policies where necessary. Camp sponsors have
found this to be very helpful.
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