If you work in the education sector, you know that schools do more than provide the core curriculum of classes for its students. Often, schools will have departments that plan and host events and organize afterschool programs to provide even more meaningful experiences for students.
Afterschool programs offer more than just a fun time for kids but give them opportunities to develop skills that might not be offered in their day-to-day schedule. These programs also ease some stress off the parents. Parents prefer their kids to be engaged by an afterschool program rather than by a babysitter while they are at work.
Hundreds of thousands of parents take advantage of afterschool programs each year, so it’s up to the school to effectively plan so that parents can rest assured that their child is cared for. However, it can get hectic managing everything from registration and payment collection to child pick-ups.
We at CommunityPass pride ourselves on our comprehensive school management software and work with many schools to help them with their entire afterschool program management process. Make sure parents feel stress-free when they’re at work and learn how you can take action with these top tips:
- Encourage parents to sign up
- Keep parents’ schedules in mind
- Make children’s safety a top priority
- Host fundraisers to support your program
Your school likely depends on some type of software solution, but it’s always good to review your processes to see if anything can be improved. Consider these tips and let’s get started.
1. Encourage parents to sign up
Your afterschool program’s registration is the most important part of the planning process. Registration is the initial catalyst that pushes parents to enroll their child in your program. The bottom line is that you want to make a good impression.
You’ll turn off parents if your registration process is too long and complicated. Parents already have enough on their plate and don’t want the added stress of a million fields to fill out and multiple tabs on their computer due to all the third-party sites you send them to. How can you remedy this?
With the right afterschool management software, you can easily set up online registration that won’t turn parents away. Add a button on your school website or email newsletters directing users to the registration site, starting off registration seamlessly and intuitively in the place parents are most likely looking.
To further streamline the process and encourage parents to sign up, make sure you:
- Offer 24/7/365 registration. Parents who are busy during work hours need an easily accessible way to register their child. It’s likely that these are the parents who need the program the most.
- Have a waitlist management system. Don’t worry if various activities become full. Use a waitlist management system to ensure that the entire process is fair and people can automatically enroll once they’re next in line and a program spot opens up.
- Have an integrated and secure payment processor. It’s easy to register and pay for a program when the entire payment process is seamless and embedded into the registration site. Keep financial data safe!
- Accept customizable online forms. Oftentimes your program might require additional forms like emergency contacts and waivers. Offering supplemental online forms can relieve the hassle of collecting and managing paper forms like this.
- Provide an online catalog of all activities. Having your afterschool programming displayed in a searchable manner is a huge selling point. Parents can browse through the different activities, learn more about them, and then register all in one go! This includes the activities at the venues managed by recreation management software, such as nature clubs in the local parks or a sports league at the rec center.
Don’t let your registration process be what turns parents away. Invest in management software that is designed to meet the needs of busy parents.
2. Keep parents’ schedules in mind
As mentioned earlier, one of the main benefits of afterschool programs is how much they help out parents. Think of these parents as customers to your establishment— you need to provide good service in order to keep them coming back.
Many organizations prioritize constituent retention for consistent support and to help their growth, and your school should do the same. A top way to keep parents coming back and trusting your program is to try and always meet their needs.
It’s not uncommon for something to come up in a parent’s schedule or for a student to be out sick, so make sure your afterschool program management software has flexible scheduling. Parents are already stressed out. Every time you offer a quick and easy solution, your reputation as being reliable and accommodating becomes greater!
Take a look at your afterschool program management software and make sure you are prepared to:
- Easily allow schedule changes, cancellations, or additions. You never know when something unprecedented will come up or a child gets sick and can’t make it. Give parents the tools to change the program schedule with ease.
- Apply full refunds, partial refunds, and credit. Grant admins the power to apply refunds easily if parents change their minds. Having flexible scheduling allows for these quick changes to happen without disrupting the flow of the program.
- Give parents some flexibility in their schedule. Some parents only work certain hours or part-time jobs. Let them create a schedule based on 3 or 5 day programs, working with their unique situation.
It’s always good to establish your afterschool program as flexible because parents need a reliable program. This is the best way to keep them coming back!
3. Make student safety a top priority
Above all else, parents want to make sure that the programs they sign their child up for are safe and reliable. Hosting a program that deals with youth can be a tricky situation because as soon as the parents are gone, the child’s well-being and safety is your responsibility. This can be a daunting prospect with just one student, and having a whole group of them in multiple activities is an entirely different story.
It’s a good thing that some afterschool program management systems know this and keep youth protection as a high priority. One of the simplest ways to do this is making sure you have an effective digital attendance check-in and check-out system.
Some schools and programs still do attendance and check-ins by hand with paper, but this is extremely risky. There’s a lot of room for human error, either a mistake on paper or losing the paper itself. Look for afterschool program management software with features like:
- Check-in and check-out app. With an app, teachers and other supervisors can check in and check out students digitally. They can view their attendance history over time and get a sense of how they’re engaging with the program. This system is highly useful when parents are wondering the exact time their kid arrived to the program. Additionally, some software can also allow staff to view a student’s medical alerts and emergency contacts through this app.
- Database of authorized signatures and photos for safe pick-ups. Everyone knows that they shouldn’t let a child leave with someone just because they said they were sent to pick them up. A digital attendance app is a reliable place where information about parents and guardians who have been authorized to pick-up are stored.
Keeping this process digitized helps streamline and centralize your data. According to CircuiTree’s guide to youth protection, it’s crucial that all your data is accounted for and accurate. Don’t let anything slip through the cracks with your afterschool program management software.
4. Host fundraisers to support your program
Even though afterschool programs are almost necessary for some families, it’s not every school’s top priority. Most of a school’s funding might go to the main curriculum or to other needed areas of improvement for the school. That’s why the PTA or PTO may turn to fundraising ideas to help supplement the afterschool program.
Hosting fundraisers for your afterschool program doesn’t just raise money for that specific cause, but it can also help spread the word about the school program. This can lead to a huge boost in registration!
Your best bet is to look out for afterschool program management software that can also handle simple fundraising. Look out for tools that can handle the “Pay-As-You-Go” model, allowing for easy quick transactions.
To really raise some money, you can do a school t-shirt fundraiser or even empower your students to fundraise on your school’s behalf. Using some sort of social fundraising or peer-to-peer technique, you can encourage students to reach out to their friends and family in a friendly competition. This way, they are excited to ask for donations! Provide a fun prize for the top fundraiser as a motivating incentive.
Afterschool programs are there to enrich students as well as make parents’ lives easier. Follow these top tips so you don’t get overwhelmed. Good luck!
This post was contributed by Joseph Oriente.
Joseph Oriente is the President and Founder of Capturepoint, creator of CommunityPass. Joe established Capturepoint in 1999 and launched CommunityPass in 2003, which was initially created to provide online registration and payment for a local town sports council that was overwhelmed with an increasing number of paper registrations. Since then Joe has been responsible for expanding CommunityPass nationally to become one of America’s most well-respected and complete online management solutions with registration, membership and facilities software serving the recreation and school markets.