The child care enrollment process can be a rewarding part of running your program. But this can also be a tricky time for child care programs without an efficient registration process. If families can’t easily complete the process – or have too many questions about what to expect from your center – you risk losing them to your competitors.
Don’t let your enrollment process prevent success. We created this eBook to assist you in developing a child care enrollment process that runs smoothly for both families and staff. Read on for our tips on streamlining the process, developing child care enrollment policies, simplifying billing and attracting families to your child care center.
By following this guide, you’ll be better equipped to keep new and current families happy and save time so you can focus on what really matters – caring for children.
Streamlining the Enrollment Process in Child Care Centers
Your enrollment process is often one of the first interactions families have with your center. That’s why its so important to streamline the enrollment process in child care centers. A smooth, simple enrollment process is critical in providing a positive experience right away. Additionally, streamlining this process saves staff hours, simplifies reporting and makes sure nothing is missed.
Set Clear Expectations with New and Returning Families
Families should know what to expect before and after enrolling their child in your program. For example, families might be wondering….
How soon will I know if my child is accepted?
Is there a wait list for enrollment right now?
Will I be able to change my child’s care schedule?
Will my other children get priority enrollment?
If my child was previously enrolled, do I get preferential enrollment?
Do you offer discounts or special pricing for multiple children?
This is by no means the full list – families are bound to have many more questions. After all, choosing a temporary caregiver for your child isn’t an easy decision.
Instead of answering these questions a dozen times over the phone, email or in person, add them to your child care handbook and share it with families right away so they know what to expect. (You’ll find more information about building this handbook in the next section.) You can also create an FAQ page on your website or include answers to common questions in a Welcome email.
Move Your Child Care Enrollment Process Online
Enrolling a new child often means printing and receiving forms, in-person visits to verify information and a certain amount of back and forth with families. Instead of dealing with that, move the entire process online so parents can take their time and complete the process from home.
Online enrollment is also a big time-saver for your child care center staff. Moving process online allows your staff to review submitted information right away and approve enrollment quickly. If you partner with a child care management system that allows you to store documents online as well as print them on demand, you’re guaranteed to comply federal regulations and retention schedules.
Offering a user-friendly online enrollment process also helps you make a better impression with your families. After all, you don’t want your first few interactions with new parents to be back-and-forth emails about missing fields or messy handwriting!
You can find enrollment software that simply handles the forms, but that’s not enough to make a difference. Streamlining your child care program enrollment means partnering with a system that can handle the entire process, from collecting and saving child information to accepting payment and handling schedules.
Look for a child care enrollment system that offers custom enrollment forms and manages family records, such as Smartcare. Keeping everything in one place makes it simple to find information when it’s needed, make updates in the future, track attendance, handle billing and more.
Creating the Right Enrollment Policy for Child Care
Creating enrollment policy for child care programs might sound time consuming, but it is necessary. Take the time to develop strong child care policies that meet parent expectations. Even if you’re a well-established child care professional with years of experience behind you, it’s still a good idea to regularly review your policies. Consider creating and updating policies based on questions you’ve received from parents in the past. For example, if you frequently get questions about wait lists, make sure you have a clear policy for it.
How Will Your Center Handle Child Care Enrollment?
Your child care enrollment policy will need to include more than just information about returning registration forms. Families will also need to know about your center’s…
Wait list process.
Child eligibility for care.
Discounts for families with multiple children.
Child care availability.
Priority enrollment options.
Process for withdrawing from care.
Consider your rates and budget, as well as family retention, when putting this child care enrollment policy together. For example, you could offer to bill by family instead of per child. Or you could offer priority enrollment for families with a child already enrolled in your program.
Your enrollment policy can affect whether families stick with you or go to a competitor with better options. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to increase enrollment in your child care center.
Put Together a Child Care Policy Handbook
Creating a physical and digital handbook of your child care center’s policies is a great idea. You can use this handbook to set clear expectations about how your center operates and what families can expect while their child is in your care.
Your child care handbook should include your center’s policies as well as information about your mission and program. Here is a list of items you should include in your child care policy handbook:
A daily schedule, so parents know what their child will be doing at any given time.
Behavior management and codes of conduct for children and staff.
Health and safety procedures to comply with state and federal regulations.
Child care certifications.
Depending on what your child care center offers, you can also include meal and nutrition offerings and field trip policies.
Train Staff on Child Care Enrollment Policies
Staff members who understand your center’s policies can answer enrollment questions and correct misunderstandings for both current and prospective families. You can get in front of any misinformation or missed opportunity by making sure staff are well-versed on your center’s enrollment policies.
Reserve time during regular staff meetings to go over policies, especially if you have a new or recently updated one. This is the time to discuss questions parents might have, how to apply certain policies or recommend updates to existing policies.
Improving Child Care Billing
Handling billing is a fundamental aspect of managing a child care center. It is also one of your more tedious, time-consuming tasks. By establishing clear policies and taking the time to set expectations with enrolling families, you can cut back on hours spent tracking down payments.
Create Clear Child Care Billing Policies
As a child care professional, you know billing is never straightforward. Families considering enrollment at your daycare center will want to know the typical billing information, such as frequency and rates. (For more guidance on setting your child care rates, check out this article here.)
But families will also want to know how your center handles:
Make sure your center decides how to assess and track late pick-up fees, whether to provide discounts for families with multiple children and issue refunds. And, of course, make sure you’re using a billing system that makes it easy to apply those fees or discounts to invoices.
When you’re clear and up-front about your billing policies, families will feel comfortable knowing there won’t be any unexpected fees or price changes after enrolling. Plus, you’ll be able to stand out from competitors who don’t offer their pricing ahead of time, which can help increase enrollment in your child care center.
Make Your Child Care Billing Process More Convenient
Paying for child care should be as easy as paying any other bill. Make the process simple for your parents by accepting multiple payment options, including cash, checks, credit and debit cards.
Allow families to pay online for enrollment fees, program materials, snacks, field trips and anything else. When it’s convenient for parents to pay, collecting fees on time is much easier.
Make sure you’re partnering with a child care enrollment system that can process payments (and discounts) as well as track child care subsidies. It’s also a good idea to offer autopay, so families won’t need to think about manually paying bills each week, month, quarter or year.
Offer Flexible Billing Options for Every Type of Family
Every family is different, which means many families will need to make payments in different ways. Make sure you offer flexible options for parents splitting payments or switching payment frequency and for families receiving subsidies from other organizations. Don’t make it more difficult to set these payment options up, or you risk alienating families and causing issues between staff and families.
Here are a few recommendations for handling these unique situations:
Have separate child care billing agreements for each parent so you can track payments separately.
Offer families the option to choose how they split payment.
Setting up a flexible billing process will make enrollment so much smoother. Families will be able to sail through the enrollment process without needing to contact staff about specific payment needs. Some child care management systems can help manage unique billing situations as well as assisting with tracking payments, automating reminders and creating tax statements.
How to Increase Enrollment in Your Daycare
Many child care centers struggle with the question, “How do I attract parents to my daycare?” The problem is, marketing your center can feel like a full-time job on top of caring for your children. But don’t worry, we’ve provided a few tips that explain how to increase enrollment in daycare.
Be Everywhere to Attract Parents to Your daycare!
Families won’t know about your daycare if they’ve never heard about it. You will need to create a daycare advertising plan to increase enrollment. Use multiple communication channels to connect with families, including social media, flyers and newspaper ads.
Reach out to school districts in your community as well. Some schools might let you share flyers with daycare teachers and parents, or even advertise on their website. Schools with before and after school care likely know families with children too young to participate yet, making them great candidates for your center.
Offer Incentives to Increase Your Child Care Enrollment
Make your program more competitive and attractive by offering financial incentives to families. Depending on what you can afford, offer special pricing, discounts or even gift cards. Consider offering a year at a lower rate or waiving the registration fee. You can also offer families special pricing for enrolling multiple children.
As much as you want to attract new parents to your daycare, you also need to keep current families happy. Here are a few ideas for making sure families return year after year:
Offer a free month of daycare or a discount at the time of re-enrollment.
Give a discount for families with multiple children enrolled.
Offer priority enrollment for your families with additional children who will be eligible to enroll in the future.
Keep Track of Prospective Families
Do you know how your enrolling families found out about your center? Are you keeping track of where you’re attracting families from? Understanding which outreach efforts are most effective will allow you to prioritize your time. If most families hear about your daycare from open houses and community events, focus your marketing efforts (and dollars) in those areas.
Make sure you’re regularly reaching out to prospective families. When a family is about to welcome a new child and is looking for a daycare for the future, make sure they don’t forget about you. Don’t let any of these prospective families fall off your radar!
Doing all of this manually is a lot of work, though. Instead, use child care software with lead management to keep track of these families. Find a system that allows you to keep notes and add statuses to families so you can clearly see where they’re at in the decision process.
Get the Child Care Enrollment Tools You Need!
Building a child care enrollment process that is fast, easy and stress-free can feel like a monumental task. But it’s one worth undertaking. Having a great process gives enrolling families a positive experience from day one, which is important in developing a long-term relationship with them.
By following our guidance, your child care center will be set up for success. You’ll be ready to set clear expectations from the start, provide detailed policies to keep families in the know, offer flexible billing options to include everyone and attract parents to your child care center.
To further streamline your child care enrollment process, partner with a child care management software that can take much of this administrative work off your hands.
Vanco’s Smartcare is a child care administration software designed to simplify the process of managing your program. Smartcare allows you to move enrollment online, securely store data, automate billing, accept payments and communicate with parents – all from one comprehensive platform.
Request a demo today to see how Smartcare can transform your child care center and allow you to become an enrollment master.
Not every daycare is the same, and they all offer a different experience. It’s not just about having fun activities or providing great learning opportunities. It is also about how you interact with your customers (whether they be parents or children).
The best daycares have a combination of things that make them stand out. For example, a daycare with closed doors and windows offers a different experience. Vividly different from one where the children can go outside anytime they want.
A daycare center is not always going to be perfect for everyone. But by focusing on the three aspects below, it’s easier to create an environment that will appeal more than others:
how you interact with your customers.
what type of environment you offer (indoors or outdoors).
variety in activities.
Focusing on these three aspects, will generate positive word of mouth for your daycare, and the most powerful tool at the disposal of any daycare is word-of-mouth marketing.
Even though a daycare cannot directly affect the outcome of each parental referral, they can certainly steer it in a positive direction. This returns to how you present your service, what environment you provide and how you interact with the children/parents.
Let’s move on to some daycare promotion ideas. These will ensure that you are ready to optimize your daycare for growth and success.
How Do I Make My Daycare Stand Out: Daycare Interactions
One of the most potent opportunities for making your daycare stand out is to improve your interactions with all involved. As a social-first business, interactions lead to how people think of your service.
This means improving in all areas: responsiveness, friendliness, accessibility and more. It is important to commit time and effort to reinforce these interactions as a vital part of your daycare’s value proposition by telling the story behind them on social media.
In addition, one way you can take advantage of opportunities for word-of-mouth marketing is through offering an improved level of customer service in person or over phone/email; this will often lead to referrals from satisfied customers who are happy with how they were treated (even if their child was not enrolled).
It also helps when hiring a new childcare team who exemplify the qualities outlined above – someone with good people skills will do well here! This may allow for a more effective training experience as well.
Just as important, if not more important for the development of the child is the environment in which he spends his time. By providing an environment where children feel comfortable, cared for and challenged, you ensure they stay in your daycare.
The environment should not be constant either. By changing the environment with indoor/outdoor integrations and themed changes, you will ensure children receive the change and variety needed to flourish.
The daycare should also not only provide a safe and stimulating environment for play, but one that will help them deal with frustration or anger, as well as low self-esteem issues. With this in mind, it is important to make sure there are places where they can go when they need space from others; if they feel like an outsider because they don’t know how to socialize with children their age or just want time alone by themselves.
By providing these three things – integral safety, stimulation, and individualized care – you will give children the best possible start on their way to adulthood.
How Do I Attract Parents to My Daycare: Daycare Service
If you’re just an intermediary who holds the child for a while and then releases them back to the parents, you’ll have limited success attracting parents to your daycare.
The best way to stand out as a daycare is to build a relationship with the parents and children. You must become an integral part of their life so they know they can count on you when necessary.
To tailor your service, identify why you provide daycare services in the first place. What services can you provide that others cannot? For instance, if you’re bilingual and offer a second-language immersion program to children of all ages, that stands out.
Other ways to stand out in terms of service are to offer a more structured environment or to have smaller ratios of children per caregiver.
You can also work on attracting the best type of child for your daycare, as well as building a relationship with them and their parents before they start attending your facility.
The Technical Approach to Making Your Daycare Better
The previous pillars had to do with seamless and essential aspects of making your daycare stand out. The following will cover the more technical approach to optimizing your daycare experience as a whole. This will help promote your business online, build your brand image, and most importantly, answer the question, “How do I attract parents to my daycare?”
As a daycare, your brand story should be about the company’s family-friendly atmosphere, which is why it would be advantageous to promote your daycare as a place where children can grow and learn in an environment that they are comfortable with.
Another important aspect of developing this story is what sets you apart from other daycares?
This part of the brand story should focus on any factors that make your facility different than others. Think about how many daycare teachers or classrooms there are at your location.
What kind of curriculum does your center have? All these things will help set you apart from other places, so include them when writing out this section of the branding process.
There are a lot of things to consider when establishing your daycare and these will help you come up with an effective story. Remember that this should be short, sweet, and easy to understand for people who might not know much about the caregiving industry.
Build An Optimized Website
Next, as a face-to-face business, you still need to have an online presence. Creating social media pages will help, but you need to do more. As a daycare center, you must have a well-optimized website that can be used by anyone.
Your daycare website should have all the information a parent would want to know before choosing your center. They should be able to find out what you offer and see pictures of their potential new daycare space.
You might also have a blog on the website, which is not only an effective way for parents who are currently enrolled in your program or considering it more to learn about how you manage things like discipline and education but can help with SEO as well.
Benchmarking other websites will give you inspiration as to design and content. Check out several websites to find ones you feel make a strong case for parents to sign up.
Social Media Presence
In addition to having an optimized website, your daycare center should be active on social media. This is important for parental engagement and helps provide a face to the story.
Without social media, the referrals will have to purely rely on word-of-mouth. Whereas, with social media, they can check you out and verify the story to their own satisfaction.
Social media for daycares should be created and managed with care. To establish a presence, posts should be frequent but not too frequent that they become spammy or overwhelming.
It’s also imperative for the daycare center’s social media pages to be consistent in tone.
The best way to maintain consistency is by using an account manager who can post on behalf of the organization while staying true to its narrative voice.
If you run a daycare with a tight budget, you can manage the social media pages on your own. If you go this route, you should learn as much as possible about a social media platform before you dive in. And it’s important to remember, that when it comes to social media marketing, it’s about quality more than quantity. Start with one or two platforms and expand your efforts later. Don’t spread yourself too thin by creating a profile on every platform.
Become A Thought-Leader
Aside from providing daycare, you can help educate and guide parents in everyday life. By joining Facebook groups, writing blog posts and engaging in discussions, you will start to build a reputation. In the daycare industry, reputation is the most critical aspect of survival.
To become a thought-leader in the daycare sector, you must first educate yourself. Seek out other daycare centers, talk to them about their successes and failures, and learn what they have done well in terms of marketing.
The more interviews you do with experts in the industry, the better prepared you will be for your own interviews as people start recognizing you as an expert too.
Some of the ways you can secure your position as a thought-leader are:
Blogging is one of the best ways to reach a large audience and establish your expertise.
Videos are an excellent way to share your knowledge and promote your brand.
Speaking at industry conferences, seminars, or other events.
These are just some examples of what you can implement in your thought-leading strategy. The only limitation is your creativity.
Search Engine Optimization
In terms of standing out in the digital world, your best bet as a daycare center is search engine optimization (SEO). SEO will help you garner attention by showing up on the first pages of search results, but also by improving your overall trust factor and domain rating on the web.
Some of the best ways for a daycare center to use SEO is to do the following:
Optimize your website for search engines.
Make it easier to find you with keywords and key phrases.
Use keywords in domain names, meta descriptions, title tags and headers.
Build links from other related sites on high-ranking pages that point back to yours.
This will help increase the traffic and visibility of your site as well as improving its trustworthiness.
The best way to get started is by doing an audit of all current SEO practices so that they can be improved upon or corrected if necessary before moving forward with additional initiatives.
A professional daycare center consultant will be able to do this for you quickly and efficiently at a price that won’t break the bank! However, SEO can easily be done by anybody, given that they do their research and are not afraid to experiment.
Incentives, Offers, Discounts
Daycare centers are expected to be predictable, but you can break the mold. Be unpredictable. Offer discounts, incentives, and even freebies to your loyal customers. Offer incentives for referrals from a rewards program where the customer gets points each time they refer someone else who becomes a customer too.
Create offers that are only available on certain days or times of the year. This will give people something extra special to look forward to when they choose your daycare center over another one!
Encourage parents by giving them specific reasons why their child should attend your daycare instead of all the other ones in town.
Incentives have to be natural. After all, you’re not selling a subscription to a magazine. You’re selling a caring, supportive, and all-inclusive environment for somebody’s child.
You could host themed events, birthday parties, holiday gatherings, and much more. The sky is the limit.
By hosting events, your daycare center becomes a community center for all ages. Events are a great way to bring in new families and catch the eye of potential parents that would otherwise not have been interested.
You don’t have to host events exclusively for the children. Think about the parents too. If the kids know each other, it’s only natural that the parents know each other as well. Hosting events makes you an authority, showing that you know what you’re doing and you’re doing it well.
By hosting events for the community outside of those who use your services, you show that you are there for everybody. When the children outgrow your daycare center, you can still be an integral part of their life by hosting sports events, get-togethers and much more.
Finally, you want to ensure you are always available for visitations. Parents might want to check in on their children without notice. Your service must be equally as good when the parents are there and when they are not. Visitations will help you see what needs to be improved for your daycare center to stand out from the rest.
Providing a variety of activities can attract people who might normally stay away, so offer them something new every time- like cooking or pottery classes!
Classes should have an end goal but also present different challenges along the way so everyone is engaged at their own pace. People love feeling accomplished with tasks. It makes them feel needed and important, encouraging retention on behalf of both customers and employees.
Get people talking about what you do best. Showcase your daycare’s successes in the community, whether it be through a parade float or advertising campaigns.
Always remember that marketing is all about transparency. If someone asks for an itemized list of fees and prices, give them one! Transparency builds trustworthiness so make sure any information they seek is presented accurately with no hidden agendas or surprises waiting at the door.
The more people feel like they can rely on your center as a place where children are safe while parents work towards bettering themselves, the chances are other families will want to come back time and time again.
Innovations in Industry
Keep an eye out for any innovations in the industry that might interest your parents and try to stay ahead of the curve with these changes so you can offer them as soon as possible! It is important not only to keep up with what’s happening within childcare but also outside it, such as if a certain type of toy becomes popular or more vegetables are being added into children’s diets.
Evaluate your competitors regularly; this will make sure you know who they are, how they operate, and what sets them apart from you in a way that would entice potential customers away from their business. Keep on top of social media trends by reviewing sources like Mashable or BuzzFeed since both those sites post content about the latest social media innovations.
Examine your marketing strategy and see what you can do to make it more effective. Your marketing strategy should be based on a philosophy of target-specific, measurable results that are continuously measured against predetermined benchmarks for success.
Your Daycare A Star Among Others
Now that you know the answer to the question of “how do I make my daycare stand out”, you are well on your way to do so. Your daycare is no longer going to be a common name among the many others.
Your daycare will stand out. It will attract the parents and children that deserve your service. This is the consequence of the upcoming effort you will place into the growth and optimization of your branded daycare.
Get the Secrets to Increasing Child Care Enrollment
Our team researched what the most successful child care programs are doing to grow enrollment. Discover what we found and how your program can replicate their successes.Download our free guide.