COVID-19 Childcare Business Survival Guide – Resources for Communication

COVID-19 Childcare Business Survival Guide – Resources for Communication

Parent and family communication has always been important in the Childcare and Early Education business, but now during these unprecedented times during the COVID-19 pandemic it has become even more essential that you keep the lines of communication open with your families.

Whether the communication be in regard to social interactions, virtual learning, community resources, reopening updates, etc. all of these are important as we navigate through this time together. We have put together a list of communication tools that can help you meet these new communication needs during these times with some suggested uses for each one.

 

Communication Tools Within the Smartcare System:

 

Email: Smartcare’s Messaging Feature

Smartcare’s built in messaging feature is great for sending email updates for a variety of reasons. These emails can be sent to all families and employees for center wide updates or filtered to include certain segments depending on the audience that you are targeting.

If you are continuing virtual classes and assignments, you can use email to explain how the virtual learning process will work. Email can also be used to communicate resources available in your community that may be useful or needed during this time. Be sure to add any social media links such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. in your email signature.  These are just a few examples of how you can utilize Smartcare’s built-in messaging feature.

Text Messaging: Smartcare’s SMS (text) Feature

Your childcare center can utilize Smartcare’s text messaging feature to send reminders to families to check their email, announce reopening dates, virtual meetings/events, etc. Similar to the email feature above you can also filter which segments receive these text messages. Note: There is a per message per recipient fee for using this feature.

If you need more information regarding using either of these Smartcare features please refer to the Smartcare Center Web User Guide, our Help & Resource Center, or reach out to your CSM or our dedicated Support Team at by email at support@smartcare.com or by phone at 844-SMARTER (844-762-7837).

For more in depth ideas on how to use Smartcare’s messaging and SMS features, check out this blog.

Additional Communication Tools:

Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc

Utilize your social media platforms to encourage engagement with your families, employees, and students. Create posts containing updates, community resources, virtual events, photos, student spotlight, etc. You can also make videos, upload them to YouTube, and share on your social media accounts to keep your families and employees updated and engaged.

Virtual Meeting Rooms: Zoom, GoToMeeting, Join.Me, etc

Virtual meeting rooms are a great tool and can be used several different ways during this time. If you are offering virtual learning you can use them as virtual classes for your students. You can also use them for virtual office hours for parents and/or employees that have questions or concerns while your center is closed. You may choose to schedule virtual events such as family trivia night, virtual class parties, virtual snack time, etc. Note: Many of these third party companies require a monthly subscription fee.

These are just a few examples of features and tools that you can use, the possibilities are endless when it comes to communicating and staying engaged with your families and employees during this time.

 

COVID-19 Business Survival Guide – Recharge with Family Time

COVID-19 Business Survival Guide – Recharge with Family Time

With social distancing being the new normal during the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone is starting to feel the strain of not being with their loved ones and family at this time. Whether you have adult children who are social distancing with their own families, or friends and co-workers you use to see every day, we are all trying to find ways to stay connected. This is the time to come up with some creative ways to keep in contact and have fun with it! Whether it is group texts or video conferences, here are some ideas to make it fun.

 

Photo Scavenger Hunt

 

Start a group text and designate a ‘host’. The host will put together a list of items for everyone to find around the house and decide how much time you have to find the items. You can modify the list to fit the age group. For the younger group, you can list easy items (a plate, an animal, etc.).

 

For the older crowd, you can use ideas like a selfie with a paper hat. You can also do a magazine/newspaper scavenger hunt. Make a list of items (man with a beard, red lipstick) and have everyone take a picture of the item in the magazine/newspaper. Once you have your pictures, use a collage app on your phone to put the pictures together and send them to the group chat. The first person to find the most items wins!

 

 

Family Dinner – Video Conference Style

 

Pick a day for your family to eat together, during a video conference! Decide on a day and a meal and start the video conference! You can cook together and then eat together. It’s a way to get the family to spend some special time together, without being together.

 

Family Game Night

 

Using video conferencing or a video chat, you can have a family game night with card or dice games. For example, using games like Yahtzee or Farkle, you can set up a video conference and play the games together. Use games that do not require everyone to be in the same space. A game of Monopoly would not work well in this situation. You can even karaoke together!

 

Take a walk together

 

Even if it is just a walk around the corner, you can video chat with your family, while getting some fresh air. You can use this opportunity to play another quick scavenger hunt game.

 

We do not know how long we will have to social distance, but we can only try to make the best of it and have some fun. Please remember if you are going out, protect yourself and others and keep your distance!

COVID-19 Business Survival Guide –  Marketing my Childcare Business

COVID-19 Business Survival Guide – Marketing my Childcare Business

During this unprecedented time, many childcare facilities are unsure about the future. This series of blogs covers ways to help our audience navigate this confusing time. Below you’ll find tips for marketing your childcare business and building an audience so that when things go back to normal, you can bounce back quickly!

It may feel like in a time of crisis, marketing your business is a low priority, as you switch gears and focus on surviving. Many childcare businesses are seeing a hit to revenue, whether you’ve had to close your doors, or have lost a number of children who are now at home for various reasons.

There are many ways to reach out and be helpful to your community and build your business as well. By keeping top of mind with potential students and providing helpful resources and tips during this time, you’ll be the first choice for many when it comes time for children currently at home to head back to care. Here are some of our favorite ideas for engaging and building an audience during this time:

Be Helpful

Posting helpful resources and tips is a great way to engage with people on social media. Brands that focus on helping and not just selling with their marketing efforts consistently see a larger social media audience and better engagement with their content. By reaching more people, you’re getting in front of more prospective parents and you’re handing out helpful content. It’s a win-win.

Not sure where to start? Check out this list we compiled with free educational resources.

 

Get Social

People are getting increasingly creative with how they are connecting on social media. Virtual workouts or happy hours are our new norm. How can childcare get involved?

Consider doing activities or projects that you open up to the larger community via Zoom or Skype. Then, children who would otherwise be doing schoolwork at home can get involved with their peers.

Many businesses are offering (or selling) products via curbside pickup. Schools and childcare providers can offer activity kits or homework packets. Have parents call ahead and set up a pickup time with you, so you can meet them at their car.

 

Pre-sell Offers or Host Contests

Consider offering discounted tuition or programs for parents who enroll during this time, even for future dates. This can be a great incentive to boost your enrollment.  Another fun option is running a contest, where the winner receives discounted or free tuition.

A great example is of Dominic Michael Salon, out of St. Louis. They are running a “Quarantine Roots” competition. Send photos of your roots to them by tagging them and using a specific hashtag. Then, they award the winner 3 months of color treatments.

How about a ‘Homeschool Fail’ contest for all of those parents who are homeschooling for the first time? Not only would this create some super funny content but can be a great way to make prospective families aware of your facility.

We are all feeling out of sorts right now and small business owners most of all. Hopefully, with these tips, your childcare business will not only survive this crazy time but thrive when things get back to “normal.”

COVID-19 Business Survival Guide – How Can my Childcare Business Stay Connected to Parents and Teachers?

COVID-19 Business Survival Guide – How Can my Childcare Business Stay Connected to Parents and Teachers?

With school closures throughout the country, Early Learning and Childcare is no exception to the new normal of social distancing in the wake of COVID-19.  This can leave us feeling isolated, lonely and overwhelmed, which is why it is important to stay connected to your families and staff, perhaps now more than ever.

With our routine face-to-face interactions currently on pause, we are all turning to other modes of communication to stay connected.  Smartcare’s messaging functionality can help by making it easy to reach your families and staff via mass email and text messaging.

Here are some suggested topics to stay connected with parents and teachers:

  • Confirmed cases / exposure to coronavirus
  • Closure notifications
  • Closure extensions
  • Planned re-opening dates
  • Availability of emergency care for essential workers
  • Billing impact for families
  • Payroll impact for employees
  • Accessing meals for those who qualify for free & reduced
  • Facility sanitizing efforts
  • Accessing activities to help keep children engaged at home

 

Outside of all the critical details and updates, your families and staff will undoubtedly appreciate you checking in, saying hello and letting them know you miss them and that you can’t wait to welcome them back when it is deemed safe to do so.  Whether you are distributing critical information or simply sharing a virtual smile or hug, it’s only a few clicks away with Smartcare.

You may find yourself asking “should I use email, text or both?”.  To some degree, this is a matter of personal preference, or what you’ve found to be the preference of your clients (if you’ve been fortunate enough to identify the majority population).

 

Here are some things to consider and guide you:

  • Text messaging tends to be delivered and opened / read faster than email. If your message is both urgent and brief, text is sure to be effective; a good example is a school closure notification.
  • If your message is less urgent in nature &/or requires providing a greater amount of detail, email is more efficient; an example might be changes to billing and payment policies and procedures.
  • With both functionalities easily accessible in Smartcare, it never hurts to utilize both; is there such a thing as over communicating, especially in times of crisis?

 

Here are some tips to help you maximize the benefits of messaging in Smartcare:

  1. Identify and reach your target audience. Use of filters, such as classroom or tuition plan, allows you to deliver each message to the intended population (and eliminates cluttering the inbox of others).
  2. Need to drill down deeper? No problem!  Smartcare allows you the flexibility to create and assign ‘custom fields’ or ‘tags’ to identify and reach any audience you need to.  Some relevant examples include:
    • Children enrolled for “emergency care”
    • Children who receive free or reduced meals
  1. Create and utilize templates in Smartcare to help you save time for frequent communications, such as weekly newsletters.

 

Staying connected with your clients is ever more critical during these challenging and changing times; Smartcare is here to help you get the job done with ease and efficiency.

COVID-19 Childcare Business Survival Guide – How to Navigate Rent Hardship

COVID-19 Childcare Business Survival Guide – How to Navigate Rent Hardship

During this unprecedented time, many childcare facilities are unsure about the future. This series of blogs covers ways to help our audience navigate this confusing time. Below you’ll find tips for any childcare facility who might be having a hard time paying rent during this time.

When you experience a hardship that affects your ability to pay rent on time, proactively contacting your landlord to find a solution is usually your best choice.  If you are a conscientious and honest tenant who is temporarily short on funds, most landlords won’t evict you for paying rent a little late as it is expensive to pursue an eviction, and in the current economic environment, landlords may worry about their ability to find another lessor.  Therefore, both you and your landlord have an incentive to find a feasible way to keep you in your current space.  To avoid problems, follow this advice:

 

Try to negotiate reduced or delayed payment

Be upfront with your landlord about your situation. It is difficult and expensive for a landlord to evict you and if they consider you a good tenant, they won’t want to lose you. Some basic steps to take when asking for reduced or delayed payment:

  • Update your budget so that you know when, or under what circumstances, you’ll be able to restart paying rent.
  • Send a letter or email as soon as possible asking for the time you believe you will need.
  • Explain your situation and difficulties. Let them know it is a temporary issue.
  • Provide proof of hardship if possible.
  • If you have the means, offer to pay a portion of the rent on time. Often, landlords have expenses that have to be paid like property taxes or mortgages, so try to help the landlord cover those expenses, while reducing your total expenditure at the same time.
  • Give the landlord a date you can pay the full rent, if you have one, and make sure you keep your promise to pay.
  • If your landlord has a late fee policy, be prepared to pay. You can ask to forgo the late fee if you feel they will be responsive.

 

Do not send a check you know will bounce

No one likes getting a bounced check. Upsetting your landlord is not the only consequence of a bad check. A bank may charge the landlord a fee for a returned check which they will in turn charge you, most likely adding a few dollars for their troubles. You may also be charged a fee for a returned check. Sending a bad check is like not paying rent at all.

 

The problem won’t go away, so don’t ignore it

Like so many other things, honesty is the best policy. If you think your landlord won’t notice you didn’t pay, you would be wrong. Your landlord depends on your rent to cover their own expenses. A landlord will be more forgiving and willing to negotiate if you are upfront and honest with them.

 

Keep in mind that your landlord is under no obligation to work with you on delinquent rent, unless state guidelines in your area have changed during this time. In states that have temporarily halted evictions, there are stipulations that rent still must be paid in full at the end of a certain period, so make sure you read up and know what to expect. If you don’t pay rent on time and in full, your landlord has the right to start legal action to evict you and collect the money.

 

COVID-19 Childcare Business Survival Guide –  How Can My Center Use Small Business Administration Programs?

COVID-19 Childcare Business Survival Guide – How Can My Center Use Small Business Administration Programs?

During this unprecedented time, many childcare facilities are unsure about the future. This series of blogs covers ways to help our audience navigate this confusing time. As childcare centers navigate the events occurring in response to COVID-19, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has multiple programs available to help.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)

In order to qualify for an EIDL, your school must be in an area covered by a disaster declaration.  You can determine if you are in an area covered by a disaster declaration by visiting this site: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Declarations/Index

If you are in a disaster area, then you will need to apply for an EIDL.  You can submit the application here: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/.  This is an online, step-by-step application.

To be prepared, have these items on hand:

  • Your most recent tax return
  • Business formation documents (such as your LLC agreement or articles of incorporation)

Note that the website underwent a major overhaul recently and many users have reported slowness, so be patient.  Expect to hear back from the SBA in about 3 weeks.  If your application is approved, then you will work with the SBA to determine the amount of a loan for which you qualify, up to $2 million, and the terms of repayment.

Advance on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)

After you have completed the EIDL application (https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/) you will also qualify for a $10,000 advance, issued before your application is reviewed, and possibly forgivable at a later date.

You must submit the current application on the EIDL site to qualify for the advance.  If you submitted the older application, you must re-submit an application using the new format to qualify for the advance.  You can determine if you submitted the old application by looking at the PDF copy, in the top right corner of the first page for “OMB No.: 3245-0017” which is the form ID for the old application.  If you are not interested in the advance, and you submitted the old application, then you don’t need to submit the new application.

Payroll Protection Act Loan (PPAL)

As part of the CARES Act, the government has authorized businesses to borrow 250% of their average monthly payroll up to $10 million.  Specifically, you will qualify for 250% of the average monthly payroll expense, including employer paid taxes and employer paid benefits, but excluding any compensation to an employee in a payroll period that exceeds $100,000 on an annualized basis.

Unlike EIDL, the PPAL program will be administered by private banks rather than the SBA.  Private banks that are current “SBA 7a” lenders will most likely participate, and other banks may participate as well.  All banks are currently waiting on the SBA to publish final rules and guidelines for the program.  The SBA has indicated that those rules will be published in the next 1-2 weeks.  After the rules are published, banks will open applications.

Based on reading the law, you can be prepared by having records for your total payroll by employee for the past 12 months as well as the past 12 months mortgage, rent and debt payments.  You will also want to keep records of all payroll payments, by employee, starting now through June 30 to qualify for loan forgiveness. The specific terms of the loan will be finalized with the lender.  We will publish an updated blog post when the SBA publishes its guidelines with more actionable information.

Find Local Assistance

In addition to the information above, the SBA has a tool to find business counsels in your area.  Visit: https://www.sba.gov/local-assistance/find/

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