After-school programs provide children with an opportunity to learn useful skills and form relationships.
But to make them successful, you, as a program director, have to juggle numerous administrative tasks.
That’s where after-school program management software can help.
This software makes it easier for you to run your program and for parents to manage their child’s involvement. It even saves you money in the process.
In this article, we’ll dig deeper into all the benefits after-school program management software can offer you.
- Streamlined Registration Process
- Easier Invoicing
- Integrated Payment Processing
- Improved Attendance Tracking
- Efficient Communication
- In a Digital World, After-School Program Management Software Is a Must
Streamlined Registration Process
Think back with us to a pre-digital world. In such a world, after-school program registration was a lengthy process for both program directors and participants:
- Directors mailed registration forms to participants
- Participants filled them out by hand, then returned them by mail or in person
- Directors checked the forms for accuracy and completeness
- If information was missing, the forms were mailed back to participants for corrections
- Once complete, directors filed the papers in large filing cabinets
- Finally, anytime that information was needed, directors and staff dug out those physical files
As you can see, the process was expensive, inefficient, and error-prone.
Today, you and your participants can complete the entire process online using digital after-school program management software. This saves time and money for everyone involved.
Improved User Experience
First, your participants can fill out registration forms directly on your website.
Users distrust third-party sites, so embedding forms on your website increases the likelihood that participants will complete them.
You can even customize forms with your program’s colors for brand recognition, as the San Francisco Food Bank has done in the example below.
Notice that you can fill out this registration form directly on the Food Bank’s website. You don’t have to click a link to go to a third-party site.
Good online registration forms are also mobile-friendly, allowing participants to register on any device. They also let participants register multiple students at once.
The best registration forms further streamline the registration process by using conditional logic.
That means forms show different prompts to different users, depending on their answers to previous questions.
Such forms are dynamic, adjusting to user input in real-time and showing them only information relevant to them.
It lets you ask prospective users a few initial questions, then branches to follow-up questions based on their responses.
Lastly, it shows participants which programs are best for them and, if they decide to enroll, directs them to the forms they need to complete.
Conditional logic makes participants feel like you designed forms specifically for them, and it’s relatively easy to implement.
Streamlines Administrative Tasks
In addition to creating a better user experience, online registration forms streamline back-end administrative tasks.
Good program management software comes with customizable registration form templates like the one below, so you won’t have to make forms from scratch.
As you can see, Regpack’s customizable registration forms let you choose to ask a participant for their name and mailing address only.
Or you can create in-depth forms that ask for their email, phone number, and more.
And you can make responses to important form fields mandatory so you won’t have to ask participants for missing information.
Customizability is one of the greatest benefits of program management software. That’s one reason why online registration can save you up to 50 hours a month on administrative tasks.
With online registration forms, you also won’t have to decipher messy participant handwriting or hunt down a form that someone put in the wrong filing cabinet.
Instead, registration forms are stored in a central online database where you can easily find them.
An online database also provides a secure way to transmit and store sensitive data.
Knowing their information will be private and secure encourages parents to communicate important details about their child—knowledge that will help you better care for them in your after-school program.
As Jill Purdy of Jackrabbit Care puts it,
While technology may be a new concept for many people in this industry, it can play an essential role in ensuring your business meets high standards in care, comfort, and safety for kids—and families—every day.
That reassurance will draw parents to your program over others.
The return is worth the investment in program management software.
In addition to streamlining the registration process, after-school program management software also simplifies billing.
It does that by automatically emailing invoices to participants at regular intervals. You can customize when and how often the software sends those emails.
Program management software also tracks late payments and late student pick-ups and automatically adds related fees to a participant’s bill.
Here’s an example of what a participant’s bill might look like.
The example dashboard above lists the participant’s total amount due and then breaks that number down.
It tells them when a minimum payment is due, how much that payment is, and identifies the next steps in the process.
Not only is electronic billing cheap and convenient, but it’s also secure—which participants value.
It’s also more accurate than manual billing because it leaves less room for human error.
Jill Purdy, whom we’ve already quoted in the previous section, explains the benefit of accurate billing data:
Accurate data from day one results in better planning, better operations, and happier parents who don’t have to deal with erroneous information. And with integrated systems (including an invoice system), everything is centralized in one place.
If you want to minimize calls from frustrated clients, you need to invest in program management software that will handle billing for you.
Integrated Payment Processing
Not only does program management software make it easier for participants to receive an accurate bill, but it also makes it simpler for them to pay it.
It primarily does that by integrating payments directly into the registration process. That means in addition to registering directly on your website, participants can pay directly on the site.
That’s important because many people don’t trust third-party sites with their payment information.
Integrated payments can increase enrollment rates by 27%. They can also contribute to 29% more registrations, 65% fewer support requests, and a staggering 96% participant satisfaction.
Program management software streamlines payment processing by:
- Sending payment instructions
- Accepting payments from any device
- Automatically applying discounts
- Letting participants pay with any currency
- Letting participants set up automatic payments
- Offering purchase protection
- Providing customer support
- Sending payment confirmation emails
With it, you can also offer participants custom payment plans. These can include staggered payments, monthly payments, or a set number of payments for each program.
The software then helps participants manage the plan by sending due date reminders.
Some program management software companies like Regpack even help you choose payment plans suited to your program.
In addition to helping participants make payments, program management software helps you keep track of those payments.
Since all information is stored in a central database, you can easily access participant records. You can also download payment reports for specific participants.
The best program management software provides in-depth payment data and extracts useful insights from it.
Those insights could be similar to the first chart shown below—a line graph showing how many participants paid during each month and the program’s total monthly income.
Or insights could be in the form of a pie chart similar to the second graphic above, which shows the proportion of participants who paid vs. those who didn’t.
You can use these insights to tweak your registration and payment processes, further increasing conversions.
Program management software is also helpful to you as program director in decreasing the time it takes for funds to become available for your use.
Good program management software like Regpack’s, shown below, does that by accepting payments from any source—credit, debit, or ACH.
Once a participant clicks the blue button above to Submit Payment, the software processes their payment immediately. It then transfers payments directly to your program’s bank account.
Relatedly, choose PCI-2 (payment card industry) compliant software.
Such software meets regulatory standards for businesses that process credit card information—something your participants will want to know.
To summarize everything we’ve discussed so far: program management software optimizes the entire registration and payment process.
Adam Weinger, president of Double the Donation, an organization that helps nonprofits raise money, emphasizes this point in his article on management software:
Keeping a school running smoothly requires overseeing many moving parts and tracking all sorts of data. The right school management software can be both labor- and time-saving, helping you eliminate any unnecessary roadblocks and maximize the efficiency of your efforts.
While his article centers on school management software, the same principle applies to after-school program management software—it helps you, as program director, keep track of the complexity inherent in running a program for kids.
Improved Attendance Tracking
After-school program management software doesn’t just store registration and payment information in its central database—it also stores attendance records.
Without a digital tracking system, recording attendance is a cumbersome process that looks like this:
- You or your staff print rosters
- Parents wait in line to sign the roster at drop-off and pick-up
- Staff check rosters and request any corrections (while parents wait)
- You or your staff go through thick physical files to look up records
Now, you can take attendance by simply scanning a badge or barcode that links directly to your program management software’s database.
The software records drop-off and pick-up dates and times for each participant.
It uses that data to automatically generate invoices and reports on participant activity.
You can see an example of a barcode-based attendance system in the image below.
As you can see, program staff first scans a parent’s ID. The program management software then transmits information about that parent and the date and time into its central database.
You can access the data online or print it.
Last, after-school program management software optimizes both internal and external communication.
Good program management software helps you write and send mass emails and texts to participants.
It stores phone numbers and email addresses in its central database and provides customizable email templates.
The software even tracks which emails you’ve sent to whom and warns you if you accidentally try to send the same email to the same person.
It can also help you send personalized emails by filtering participants into categories.
For example, if you run several programs, you could send a mass email to participants in just one program.
In the OneLXP by Illumnus blog, Shrikant Gangadhar Jadhav points out the importance of communication for any children’s program director:
Every school needs a way to communicate effectively with its parents, and bridging the gap between parents and educators is more important than ever. Technology has helped to make the three-way relationship between learners, parents, and schools a reality.
He makes an important point: relationships are crucial to the success of an after-school program.
Communication, in turn, is crucial to the success of relationships. Program management software helps build relationships by streamlining communication.
Another way program management software makes your external communication more efficient is by sending automatic emails after predetermined triggers.
For example, you could set your software to email all participants in your program any time you make a major change to the program.
You could also have it send a reminder email to participants on a certain date.
Here’s another example from Regpack.
In this example, the program director has set the software to automatically send participants a registration completion reminder email after a callback.
Note the Edit button in the lower right corner, which would allow the director to adjust the email trigger.
Trigger-based emails are another way to make participants feel like you’re by their side throughout the registration and payment process.
Program management software also helps with your internal communication by making it simple to download reports and see data-driven insights about registration, attendance, or payments.
You and your staff can easily pull up the information you need before a meeting, so you’re all on the same page.
In a Digital World, After-School Program Management Software Is a Must
For your after-school program to fulfill its main purpose and provide a nurturing environment for the children, it needs to be run efficiently, and a high-quality management software solution plays an important role in that.
By using after-school program management software to increase efficiency and decrease costs, you ensure a more rewarding experience for yourself, your students, and their parents.
Increased enrollment is the cherry on top.
For those reasons and more, after-school program management software is a worthwhile investment.