Don’t lose campers – Waitlist them!

Camp registration season is just starting and it’s probably safe to say that you’re all with a great online camp registration system that will make the process for you and your campers a breeze. If you have not selected a camp registration software it is high time to do it since you are a little late to the game. This post, this post, and this eBook about selecting a great registration software has everything you need to help you in choosing the right software fit for your camp.

For those of you that are already set with a camp registration software, it’s time to optimize it in order to get the best use possible out of it. In this post I will be talking about summer camp waitlist strategies and why it is really important that your camp management software have this ability built in.

I am a parent to two wonderful children, so I know how complicated it is to plan their summer and make sure that everything falls right in place. You maybe have a family vacation, visits from grandparents, the type of sessions you kid wants to go to and then there is that little thing called “work” you need to do in between. So once you have selected the camp you want your kids to attend and are sitting down to register your wonderful kids to said camp, you need everything to fall into place. You need the weeks you need to be available and you need the themes of the weeks to be those that you know your kid will love. This is where you, the camp administrator, come in. You have setup a great online camp registration software so that your parents can register their kids really easily, at any time of day. But what might happen is that the parents go in and want to register their child for the first two weeks of July and a LEGO theme camp (that his kid loved last year) and … disappointment! The session is full and is presenting a “sold out” message. What will the parent do?

There are two main options here:

  1. They will select a different theme or time. The chances of this happening are about 27.5% according to the numbers we see from registering 2.9 million people in 2015.
  2. They will open a new tab and start looking for a camp that has a LEGO theme for the first two weeks of July. The chances of that happening is 58.2% – not good for you!

So as you can see, even though you have sold out one of your sessions you might lose a family that has been a part of your camp family for a long time. The solution? Allow people to put themselves on a waitlist! From our numbers it seems that from the people that might look elsewhere, 45.7% of them stick with you, if you offer a waitlist option. They will register their kids to another session and will waitlist themselves for the session they really want. Either way you win!

So waitlists help you keep your most loyal families on board even if they do not find exactly what they need. There are two additional upsides to allowing waitlists:

  1. You really make sure that your camp is full, which is essential for your bottom line.
  2. You have the option to see that there is a very popular week or specific session as opposed to a different one and you can open another group for that session and close the one that is not doing so well. It basically gives you information about how to optimize what you are offering and offer up to your community exactly what they want!

Why you should waitlist and why your software should give you this option!

Waitlists will make sure your camp is really full (not only on paper).

We all know that when someone says they are coming, most of the time they do. But to ensure you fill your programs to 100% capacity, offering a waitlist will ensure you have a pool of campers to fill a spot that opens up. This means you will actually fill up your session as opposed to “filling it up on paper”.

Families are complicated units. We all know that. Kids are unpredictable and a lot happens from the registration done in February for a camp that takes place in July. This is why you sometimes get cancellations. It is just part of being in the camp business. So this specific situation does not fall under the “unpredictable” since you pretty much know it is going to happen. If it happens a lot, you could be in a situation where suddenly your camp financials fall into the red zone, which is really bad. Hence the “waitlist option”! As people cancel and fall out, the waitlist option allows you to offer the vacant place to the people that have already told you they really really want to take that spot. And just like magic the “unpredictable” is not a problem anymore since you know exactly what you need to do to minimize it. Missing out on families who want to attend your session and can attend because you don’t hold a spot for them should someone drop out is allowing money to walk out the door!

Waitlists allow you to be agile and know your audience.

Let’s say each of your sessions can take 40 spots. Let’s also say that in the last 3 years you have filled out nearly all of your sessions. So you know which sessions register well and which don’t. Use this information to your advantage! But wait, are you really giving your audience what they really want? Is the data regarding sessions that are full and not full really the whole picture? I know you saw this coming… No, it’s not!

When changing around your camp offering based on full sessions and unpopular sessions you are optimizing based on “negative data”. This means you are optimizing on what people do not like rather than optimizing to give them what they do like. Huh? Ok, let me explain: let’s say you were able to know that your LEGO session that fills up every year with 40 campers can actually be a 120 camper session. You would change that around and either add more sessions for LEGO or, if you have limited space and resources, would cancel the sessions that fill up to 90% and move the resources to the LEGO session, right? But why “let’s say”? You can actually know this information very easily with the right software! Just enable waitlisting and then you will really know what people are looking for and how you should be changing things around that gives parents and campers what they want, and gets you filling up sessions and maximizing your profits! This is “positive data” since it tells you what people really want and not what they do not want. One little change, a world of difference.

Waitlisting: How to do it right!

Now I’m going to focus on the best way to set up your waitlist and how it should work behind the scenes with your registration software. Before I go into the ins and outs of how to setup a waitlist correctly, I will state that there are three preconditions that need happen in order for waitlisting to succeed:

  1. You need to have an integrated automatic payment system set up.
  2. You need to ensure campers are fully registered before they can waitlist for a session.
  3. You are fully paid by the time camp starts.

Now let’s get down to business 🙂

Registration Fees

The first thing you need to have when allowing waitlisting is for people to pay some sort of registration fee. The fee can automatically go towards the actual payment of the camp but the idea is that when people order something they also pay something. Why? Since this will first allow you to know they are serious and second (and more important) you will have their payment method on file (if you are using the right camp registration software) and that together with the ability to auto pay will lower the number of fallouts you will have.

As always, the whole point of all this automation stuff is to give you more time to build your camp and less time on the admin side of things, while making sure your business is running smoothly and admin tasks are handled efficiently and professionally! Your registration process is both your onboarding process and your storefront, so making this process intuitive, personalized and as automated as possible benefits both you and your campers!

Having a waitlist for camp sessions goes hand in hand with a registration fee. I’ve written before about the pros and cons of requiring a registration fee or deposit for camp. Charging a deposit or registration fee is a good way to ensure that campers who sign up will actually come. Having people drop out right before camp starts, without giving you time to find a replacement can hurt your bottom line. And it means that campers who could have come and had a great summer with you, are left out because you were holding a spot for someone who gave it up! Not only does charging a registration fee mean you will register more serious campers who are truly planning on attending, it always means that you can cover the small extra effort of finding another camper to replace the cancellation.

In general, I recommend charging a registration fee because your pool of applicants will be that much stronger and more committed. Make sure that your policy for refunding fees is clear on your website. If someone pays a registration fee but is waitlisted and ultimately doesn’t get in, make sure they are refunded ASAP. You can also consider making the registration fee mandatory ONLY for those who wait list to pay a registration fee so you only get high quality waitlisters (the correct software will allow you to do that).

Waitlisting Functions in Your Software.

Looking for a great registration software for your camp is a lot of work. I even wrote an entire eBook all about how to evaluate a registration software when you’re in the market for one, since there is so much to consider.

If you are a camp, and waitlisting is something you do – make sure that you include this in your wishlist when looking for online camp software.

For example, with Regpack’s software, we allow 2 types of waitlist options, for orders and for actually paid units. Anyone who wants to sign up for a session, but can’t because it’s full, can waitlist. When you then have a spot open up, you can view your waitlist and evaluate all campers on it – who has paid, when they registered to the waitlist, etc and decide who you will give the spot to. You can prioritize those who paid a registration fee, completed all or most of their application,etc. This is just another way for you to make sure you are registering people who ACTUALLY want to come, and of course who will pay in full for your camp!

Auto-Pay: Ensuring You Get Paid On-Time.

When we talk about waitlisting as a great tool to ensure you fill your programs and get paid on time, part of this picture is having an auto-pay function in your camp management software. It’s kind of the cherry on top of this cake when it comes to making your registration process smooth for everyone – registrants and waitlisters alike!

When anyone signs up for or waitlists for a session, and if they are paying a registration fee, you can give them the option to auto-pay for the program using the same (or different!) payment method. Offering a few different payment options is even better, for instance one time payment, installments, etc. Auto-pay will then charge automatically each applicant the amount they selected on the date(s) they selected. This means you are always getting paid on time, and you are making the process of registering that much easier for your families, since they don’t have to remember to come back in and pay every time a payment is due and you don’t have to waste time annoying them with payment reminders!

Auto-pay comes in handy when you have a waitlisted applicant who moves into the program when a spot becomes available. If you’ve already had them sign up for auto-pay when they waitlist, when their status changes from wait list to participant, their payment method will be charged automatically – which means you not only filled a vacant spot, but you were paid for it too! And no one lifted a finger! Your software did all the work for you!


People HATE filling out forms, so automating the waitlist and payment process is good business sense. It means you can maximize the enrollment and profit from your event or program, and the process to enroll and pay for your applicants is simple and hassle free. A waitlisted applicant who gets a spot, doesn’t have to remember to go and pay by the due date because the software has allowed them to be charged automatically.

Streamlining registration and automating every aspect of the process that can be automated allows you as a camp to focus on your programs and activities for upcoming sessions, and not on the mundane admin tasks like shuffling waitlists, refunding registration fees and tracking down payments.

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About The Author
Asaf Darash
CEO and Founder of Regpack

Asaf, Founder and CEO of Regpack, has extensive experience as an entrepreneur and investor. Asaf has built 3 successful companies to date, all with an exit plan or that have stayed in profitability and are still functional. Asaf specializes in product development for the web, team building and in bringing a company from concept to an actualized unit that is profitable.

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