Here’s a quick tip: When you’re researching camp management software, ask questions. Ask tons and tons of questions!
Why, you ask? Because camp management platforms are complex. They have bells and whistles, functionalities and features. It can get overwhelming — to the point that you’re not quite sure what a tool can and can’t do.
And as a busy camp administrator, you can’t afford to get to registration season only to find out something you assumed about a particular solution isn’t the reality. (Like, for instance, a platform that only allows manual data migration… The horror!)
Simply stated, questions are your friends. They help you make an informed decision. The right questions can help you avoid buyer’s remorse.
But what exactly should you be asking?
CampMinder’s sales team has heard it all, and they’re always happy to help customers better understand how our software can help you succeed. Yet, a few FAQs tend to bubble up to the surface. Here they are:
1. What’s Registration Like for Campers and Families?
Switching registration systems can be a blessing (if your camp families love it) or it a curse (they don’t).
And that’s why understanding the user experience is so important.
In theory, camp management software should make registration easier for campers and for you. But if registration is a clunky process or not thoroughly explained, the process can get frustratingly difficult for everyone involved.
So, what will registration be like for families?
In a nutshell, camp registration – a common feature of management platforms – allow families to register online, submit forms, and choose sessions. Families create accounts; they add payment info, submit registration and health forms, and enroll in sessions.
The best registration programs make the process fool-proof.
They’ve been designed to deliver a quality user experience – your camp registrants know exactly what to do next and info is easy to find.
Maybe you learn by doing. If so, a more specific question to ask is “Can I demo the software?”
This allows you to test both the platform’s front-end (as a parent would) and the back-end (building your own personalized registration). This is your test drive! You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a spin, and camp software is the same.
2. Can I Really Customize the Platform for My Camp?
What does “customization” really mean? That’s something you should pin down while researching solutions because everyone’s definition is different.
At CampMinder, customization means you have a lot of control over the registration process. You can personalize many of the most important aspects of the registration process. With our software, you can:
- Create Your Forms: Every camp wants to collect different information during registration. That’s something we allow you to do. Create forms built for your camp and ask your own questions.
- Build Out Your Sessions: Does your camp offer multiple sessions? Maybe you have dozens. You need a registration platform that allows you to fine-tune your sessions so that parents can easily choose what works best for their schedules.
- Set Up Discounts and Payments: Have you got early bird discounts? How about savings for siblings or returning campers? Our platform allows you to design payment and discounts that can help foster strong enrollment growth.
- Choose Automatic or Controlled Registration: Do you want parents to automatically enroll their kids? Or would you like a bit more control over the process? CampMinder allows you to set up allow access to enrollment however you see fit.
Customization counts. Make sure your platform allows it.
3. Does the Platform Allow for All Forms of Payment?
How do your parents pay for camp? Credit card? Paypal? Bitcoin?
(OK, probably not bitcoin.)
But camp parents tend to be digitally savvy, and they want a full range of online payment options and choices. That means two things:
- Multiple Methods: Your management solution should allow payment of all types: Credit cards, debit cards, ACH transfers, wires, and PayPal.
- Payment Plans: Registrants want to be able to submit payment on their own schedule, i.e. through installment plans, one-time payments, auto debits, etc.
You don’t want to get pigeon-holed into accepting just a few types of payments, or not having complete control over how you let parents set up their payments.
So, be sure you ask everything you can possibly think up about payments.
4. Is My Data Organized? What Can I Do With It?
A great thing about camp management software: It can help you get organized. In other words, no more filing away forms never to see from them again! When you migrate your data to the platform, it becomes:
- Searchable: Just type in what you’re looking for and the software helps you locate it. Saving you tons and tons of time.
- Shareable: No more emailing files. Your staff can add data — say a report from the nurse’s office — and that data becomes available to you and the administrative team. You share data faster.
- Sortable: Sort data by data, name, status — all of your important contacts, financial data, etc can be sorted with the click of a button.
This accessibility makes you nimbler. You’ll be able to analyze data faster — say compare year-over-year enrollment — generate reports, and utilize your data more quickly.
Here’s an example: You want to send an email to campers who have enrolled in the last month, and who are first-time campers. Before, that list of names might have taken you a couple of hours to compile. Now… you can do it in seconds. Just sort your register list by date, and select the tag for first-time campers. Voila, you’ve got your list.
5. How Easy Is It to Migrate Data?
What do you do with all that existing data you have? Well, all that previous enrollments, health information, camper contacts, parental contacts, your donor profiles, etc is super valuable and it should absolutely come along for the ride.
But how does it get there?
The best camp management platforms allow for smooth migrations. You can import your records — say from Microsoft Excel — and the platform is designed to ingest this data, clean it up, and add it to your database. Some migrations, though, are complex. In these cases, you might need some support for making the transition. So be sure you ask if the software company offers migration support?
CampMinder was designed to accept data from many different sources. And for the complex migration projects, we’re happy to offer support.
6. Can Families Self-Serve Personal Info Changes? Send Documents? E-Sign?
A joy of camp software: You empower parents and families to take care of a lot of the filing work for you. That’s one reason why camp software can help you save so much time!
Many of the tasks that you had to do manually before, can now be processed digitally. Things like:
- Payment Methods — Parents create their own accounts and can select their own payment plan.
- Contact Information — Change of address? That’s something parents can manage through their dashboard.
- Camper Data — When parents enroll a sibling, they can create a new record, with much of their existing data tied to the new record.
See. Camp software makes enrollment easier for everyone — your staff and your campers. Plus, the entire process is digitized: Forms can be sent electronically, they can be signed electronically, and healthcare info from doctors can be received through the system.
7. Is On-Going Support Available?
What happens when you’re in a jam when your scheduling or registration tools aren’t working right? Does your software provider disappear into the night when you need it most?
They shouldn’t. Your software provider should be a long-term partner, always willing to jump in when you need help. They should offer help in many ways.
- Helpdesk: This means a company can troubleshoot problems remotely, helping prevent downtime and keeping you up and running.
- Account Reps: The best companies assign you a rep, who’s your point person about the software.
- Customer Service: Have questions, comments or need some help? Great software companies are available by phone and email 24/7.
CampMinder offers all three support methods. We’re your tech partner!
Conclusion: Questions Are Your Best Friend
When you buy new camp software, you should feel empowered — like you’re a software expert.
That’s why you should have dozens and dozens of questions. Come armed with them and ask away. When the summer comes around and your management tools work like a charm, you’ll be glad you did!