Registration is a magical time of year for camp professionals. Sure, for most, it’s super hectic… There’s a good chance your to-do list feels insurmountable and your inbox is always full.
But even in the whirlwind of pre-camp planning, you know that camp is right around the corner.
Heck, you can probably even smell the campfire, as you prep programs and staff training. And a loop of your favorite camp songs might run endlessly in your head.
Another motivator: The season is full of messages from excited returning campers and camp staff, and you’ll have the chance to welcome your first-time campers.
Sometimes, though, the tinge of excitement in the air gets pushed aside due to the sheer speed at which things move. A solution: Work smarter. Tools like online registration software help free up the time you spend on manual communications and reduce your workload.
Would more a bit more time help quiet some of your camp planning anxieties?
True, even with an aid like camp software in your corner, you’ll still be busy. But with that extra time, you can use the months leading up to camp to work on other areas of your business and ensure you’re ready for the dog days of summer.
A Pre-Summer Checklist for Camp Directors
Summer arrives like a hurricane of fun. You’ll be swept up in its whirlwind, and let’s face it: Probably won’t have a lot of me-time.
That’s why you need to take full advantage of camper registration season: Think about what’s next for your camp. Bounce ideas off of staff about what will make this summer unforgettable. And spend some time refreshing and revitalizing yourself.
This checklist will help you fall in love with registration. Here are a few tasks that we keep at the top of our list:
- Focus on Big Picture Tasks – What will make your camp great now? In three summers? What are those high-level projects you just haven’t had the time to focus on? In fall and winter, this is your time to look forward and set the gears in motion to get them done.
- Brainstorm With Staff – You likely have camper and staff feedback from last summer. Put that data to work. Think about what you’ve learned and how you can evolve your programming to better serve your campers. Right now, schedule time for your leaders to gather and think up ideas to improve programming, operations, staffing – really anything that will enhance the experience you provide.
- Plan Your Programs – What programs are working? Which need a little work? Every year, there are new games, activities and programs that are trending. This year, escape rooms and coding camps were big hits. What will it be next year? Set aside time during the winter and fall to dig into these trends, learn what the competition is offering, and develop programming that helps you stand out from the rest.
- Gear Up for Staff Training – Before you know it, camp orientation will be here. So start thinking about what updates you will make, research opportunities to partner with training companies, and develop a framework for ensuring your camp is up to snuff come Day 1.
- Bolster Your Camp Director Skills – During the summer, you have little time for the all-important PD – professional development. Use the offseason to bolster your skills. Attend a camp conference. Read a camp director book or an industry trade publication. Research tech tools that will help you work smarter. Or take an online course in marketing, leadership or staff training techniques.
- Spend Time with Family and Friends – Hey, winter and early spring shouldn’t be all about work. You have to prepare yourself for those inevitable long hours leading up to and during camp. So be sure to schedule an excursion with your best friend. Catch up on the latest season of Game of Thrones. And schedule a day at the spa.
Why Camp Directors Need Registration Software
Online camp registration won’t eliminate the enrollment tasks you have to do. Instead, a software platform designed for your needs will help you automate and eliminate redundancy.
Many of the tasks you used to do manually – filing, communications and payment processing, for example – can be streamlined for efficiency.
Here’s an example: In the past, you might have had to create dozens of personalized emails to communicate with camp families. An online camp registration tool, though, empowers you to create a single message, set triggers for when it should be sent, i.e. a deadline is approaching, and auto-populate individual camper info to make it personalized.
And really, that’s the beauty of technology. It can help you eliminate the redundancies, the tedious filing, and the confusion that might have kept you from enjoying registration. In particular, key benefits include:
- Efficient Communication
Here’s a scenario: You need to communicate an important deadline like a final due date for camper registration forms. But you don’t have the right tool to send that message to only the families that haven’t yet returned forms.
Some camps choose to blanket their audiences with a single, one-size-fits-all message – which might read a little too impersonal. This might too end up flooding inboxes with irrelevant messages.
Online summer camper registration helps you communicate more effectively.
You can create triggers that automatically send messages to specific groups, i.e. a final payment due notice to accounts that haven’t paid in full. Plus, the best software auto-populates messages for you. This means you can create a single message, and have information — like the parent’s name, camper session(s), payment information, and due dates — automatically plugged into each email.
2. Simplified Invoicing
Invoicing used to be complicated. You would have sent a paper invoice to families, and then kept manual records as payments flowed in.
One of the most powerful features of integrated registration software: Invoicing and payment move online.
Parents can check on balances, set up payments that fit their needs, and invoices can be sent electronically. This will help your accounting become more accurate and efficient. You can quickly gauge how many accounts are paid in full, send payment reminders, monitor cash flow, and create accurate accounting reports.
Plus, all that time you spent tracking payments, sending notifications to ensure they arrived on time and keeping tabs on cash flows becomes much more efficient, organized and error-free.
3. Personalized User Experiences
What happens when a camp parent needs to register more than one child or sign-up for multiple sessions? What about your returning campers? Do parents have to go through the registration process all over again?
Camp enrollment software helps to personalize the enrollment experience. For example, the best platforms allow for easy, user-friendly multi-camper registrations, by allowing parents to fill out a single registration packet for more than one camper. And saving your busy camp families time should be priority numero uno.
Plus, the right platform also allows you to create a seamless on-boarding experience for returning families. Information in your database from previous years can be auto-populated in the registration forms, another time-saving measure parents.
4. Fast, Accurate Reporting
A lot of valuable insights are locked up in your registration data. Cash flow stats, enrollment growth, camper retention, to name a few. But without the right tool, identifying these insights can be a real drag.
And that means camp directors spend a lot of time developing Einsteinian spreadsheet formulas to find simple answers.
As you open registration, utilizing the right tool can make reporting a breeze. Powerful online registration software helps you search, filter and isolate key information, and share what you find with your personnel.
5. Automatic Filing
One reason you might not be the biggest fan of registration season: All that manual data entry and filing. Your camp – whether you have 80 campers or 800 – processes a lot of paperwork. And it can all start to stack up as applications stream in.
The challenge: Ensuring all the forms you receive end up in the right location. That takes next-level organization skills.
But an integrated platform helps to take some of that pressure off. Completed online forms flow to the right location, i.e. a health form into your healthcare database.
Plus, that data is accessible. No more tracking down a paper that’s been misfiled. You can quickly search and filter your data to find what you’re looking for. Data instantly becomes available for your various teams, and you can count on it being organized, sortable and secure.
6. Registration Convenience
If your registration isn’t user-friendly, you’ll know it. You’ll spend the enrollment season fielding calls about which forms need to be completed and if they’re being filled out correctly. Parents might fill out Session 1 forms, even though their camper is in Session 2. Or you might receive a lot of incomplete data.
Camp enrollment software can help eliminate the headache of registration for your parents.
Registering parents create an online account. The forms they must complete are available on their account dashboard — i.e. you won’t have parents filling out the wrong forms. And as they complete registration forms, they can visualize their progress and save an incomplete form to finish at a later date.
Make Camper Registration Season Work for You
Registration season should be an exciting time of year for camp directors. When you open registration, this is your chance to see how well you’re retaining campers, how effective your marketing has been, and you can watch your sessions fill up.
That’s not to say the season isn’t without its stress; registration can be a whirlwind.
But the right mix of tools can help you slow the registration hurricane down, help you work smarter, and focus on the matter at hand: Planning for and preparing another life-changing summer for your campers. Are you ready to fall in love with registration?